The way we do business has changed, seemingly overnight. So has the way we stay connected. While it may seem difficult, or even pointless, to develop professional connections right now, our networks are more important now than before.
During a time of social distancing, networks provide emotional support and social bonding. For small business owners and entrepreneurs, they are also sources of opportunity and growth. Helium Scribe has listed some of the ways you and your business can stay connected during this new normal.
Social media leads the way in reaching new and established customers. Many platforms also offer ways for small businesses to forge mutually beneficial connections with one another.
Here are some of our favorite ways to get connected:
Facebook Groups, whether private or public, rally together small communities of people around a common interest or cause. They are a great way to discover like-minded people, start engaging discussions, and maintain a diverse network.
There are groups for a wide range of interests including groups for local entrepreneurs and small business owners, freelancers, and young professionals. Use the search bar on Facebook to find groups that might be of value to you.
Another option is to create your own Facebook Group. You can decide the parameters of the group and curate the content you want to share with others. For example, you might want to create a group for your most active customers. Then you can engage them in meaningful discussion that goes beyond typical social media advertising.
With over half a billion professionals on LinkedIn, the platform is a fantastic networking option for individuals of all industries. Whether you’re searching for a job or looking to connect with acquaintances, LinkedIn is your go-to.
The best way to use LinkedIn to your advantage is to be proactive. Updating your profile consistently and adding keywords relevant to your work will help connect you with professionals and hiring managers in your industry. You can also create posts or articles. Posting relevant content will establish you as a thought leader and increase engagement with your connections. If posting your own content seems like too much, commenting on or sharing other people’s posts allows you to dip your feet into ongoing conversations and reach out to those in your industry.
While many in-person events have been canceled, many have quickly adapted to offering online options. Online webinars are opportunities to polish your knowledge.
Eventbrite lists hundreds of events that can be attended from the comfort of your couch, including classes, conferences, sessions, summits, and meetups. Many are free to attend. Searching for Facebook Events is another way you can find events relevant to your industry or location.
Virtual meetups are an easy way to reignite old networks or meet new people through contacts you know well. Reach out to your mentors, colleagues, family, or friends to see if they have the time to catch up. You can even ask them to connect you with some of their contacts so that you can expand your network.
If you want to bolster your business’ communications, it’s time to get into the email game. Encouraging prospective buyers to sign up for emails is a great way to keep them informed about your business. Keep them in the loop with a newsletter or advertise special deals and new items to attract them to your business.
Sending out emails or newsletters requires consistency in order to see results, but don’t overdo it. Send too many emails and you risk annoying your audience, and ultimately losing them. One newsletter a month is a good benchmark to get you going. Remember that it takes dedicated time to write, format, and design an attractive newsletter or email. It’s about quality over quantity.
Like emails, a blog takes time but can pay off in the long run. You can use your blog to share major updates and exciting news about your career or business. Contributing quality content about your industry can drive traffic to your website and establish you or your business as a knowledgeable industry leader. A few tips on optimizing your small business blog can be found here.
Another way to build your network through your blog is to feature guest posts. Guest blog posts are beneficial to all involved. The poster can attract traffic back to their own website, while the blog receives original and unique content. Respectfully reach out to individuals in your industry to see if they’d be willing to contribute. It’s an effective way to create beneficial connections with new people or strengthen contacts you’re familiar with.
Final Thoughts to Keep in Mind
Be active: it is not enough to have an online profile. To build a truly effective network, be present and engaged like you would be face-to-face. Comment on posts. Message individuals. Write those emails.
Add value: networking is a two-way street. Your interactions should be of value for others, much like their attention is of value to you. To do this, be genuine and authentic with your intentions. Commit to developing your network even when you don’t need anything. Avoid asking for favors immediately and try helping out others when you can.
Plan to meet in person when it’s possible again: networking doesn’t have to end at the screen. Meeting in person strengthens those relationships, and it always feels good to put a face to a name.