I had the pleasure of being a guest on the Lunchtime Marketing Show hosted by Kevin Britz from Business by Design and Björn Salsone from TNC Marketing & PR.

We spoke about all things networking! My favorite subject!

Among the topics covered were:

What is your definition of online networking?

As we know, Business Networking is based on the building of relationships with people – online networking is building those relationships online via various social media platforms. Social Media is a great way to connect with people from all over the world, not just those you meet at networking events.

People also use online networking to seek out social media influencers to market their products or services to. Online networking is an ongoing and long-term method of gathering business contacts and turning them into valuable business relationships.

What is the difference between “offline networking” or face-to-face networking events and online networking?

Online networking provides you with an opportunity to connect and meet people that you wouldn’t get the opportunity to meet at face-to-face networking events. You can connect with anyone anywhere in the world using social media platforms.

Online networking does not differ too much from face-to-face networking as there is still the relationship-building aspect, it does, however, have a lot of advantages over the latter. It provides a whole new aspect to business relationship building and should form an important aspect of your marketing plan, not only for lead generation but to establish yourself as an expert in your industry.

Networking online has changed the landscape as it allows everyone, including business owners, no matter how big or small, no matter how much money they have behind them, to build up a solid network over time.

The good news is that networking online is not only possible but even preferable as it is more cost-effective, time-efficient, and not to mention more convenient.

I believe an effective networking strategy should incorporate a combination of the two; online and offline networking.

Where do you begin if you are just starting out with networking?

Firstly, create a Networking Strategy and set goals for your networking efforts. Your Networking Strategy needs to form part of your marketing plan, which is part of your business plan. 

Then:

  • Start to identify which platforms your target audience is hanging out on. If you are just starting out, pick one platform to start out with. Then you can branch out from there once you have grown a decent following.
  • Ensure that you learn how to engage on the various platforms. Each social media platform has its own rules and guidelines on how to engage effectively.
  • Ensure all your branding is consistent throughout those networks.
  • Start with your current clients. Follow them and network with your existing base of clients. What blogs do they follow, what books do they read? If you don’t have a customer base, create your customer profile of your ideal client and find out where they are hanging out.
  • For example, what you can do on Facebook is, if you see someone that you want to connect with, make there profile show up first in your feed. Then engage with the post and leave a thoughtful comment, that their audience will start to like. They will notice the comment, and hopefully, eventually, reach out to you and connect with you.
  • Take the conversation off social media and take it to a face to face conversation – Zoom, phone call, etc.
  • Remember that networking is a long term strategy, so start now!

How do I optimize my online networking?

You want to ensure that you create a great first impression. Think about what kind of impression do you want to leave online.

  • As mentioned before, ensure that all your social media profiles are consistent throughout all the platforms
  • Ensure you have an up to date, professional photo of yourself.
  • Have a professional website and test all your links! I have come across websites and their links to their social media profiles are broken! Big no no! It comes across as unprofessional. You want to create a great impression online! This determines if people want to do business with you or not.
  • Learn how to use the various Social Media platforms effectively. Research the most common mistakes and avoid them!
  • Ensure you are using the right size images when you post and that they look professional. You want to create posts that catch people’s eye and are inviting to engage with. When people engage and comment on your posts, it creates an opportunity to connect with them.
  • Ensure your handles are consistent. It helps people find you on the various platforms.
  • Untag yourself from bad photos and inappropriate posts.
  • Be discoverable in a search. Use the right keywords for your niche, industry, or business on all your social media profiles and your website.
  • Cross-promote – ensure you put your website and other social media profiles on all platforms.
  • Build social trust by asking past and current clients for reviews, endorsements, and testimonials. And reciprocate too – if you received great service from someone, do a testimonial for them – it helps promote you too. People do business with people they know and trust.
  • Pin your best content to the top of your profile for Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.
  • If you are attending an online networking event, it is still important to have an elevator pitch and know-how to carry your message across succinctly and not carry on for minutes on end. People lose interest and eventually don’t listen to what you are saying. They tune out. Ensure you know how to introduce your business so people want to connect with you afterward.

Do all platforms provide opportunities to network?

Most of them do. Here are some examples of how to network on:

Twitter: You can DM (Direct Message) and @mention people that you want to interact with. Retweeting content of the people you want to connect with is also a great way to build rapport.
Instagram: DM’s also work well with Instagram. Pro Tip: People like it when you take the time to send them a quick video or voice message to say hi and thank them for following you or send someone a short message about their recent post that added value to you. Start a dialogue but keep it brief!
LinkedIn: Ensure that you send them a personalized note when sending a connection request. DO NOT start selling to them the minute they accept your request!!! I have grown my network through LinkedIn- many many opportunities have come through creating relationships here. Grow a relationship first, before you start selling to anyone.
LinkedIn Groups: Search for groups where you can share your area of expertise and position yourself as an expert.
Facebook: Facebook Groups are a great way to add value and then eventually start networking with the people that you interact with.

Are there some mistakes to avoid when networking online?

  • Don’t just connect and then start selling immediately. Have a “service first” mindset and build up a business relationship. Don’t just sell sell sell! Share an engaging article and information about your industry. The general rule of thumb is – out of 10 posts, 8 must be informational or entertaining and only 2 can be about your product or service. People want to know that you are there to be of service and not just to be sold to. Engage the way that you would want to be engaged with. This is the equivalent of just having a business card showed into your hand the minute you say hi to someone at a networking event! Show a genuine interest in them! And be authentic!!! Adopt a “give first” mentality.
  • Find out what the person’s preferred method of communication is and engage with them via this medium.
  • Failing to follow up! You have done all this work building a relationship with this person and then you don’t follow up! You have 24 hours to follow up – or you will be forgotten.
  • Giving up to quickly! Your networking efforts need to be consistent. It takes time! You need to build trust first! You want to be top of mind when someone is looking for your product or service. You can’t only show up once or twice a month and expect immediate results. This can lead to the misconception that networking does not work – it is a long term strategy for your business – not a short term one!
  • Don’t focus all your efforts on new contacts or just influencers, nurture your current network. Let them feel like they matter to you. Also, don’t just connect to high-level contacts or influencers – you never know in what position that person is going to be in, in the future. Nurture them now and they could become the gate-keeps to those that you want to network with later – this has been something that I have personally experienced – especially on LinkedIn.

If you approach networking with a “service first” mindset and add value to other people’s lives, as well as being consistent, you will your network, as your network is your most valuable asset. Stick with it and reap the rewards.

ABOUT THE LUNCHTIME MARKETING SERIES:
Tune into the Lunchtime Marketing Series every Thursday at 12 pm. It als also streamed live on the Business by Design SA Facebook Page and YouTube Channell.

ABOUT THE HOSTS:
Kevin Britz – Business by Design:
Executive Coach & International Leadership Facilitator based in Neuroscience, Behaviour & Performance | Ranked #1 in the world by Entrepreneur Magazine | Trainer | Speaker | Voice Over Artist

His company follows a strict learning ‘step process’ used internationally by Team Leaders, Supervisors, Middle Management, Funders, Managing Directors, and CEOs who are growing and shifting their teams in pursuit of increasing effectiveness and profitability.

Services offered:
Training · Leadership Development · Customer Service · Team Building · Corporate Training · Business Consulting · Executive Coaching · Life Coaching

Website: www.businessbydesign.co.za | www.lunchtimecoaching.co.za | www.ebizradio.com
Twitter: @bbydesignSA
Facebook: Business by Design SA
LinkedIn: Business by Design | Kevin Britz
Instagram: @Businessbydesignsa | @kevinbritzsa
YouTube: Business by Design

Björn Luciano Salsone – TNC Marketing & PR:
Master of Ceremonies | Social Media Digital Collaborator | Speaker on Referral Marketing & Networking | Social Media Influencer | Motivational Speaker | Brand Ambassador | Singer
Björn Luciano Salsone is a highly sought after Social Media Collaborator, Master of Ceremonies, Public Speaker and Entrepreneur.

Björn is passionate about helping small businesses succeed and has appeared on many TV and Radio Shows apart from magazines and newspapers. He is often requested to share Motivational Talks on Leadership, Networking and Business. He is a total foodie!

TNC Marketing & PR is a National Agency to Manage your Event, Social Media & PR.

Services offered:
Social Media Content & Management · Blogging · Content Writing · Brand Activations · Event Management · Public Relations Management · Graphic Design · Website · Videography · Social Media Workshops · Coaching

Twitter: @TNCMarketingZA | @bjornsalsone
Facebook: TNC Marketing & PR | Björn Luciano Salsone
LinkedIn: TNC Marketing & PR | Bjorn L. Salsone
Instagram: @TNCMarketingZA | @bjornsalsone