How to Develop a Better Network Online: A Primer

It’s all about the relationships. At least, that’s what I’ve always been told. Successfully growing a business depends on developing leads and nurturing connections with other people. You can’t do it alone, even if you’re a One Woman Shop.

Believe me. I know. I’ve been working on my solo business for quite some time now and I’m the first to say that a strong network makes all the difference between getting ahead or falling woefully behind.

With the advent of social media tools, it’s become so much easier not only to connect with existing contacts but to create an entirely new network of people to help you grow your business online.

If you haven’t been taking advantage of social media in this way, it’s time you started. Here are a few ideas to get you well on your way.

Leverage LinkedIn

If you’re not active in some way on LinkedIn, you’re missing out. It’s the go to place for professionals across a multitude of industries to connect. LinkedIn provides an opportunity to continue the conversation with someone you’ve met in person or online in a professional context.

Take these things into consideration to get the most out of using LinkedIn to develop your network:

    • Always write a custom note when asking someone to accept your connection request, especially if you don’t know them personally. Using the default message is akin to not having a professional looking photo for your profile. It says, “I’m not putting any thought into this.”
    • Share value added content with your connections and within groups that you’ve joined. Join in on the conversations and be willing to answer questions whenever possible. This shows you’re willing to be engaged and displays your expertise within your niche.
    • Give praise and acknowledge accomplishments. Check the news feed and key into what your connections are doing.

Join a few Facebook groups

Facebook has seen an explosion of groups over the past couple of years. Groups within Facebook fall within two camps: open and closed. Open groups are ones that anyone can join while closed groups require acceptance by the group’s administrator.

Depending on your interests and/or profession, you can do a search on Facebook and see if there are any that strike a chord with you. Getting recommendations from others is the best way. For instance, I belong to a women’s entrepreneur group called Thrive Hive that serves as a kind of giant mastermind and support network. It’s been a phenomenal place to bounce ideas off of others and develop leads for my business. While this one is closed and has a fee to belong, there are plenty that do not.

Get beyond the phone call

Skype and Google Hangouts are tools that should be in every small business owner’s arsenal. Even if you’re not looking to connect with people outside of your immediate area, you never know when meeting virtually may seem like the best option.

Both are free. Google Hangouts allow you to have multiple people join the conversation and be seen on the screen at one time.

Think of using either one of these tools to connect with clients, potential clients or people in your industry in a more personal way.

    • Invite some of your clients to a Google Hangout where they can get some of their burning questions answered about their businesses.
    • Better connect with someone in your industry via Skype who you’d like to develop a strategic partnership with.
    • Offer a 15 minute Skype chat to discuss your services with an interested potential client.

Don’t forget email

Last but not least, don’t forget about email. Contrary to popular belief, email is not dead. Within 24 hours of making a meaningful connection at a networking or professional event, I send that person an email. I reference where we met, what we talked about and the fact that I would like to include him or her in my network.

From there, I connect on LinkedIn where I hope to stay on that person’s radar.

Which brings me back to the need for reaching out across multiple platforms to keep your connections alive; not everyone is comfortable or interested in being active with all the virtual social tools. Find ones that work for you and those people you most want to cultivate working relationships with online.

The more you do, the more you’ll find how much value you can get out of them.

How To: Insert Social Media Icons into Your Email Signature

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Did you see our snazzy email signature back in the day (before Sara joined #TeamOWS)?

how to insert social media buttons into email signature

We’re not trying to brag — we just thought you might like to know how to incorporate social media buttons into your email signature in order to let your email contacts — whether they’re potential clients, customers, or hires- know that you’re active on social media.

Here are step-by-step instructions for inserting professional but fun social media buttons into your Gmail email signature (the steps for other email providers are very similar):

  1. Log in into your Gmail account
  2. Hover over the “gear” icon and select “Settings”
  3. Under the “General” tab, scroll down to the email signature box
  4. Under your name and other contact information, select the “Insert Image” icon
  5. Find social media icons (Canva has a great list of 49 sites where you can find free icons and both Icon Archive and IconFinder have good selections. You can also Google “free social media buttons“). Be sure to examine the copyright license to avoid any infringement before using any icons you find
  6. When you find social media buttons that you like, choose a size (we recommend 32 x 32) then right click on the image and select “Copy Image URL.” Go back to your email signature and paste the URL into the “Add an Image box.” If you are satisfied with the image preview, click “OK”
  7. Next, highlight the icon you just inserted and click the link icon (the one that looks like a chain). Here, input the URL that you would the user to go to if they click on one of your social media icons- for example, for a Twitter icon, we would enter http://www.twitter.com/onewomanshop
  8. Be sure to test the link. If problem free, repeat the process for all social media icons you hope to include.
  9. You’re done! Sit back, relax, and know that your email contacts now have an easy way of connecting with you on social media

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