“Every successful individual knows that his or her achievement depends on a community of persons working together.” Paul Ryan
I’ve been networking for my offline business for a number of years. It’s all about making connections, building trust and becoming the go-to person when a prospect needs help in your area of expertise.
Does this principle work online too? Well, it’s usually referred to as getting involved in communities rather than networking, but if you do it right it can build your client base.
There are two types of communities you can get involved in. A community of your peers and a community of your prospects. You have to know what to do in each of them for best results.
There are two types of peers, those with whom you are in direct competition and those who offer complementary products or services to yours. Both can help you get clients, but it may be easier to approach the complementary group because they are not in direct competition with you and so may be more willing to listen to proposals. I’m not saying that competitors will never enter into a mutually beneficial arrangement, but there are often barriers to overcome.
Business and industry focused groups, mastermind groups, and so on all exist to help you educate yourself further and provide connections. Once you have established trust in the community you can start to get clients through ‘word of mouth’. Peer groups also offer opportunities for joint venture (JV) partnerships which can widen and expand your audience.
Prospect or audience groups are the best place for you to spend your time because they are often full of your ideal potential clients. You can locate these groups by looking for relevant Facebook Groups, searching for groups on LinkedIn.com, and searching for and joining message boards and forums devoted to your particular niche.
The way to make these groups work for you is to join the group, freely answer questions for them and let them come to see you as part of the group. If you are on a forum let your signature line speak for itself and do not try to sell your services or products at all. Your prospects will come to you when they see that you offer what they want. Your job is to establish a level of trust through sharing your expertise.
What To Focus On
“Social media is not about the exploitation of technology but service to community.” Simon Mainwaring
Be a free and open source of information regarding your niche. This is how people will get to know you and trust you and start seeing you as someone they can use, work with, or refer to others.
Spend more time in communities that are made up of your ideal prospects than with your peers. You should certainly participate in peer communities so that you can become known as a community expert, but you don’t want to spend most of your time in a group of competitors.
When you join either type of group you should realise that when you first join, you are the new person and you are unknown. No one is going to trust you immediately. Take the time to get to know others before mentioning your products or services, and get to know the culture of the group. Let your signature line act like a business card and start the selling process for you. Make helpful participation your goal and you will be more successful in attracting prospects and turning them into clients.