If you want to grow your contacts and business, then networking is the best way to do so. Keep in mind that networking isn’t a quick fix for sales, though; it’s an investment in getting to know other people. As marketing coach and author John Jantsch put it, “It’s never about the sale, it’s always about the relationship – build first by giving.”
The same rule applies to online networking. Regardless of the social media website or application you’re using, building relationships still provides longer lasting results. People are more likely to take a recommended action after you’ve proven that you’re likeable, knowledgeable, and trustworthy.
People will quit businesses and brands before they quit relationships. [tweet this]
Business is only second to building relationships. Genuine care and conversation are felt by others and are not regularly experienced on a daily basis. So how do you take networking online?
1. Listen. Find your market and listen to them first. Don’t be that person who jumps into a conversation without knowing anything about it.
2. Contribute. Give something of value, such as advice or additional support. Never pitch first when you’re new to a network. Instead, give helpful information that benefits others.
3. Build. Establish your credibility and reputation. This is the time to position yourself as a knowledgeable asset to the community. The help you offer will pay off in the future as an investment in your character.
4. Respond. At some point, someone will ask you for a direct opinion or something may arise that will provide the perfect opportunity for you to assert your knowledge and “sell” yourself. However, the difference here is that you’re a person and not a marketer.
5. Inform. Don’t sell. If you’ve followed the prior steps patiently, you now have the credibility to educate rather than sell. Educating, which lets you show yourself as an expert in your field, is much more powerful than selling. Moreover, it is welcomed, when done in the best interest of the community.
Bonus tips: How to build your brand online
- Give a voice to your brand. Research your audience and determine what they want to hear and what message you want to put across. Be open and consider all ideas. People respond better to content that they can relate to, so speak with your audience and not at them. Also, people look for consistency in a brand, so make sure to provide that.
- Use multiple online media channels. Build your brand through repetition by utilizing display and content networks, and get your ads in front of your audience via site specific targeting, behavioral targeting, and re-messaging. Also, see to it that your messaging is consistent with your voice so consumers can continually identify and remember your brand.
- Map out your social media integration. What do you want your brand to do or say online? What kind of interactions do you want your customers to have with your business? Is Facebook or Twitter right for you? You may not have all the answers at this point, but some research will help you know where to find your audience and how to interact with them.
- Build up your reputation. Establishing your reputation online is similar to offline networking, but it’s not as easy and it takes more time. You’ll first need to define your strategy for reaching your audience and identify the methods you’ll use in the process.