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: Get Introduced on LinkedIn

As freelancers and solopreneurs, we love to use LinkedIn to build and maintain our professional network, but we understand why many people don't see a ton of value in it- especially if they're only popping up a profile and then stepping away. In our opinion, LinkedIn's Get Introduced feature is one of the most underutilized functionalities of the site.

Wondering how it works? Here’s a step-by-step tutorial on how to make use of the Get Introduced feature:

  1. On LinkedIn, search for the person that you would like to be introduced to- maybe it's a potential client, partner, or contractor
  2. LinkedIn will tell you how many shared connections you have; click this green link to see who you are both connected to and make sure that you feel comfortable reaching out to one of themget introduced on linkedin
  3. Click the down arrow to the right of the Connect button, then select Get Introduced
    get introduced on linkedin
  4. Choose the person you (Person A) would like to have introduce you (Person B) to your target (Person C) when LinkedIn asks "Who should make the introduction?"
  5. Write a clear, concise message explaining why you would like to be connected to Person C and why you think Person B is the best person for the job
  6. Voila- you'll soon have a direct connection to Person C- and you've unofficially been given the seal of approval by Person B!

Wondering what to say in your request for an introduction? Here's what we might say:

Hi so and so,

Hope you've been doing well! I saw that you are connected to so and so and I was wondering if you would mind introducing us here on LinkedIn or via email. I've been following his/her work in xyz and would love a chance to connect with him/her directly!

Thanks so much,

Your name

grow your community online