Small business networking has undergone something of a revolution over recent years and has transformed from something that was once done informally, into an essential marketing tool for small to medium-sized businesses.
The range of networking opportunities available are endless; nowadays it’s possible to network over breakfast, lunch, dinner or at any time of day or night! Networking can also be done online or face to face and although the chances to network are almost limitless – you might need to ask yourself whether your networking skills have kept pace.
So how has networking changed? Networking for SMEs is now one to many and many to many rather than simply one to one. Your website and business networking are linked: the effectiveness of your networking will be boosted by moving away from a sales orientated message towards permission-based marketing and content.
Making the most of the networking revolution is important and one of the simplest ways to embrace the changes is by updating or creating your online profile for the networking groups you belong to. What you write should be consistent and kept up-to-date.
Social networking sites can prove very useful but it’s important to choose the right ones for your business. Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are the top social networking sites: LinkedIn is business-orientated, Facebook is ideal if you already have a large following. Twitter is best suited to business-to-business and business-to-consumer marketing but only if you market is using Twitter too. A number of small social networking sites are also available, the majority of which are specific to different industries or geographic areas – whichever you choose your choice should be based on what’s best for your business.
There’s no getting away from the fact that content is king when it comes to online networking and if the thought of writing articles fills you with dread, it’s worth bearing in mind that any content you produce can also be used in other areas of your marketing. Remember that an added bonus to creating content is the potential leads that can be generated from any comments you might receive.
Social networking sites need to be monitored and keeping tabs on what others are saying is important. Add your thoughts – exactly as you would in a face-to-face networking situation. However, don’t forget that nothing on the internet is ever deleted so think before you comment and what you say should be consistent with your values and goals.
Whichever networking strategy you use you’ll want to find ways to explore the potential of the contacts you make. This where one-to-one conversations come in and a quick chat on the phone is simple way to decide the best way to take things further, even if it’s just to arrange a meeting.