It’s not uncommon these days for a business owner / manager to be a member of 20+ networks – the question is whether they are passive members (one that gets email updates of activity but does not participate) or an active member (one who is involved in discussions, contacting other members, passing information on etc)?
If you ever hope to get any work done, you cannot participate as an active member in all these networks so you have to choose the ones that are most beneficial to your business objectives and get a strategy in place to make sure you are making the most out of your involvement.
For example an online business forum may require you to be commenting on posts and discussing topics on a daily basis – the could be done out of office hours. If it is a physical networking event then you have to usually allocate time from your working day. Regardless of the type of event, you have determine what your objective is for being part of each particular group.
Maybe its to provide advice and support to other businesses so that you are positioning yourself as helpful, knowledgeable and accessible with a view to them referring work to you when possible. Or perhaps it is to plug and promote your products and services to a mass market without much personal input. It could also be that you simply want to keep up to date with what’s going on in your sector / target sectors.
I’ll use LinkedIn as an example as most people I come into contact with have a LinkedIn profile. After the initial flurry of setting up an account and subsequently finding friends and colleagues to connect with, they don’t do much else with it apart from accept the odd request that may come their way. This is a massive mistake! Because the people you generally connect with on LinkedIn are known to you (colleagues, associates, clients) the power of their networks is amazing. If you begin to actively use the network you will find contacts who could be useful to you very quickly. Then you have to decide which groups would be appropriate to join. And how you contribute. You can even set up your own groups, promote events and get discussions going in forums. Plus don’t forget asking your contacts for testimonials and endorsements too. And this is just the tip of the iceberg!
Of course, building rapport within your networks is going to require commitment, time and focus (nothing is for nothing right?!) so you need to start slowly, give yourself some actions and start to build the activity into your daily schedule. Then increase over time as your networking activity begins to produce results and becomes part of your day-to-day routine.
For more information on the different networks available and how to set up an effective business networking strategy, please get in touch.