Tuesday, April 5, 2016

How To Use Online Networking For Business Development And Growth

Let me tell you a story of a hardworking entrepreneur named Paul, who was dedicated to grow a successful business. Day after day, Paul worked so hard giving the maximum, but getting no results,  and he became angry and frustrated. But Paul wasn't a quitter, and decided that he had to work harder. A long time ago he was told that a hard working person always reaps the reward. One day, Paul, feeling devastated and like a failure and not made to be an entrepreneur, decided to go for a walk to blow off some steam. That walk in the park changed everything, because he ran into his college friend Amy. She was the missing link, who connected him to other valuable links.


The story of the ants and the grasshopper shows two extrems - ants work hard they don’t have time for rest and leasure, grasshopper is having fun all the time, but in the winter he ends up hungry. The moral of the story for many is - be like an ant and not like a grasshopper; but because most of the time we too, have a tendency to go to extremes, we received that lesson only half way, forgetting that we are not forced to take it to the latter but rather learn and apply what works best for each and every one of us in a specific context.

Networking was always an intricate part of a business success, because business is all about people – and that includes new connections. What gets in a way of networking is that once we focus on our end goal, we forget everything else. The more we work the more we become detached from a social aspect of our business.

Nowadays we have social networks, which represent huge opportunities to meet new people. With a good strategy and targeted approach we can save time while maximizing our efforts and success rate. Usually, networking means «business communications», but these days networking doesn’t have to be tied directly to a business to get results.

Social media networking is not free – you pay for it upfront with your energy and your time. Energy can be restored, however time invested in networking must have some kind of ROI, something tangible that can help you move forward, grow, increase sales, generate more income or gaining any of the following examples:

- New point of view
- Different experience
- Learning new skill
- Increased awareness of your personal brand
- Increased awareness for your startup
- New important contacts
- New friendships
- Invitation to participate in a tweetchat, private linkedin group, blab, community, writing a blog post...
- Start an online brand community

What’s important is to think of your time as if it were a budget, and allocate certain amounts to communicate, connect, exchange opinions, LEARN from others, teach...

If we behave only as ants, we might end up in solitude, and no (wo)man is an island. To go further, grow and innovate, we have to collaborate.


Choosing our tactics, like whom we contact with and how, seems very calculated and unemotional – but that’s only half of the story. Once you’re done researching and shaping your networking strategy it’s time to focus on the people.People are not assets, numbers, stepping stones... people are made of emotions – dreams, passions, needs, wants.

In other words, your networking strategy might look like it’s focused solely on you and your
business, but it also needs to be focused on the people you’re going to reach. And if you’re not a «people person» your first step, before jumping in business networking, is to learn some people skills, so you can become more effective at it and also have more fun.

- Don’t fake it till you make it – people like genuineness, they have a way to instinctively sense fake.
- If you take, you must give back – show support and respect, be a connector.
- Be prepared to give more than you receive – some people might need more to open and collaborate.
- Invest your time and energy in quality not quantity – don’t be a victim of vanity, and pick those social networks which will best serve your goals.
- Test and try – not every plan and approach will work, prepare to adjust.
- Be curious not a stalker - the more you get to know a person the better relationship

The beauty of online networking is that you can find out peoples' interests in advance, so you can connect with those who share your interests, and discuss related topics. Who knows, you might even move beyond mutually supporting one another and establish a business collaboration. It happens all the time.

Remember: Networking IS a part of Business success – a part you must not skip and leave for a more convenient time. Business success IS about people – and how they respond to your service, your product, most importantly to YOU!

Disclaimer: The post has been written by Iva Ignjatovic, @IvaIgnjatovic who was a guest on #SocialPowWow Twitter chat to speak on this topic.


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