17 Ways to Strengthen Your Personal Brand Through Networking

Boosting Networking in Business

What is one simple thing I can do to expand my network this year?

The following answers are provided by members of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

1. Connect Right After Meeting

“You would be surprised how many different types of people you meet each day. So many of them you meet only once. I find that it’s important to connect with them on social media right after you meet them so you give yourself the opportunity to stay in touch and build the relationship.”

Raymond Kishk, Interstate Air Conditioning & Heating

2. Try Meetup.com

“Find a local entrepreneur, startup, tech or whatever kind of group on Meetup.com and go meet some like-minded individuals in your area. Nothing beats face-to-face interaction.”

Andrew Namminga, Andesign

3. Make Intros

“The best way to expand your network is by introducing people in your network with each other. You will quickly realize not only does this help you improve your relationship with existing folks in your network, but the reciprocity factor of introductions will help you grow your network a lot faster.”

Syed BalkhiOptinMonster

4. Team up With a Networking Buddy

“Find someone with whom you enjoy spending professional time and keep in touch regularly. A simple exchange of emails early in the week to share networking calendars with someone who actively networks can provide event opportunities and introduce you to people you wouldn’t have expected. Plus, when you network at the same event, you can work the room and make mutual introductions.”

Mark Cenicola, BannerView.com

5. Befriend Your Competitors

“Many of my most treasured contacts are those who have been working with competitors. They are facing similar challenges, and you would be surprised what you are both willing to share once you let down you competitive veil.”

Trevor Sumner, LocalVox

6. Actively Use Professional Social Networks

“Just because you are on social networks like LinkedIn doesn’t mean your network will just grow automatically. You need to search for industry colleagues or other people that may help you with your professional objectives. Then, you need to contact them and connect online or offline through events. Communication is the key to expanding a network, so even commenting on other’s posts helps.”

Drew Hendricks, Buttercup

7. Cold Call Social Media

“One of the greatest things about social media is how well it allows you access to just about anyone. If I want to talk to the biggest people in any industry, there’s a pretty good chance that they, or someone who answers to them, is wandering around Twitter. Take advantage of the ease of access to the greatest minds of today by engaging them. The worst they can do is ignore you.”

Adam Steele, The Magistrate

8. Reconnect and Ask

“I make it a habit to reach out to at least one person each day with whom I’ve not spoken in some time. Best, I ask how I can help and be a resource to them in some way or ask them to set up a meeting or call to catch up. When people trust you and you give first without expectation of something in return, it’s natural and warranted to ask your contact to connect you with someone in their network.”

Darrah Brustein, Network Under 40 / Finance Whiz Kids

9. Volunteer

“Volunteering for organizations or events in your industry is a surefire way to make valuable connections in your space. Whether it’s helping put on one event, or sitting on a year-long board, you’ll meet new people and have more in-depth conversations and contacts than you might by just attending an event here and there.”

Kayla Wagner Faires, Revel Interactive

10. Never Eat Alone

“I read a great book called “Never Eat Alone.” It touches on the fact that since you are going to eat lunch every day, you might as well join someone to eat with! I have lunch lined up with entrepreneurs every day. It builds close relationships and you can share resources. I have learned a tremendous amount from doing this and I’ve made amazing friends and business associates.”

Brandon Stapper, 858 Graphics

11. Download Rapportive

“Rapportive is a free Chrome extension that links to your email and also connects with LinkedIn. This way, you can build strategic relationships with prospects and new people right from your inbox and, in turn, build your network faster and more efficiently.”

Jayna Cooke, EVENTup

12. Join a Professional Organization

“Professional organizations exist for practically everything. Whether you’re looking to meet people by trade, age or location, a quick Google search should provide several options in your area or nationwide. The best communities integrate both in-person and online events to help foster collaboration and communication on multiple levels.”

Brittany Hodak, ZinePak

13. Attend Functions

“The last two years were really the first time I attempted to go to local events for people in my industry. I made a point of attending meet and greets, trade shows, conventions and anything else that was available on my limited schedule. It was draining at times, but I’ve never in my years in business been able to pick up so many juicy contacts so quickly. You meet very engaged people at these events.”

Matt Doyle, Excel Builders

14. Give Before You Get

“The best way to connect with people who perhaps wouldn’t normally connect with you is by giving. Give them time, or volunteer to help them or a cause they are associated with. You’ll feel good (about yourself), make a difference and build your network!”

Jeff EpsteinAmbassador

15. Join a Business Chamber Outside of Your City

“Most entrepreneurs join their local chamber to grow their network. Expand your network by joining a neighboring city’s chamber or one focused on a specific group of people. Share your time and expertise with multiple chambers through speaking events, panels and workshops to spread your name and business services to new people.”

Shalyn Dever, Chatter Buzz

16. Join a Coworking Community

“Join a coworking space with a strong community network. A strong community will have events — such as meetups, educational programs and happy hours — that bring people together and also help you network, market and expand your business.”

Blake Miller, Think Big Partners

17. Offer to Buy Your Contact Lunch

“Most people shrug off emails/calls from unknowns, but there’s a pocket of folks who don’t, and who are looking for the same thing. Look at what you need professionally and find the names of the people who are succeeding (through lists like Forbes 30 Under 30, or from trades), and just reach out and offer to buy them lunch. This has worked extremely well for me.”

Mickey Meyer, JASH