A recent episode of my podcast, The Courageous Entrepreneur Show, featured an interview with Patti DeNucci discussed how to be an “intentional networker.”
Our conversation really focused on offline networking.
As someone who’s focused on creating a business that supports me and supports the lifestyle I want, I’ve found that online networking is more powerful for me. Patti’s tips and strategies are powerful for any networking you’re doing but I wanted to really concentrate this week’s After Show episode, on practical how-to’s for online networking using social media and social networking sites.
Keep in mind, this information is intended to be broad and not specific to particular platform.
I record the After Show live on Facebook, then download the videos. You can watch the recording of that below here or you can read the slightly more organized and more detailed article version of the video below the recording.
Hope you find the information useful and be sure to leave a question or comment.
To watch the video, click the white triangle in the center of the image.
After my car accident in 1999, I knew I never wanted to go back to a traditional job.
If there was anyway I could build a successful career as a freelancer or solo professional I wanted to figure out how to do it.
Part of that commitment to myself has been wanting to build something lifestyle driven. I wanted to be able to work from anywhere.
I’m now completely virtual.
There are pros and cons to that but I’ve created relationships around the world with colleagues and clients. And all of my marketing – much of which is done through creating and sharing content on my website and social platforms – is now online.
And a big piece of that marketing involves networking.
If you’re an introverted entrepreneur like I am maybe you can relate to the thought of live networking…going to events…making small talk and eating rubber chicken….and having to deal with aggressive sales people who want to get contract from you before dessert is served….as just exhausting.
And to be honest…it’s depressing.
I’m all for developing true relationships. Ones that are respectful where each person gets to know the other and what we offer.
Where we honestly make clear what we offer and who that’s right for and if the person we’re talking to feels what we offer is great and right then we explain how they can take action.
No fake “connection calls” that are secret sales calls.
No “let me help you with that” conversations that are in fact calls to convince you to hire the person.
My experience has shown online networking to be more:
- focused on relationship building
- targeted (you can identify and get a feel for those you’d like to know on a deeper level)
- rewarding – both in terms of deeper relationships and quality of referrals
- fun (no kidding)
So here re my best tips for maximizing the effectiveness of your online networking efforts.
Define success. We complain about networking not working but like anything in life we need to start with a clear definition of success. So whether you’re thinking about a single Zoom call you plan to have with your connection or you’re joining a group on LinkedIn or Facebook, take the time to clearly identify and paint a picture of what you want to achieve and what it will take for you to feel that your time was well spent. Create a picture of what you want and what successful online networking looks and feels like for you. Make sure you’re talking about online networking positively and not In a way that emphasizes the “working” part.
Build networking into your schedule. For me, online networking is marketing. So I budget time into my day and week to do that. This helps me manage my time and not get sucked in to spending hours watching cat videos or reading my news feed. I plan my week in detail, plan my days, and manage my time in 15 minute blocks. It’s not perfect and some days go off the rails for various reasons but this works for me more often than not. (If you’ve been telling yourself you want to do a better job managing your time in general and truly getting your projects done then download my calendars. These 81/2 by 11 pages are ones I created myself because I couldn’t find any planners that worked for me.
Look for referral partners NOT clients. This is the single biggest tip I can give you and it’s THIS approach that makes my efforts positive. I know you want more clients. I also know you hate chasing them and feeling salesy. When WE’RE the potential client we hate being chased or feeling chased. So don’t do it. Instead, identify the professionals your best clients also use and cultivate networks of those professionals. Help them to understand who you serve, how your clients benefit from the work you do, and why you’re an expert. Then cultivate those relationships to generate referrals. This shift in focus – away from client getting and toward relationship building – changed my experience and results more than anything else. Who is out there that would fill gaps in your virtual rolodex? Who do YOUR clients and connections need to know? What services do they tell you they have a hard time finding providers? Who compliments but doesn’t compete with you?
Identify and join the right groups for you. Networking in groups is how I meet people and develop relationships. I do that with the strategies below. My goal is to position myself as a smarty, to reveal my personality so people get a feel for what it would be like to work with me, and to help people see I’d be valuable to know. I invite people to connection calls with me to learn about each other and see if there’s a possibility to potentially refer to each other. How to find groups is the stuff of a whole separate post and I may write that at some point but it’s not appropriate here. But you can start by asking yourself where are bunches of potential referral partners? If you can’t find a group create one.
Follow group and platform rules and norms. Some groups have rules around what gets posted and shared. Be respectful. Don’t try to poach members. Remember, look for referral partners not clients.
Share great content. I know people who complain that social networking doesn’t work for them but they don’t post anything other than pictures of their pets, their kids, or pictures of them with a cocktail in their hand with a rant about what a rough week it’s been. If you’re going to use social media to build your brand as a professional and attract referral partners and potentially clients, then it’s critical to be strategic about what you share. And I don’t want to hear that you share different stuff with personal connections. You never know who knows who and connections you see as personal or family could very well know someone they could refer to you but if you’re constantly complaining about your existing clients I doubt anyone is going to feel good about referring more to you. Share 80% to 90% useful information that positions you as an in-the-know authority and then share 10% to 20% of personal stuff that’s positive in nature. Save the rants for individual messages to friends. Better yet…stop ranting and create the results you want.
Maintain contact and build relationships / stay top of mind and be visible. Social media and individual social networking platforms are about relationship building. Perfect for the introverted professional like us. BUT. You want to maintain contact by posting content but also by reaching out to individuals to say hi and check in with them. Those algorithms are always changing so your messages are likely not getting to even 50% of your connections. So periodically go into your list of connections, visit their page, Like and / or comment on the posts to let them know you’re still out there. And it messes with those algorithms which I just love to do ?
No sales sneak attacks. At some point you’re going to recognize people who would be or could be good potential clients for you. They may seem to be dealing with a problem you solve or otherwise showing signs they need you. If you want to have a marketing conversation with someone where your intention is to learn more about their problem to decide if you and they would be a good potential fit so you can make them n offer, then admit that to yourself and to them. You can simply say “I noticed you’re struggling with _________. This is actually what I help my clients with. I’m happy to take _____ minutes and answer a few questions to help you _________. If after we chat you’d like to know about how to work with me I’m happy to fill you in.” Don’t tell them you’d like to chat or that you want to help them and then make it one big pitch about you and your services. (This has happened to me and I really don’t like or appreciate it.)
Don’t keep score. Networking is all about relationship building and giving. One person may not come into contact with many of your potential ideal clients and another may. Someone may have another professional they refer to regularly and they think of you as a back up referral. Don’t make up stories about why they don’t refer to you. Take responsibility for being a good connection and keeping in touch. Learn about them and how you can help. Think of the other person first. Trust the process and trust that the Universe will reward you.
Treat people with respect and kindness. This probably goes without saying but I always feel compelled to remind us all. When we’re stressed and caught up in lack thinking we don’t come across as our best selves. So remember, always assume others come from a good place and are busier than you are. Share their stuff and engage with their content. Leave recommendations and praise for them (that’s what I call “spreading positive gossip”). Engage in real conversations – whether in exchanging comments on posts or in connection calls.
Networking is like farming: You find the best place to plant quality seeds. Then you provide the best conditions for those seeds to grow and reach their full potential so you can collect the harvest at the appropriate time.
Have you seen positive results from your online networking efforts? Which of these ideas I shared will you try?