When it comes to networking, do you think of giant meetups with thousands of people you don’t know, walking around to different booths and awkwardly shaking hands? Maybe that’s just what I pictured in the past—uneasy people and uncomfortable situations. What I’ve learned though, through building a career and starting a company, is that networking doesn’t have to be weird or keep you on edge. Networking is as easy as tapping into your passion and personality and using both of those things to build genuine connections, both online and in person.
It doesn’t matter if you’re looking to find jobs or start a business, develop your personal network or professional clientele, networking is important to help you connect with people in (and out of) your industry. It also helps you build relationships, which can translate to future opportunities and even sales down the road. And it helps to show that the organization or brand that you’ve built is real.
Here are some strategies that I’ve used over the years to gain followers, collaborate with brands, and get to know people for my business as well as my personal brand. Hopefully, they can help you realize that networking doesn’t have to be scary or daunting—all you have to do is be yourself!
Tip #1: Use genuine conversation to build relationships (not sales).
When we think of the term ‘networking’ we’re most likely thinking about sales, outreach, and (of course) money. But networking really isn’t about that—it’s about relationship-building.
Every connection you build creates an opportunity. Sure, this can be an opportunity for a purchase down the road, but it can also mean a potential job, collaboration, or an advertising advantage, for example. When you think of networking, don’t always have finances as the focus. Instead, channel your attention into genuine conversations. Engage with people across your social media platforms. If you like their work, brand, or message, let them know. If something they’ve created really influenced or motivated you, share their post on your own page.
When you focus on developing good conversations and relationships first, it will help you build trust and approachability for your business or account.
Tip #2: Tap into local meetups and be an active participant.
If you want to get to know people in your area, the obvious solution is to get connected with what’s around you! See what business meetings, groups, or informal meetups are available in your community. Attend, hand out business cards, talk about what you offer, and get to know the people around you.
Also, remember that supporting other businesses can directly impact your business through reciprocation. In other words, if you use someone’s services, they may recommend your services as a ‘thank you.’
Tip #3: Show your support for people, brands, and products.
Don’t think about networking as a competition. Supporting someone else’s pages or posts doesn’t mean that you’re not building your own. In fact, when you show that you’re connected to other brands/companies, it gives potential clients the option to select what they think is a good fit. Or, in the very least, you’re giving yourself exposure by tapping into another business’ audience, which is never a bad thing!
Tip #4: Collaborate with brands and people you relate to.
A great way to network and reach other audiences is to collaborate. Is there another company that’s doing something that directly aligns with your message? Can you work with an influencer, for example, to help promote your products while you share about them o your social media? These are just examples, but the possibilities are endless.
Tip #5: Consider becoming a brand ambassador for communities/companies you resonate with.
Along the same lines as collaboration, consider what you can do to market other brands. Networking isn’t always about building your entity, but yours can still be shared as a result. Is there a message that really resonates with you from another company’s clothing line, for example? Can you share posts about their products while still being aligned with your brand? Can you find a way to market both your entity and others’? This will only help you grow.
Tip #6: Make your clients your community.
As you start to build your client base, don’t neglect them! Make your clients your community. Offer them perks and discounts that aren’t available to regular customers. Create exclusive groups or places for them to feel important. And value your conversations with them. They will be more apt to share your company/brand and refer their friends.
Tip #7: Use your referral network.
Once your clients have recommended you, take advantage! Use those referrals to generate sales, and to help with marketing, ambassador opportunities, and other perks. Your clients can (and often will) be your best assets when it comes to growing your business or brand.
Tap into them!
Marisa Donnelly is a Midwest-born, West Coast-based writer, poet, essayist, editor, and founder of an independent writing coaching/editing services company, Be A Light LLC.
She is the author of the poetry collection, Somewhere On A Highway, and has published thousands of articles culminating over 21.2+ million page views for Huffington Post, Bustle, Thought Catalog, and Briar Cliff Review, among many others.