By Tori Kopke
While human to human interaction is discouraged, there is opportunity to grasp in building and connecting with others online both personally and professionally.
On a recent podcast I discussed why a stranger online could be a better support system for your business than your partner or even closet friends. The topic received an overwhelming response particularly from people living in small rural communities. This is because it can be far less daunting to receive criticism or rejection from people you know than people you don’t. Let’s face it – everyone knows everyone in the country!
Thankfully, it is easy to build an online community and support system – so you can test your ideas, grow your business, and have some fun.
To start, pick one platform, whether that be Instagram, Facebook, or LinkedIn. Pick a platform where you feel there is a strong audience of like-minded people. People that are really going to have your back and understand the challenges you face as an entrepreneur.
Once you pick a platform, it is absolutely key that you take the time to engage. Just as you might take the time to network or catch up with a colleague over a cuppa. Networking online can pay big dividends and is essential to growing your online network.
Ways to engage on each platform:
- Facebook – Pick a few groups that you engage and participate actively in. Important to note that on Facebook you are likely interacting as your personal profile. So, make sure your business is mentioned on your personal page. You want people to be able to quickly draw the connection between you and your business! Tip – if you are interested in networking with rural business women across Australia, check out The HUB for Rural Business Women.
- Instagram – This is as simple as replying to an Instagram story or leaving a comment on a post. Engage more than you project. Please do not be a person that posts and ghosts. Ensure you are engaging your followers, but also the people you are following!
- LinkedIn – Comment, comment, comment. Every comment has the opportunity to show up in someone else’s newsfeed. This is the largest professional network in the world, so utilise it and see if you can grow your professional network.
The biggest advantage of the online world is that your network (and opportunities!) are likely to grow rapidly thanks to cross promotion and exposure to multiple networks. Cross promotion is also very cost effective – your only investment is time.
Here are some important online etiquette things to note:
- Just because you are not speaking to people face to face, does not mean you get to pitch them your service or product any earlier in the relationship.
- Do not follow someone or connect on LinkedIn and immediately send them a direct message (DM) asking if they would like to work together. Focus on building a relationship.
- As the saying goes, have a first date before you propose marriage. Take the time to build a genuine connection.
- It is cringeworthy to receive a DM from someone you do not know that includes a pitch.
- Avoid going through Facebook groups and adding people that might help you grow your network. Whoever owns that group has taken time to curate a community, not put your target market all in one place. It could get you banned from the group. So interact in the group and then if appropriate take the conversation over to a private message.
- Leave friendship requests on Facebook out entirely. Instead, head over to LinkedIn if you would like to connect with someone.
Building a genuine connection is a two-way street, you cannot just be networking to grow your audience. You need to recognise a mutual value you can add to others. It needs to be an evolving and growing support system based upon trust and respect.
When you do form a connection on LinkedIn or follow someone on Instagram, ensure you send an introductory message. Discuss common points of connection. Ask if you travel in the same online circles. For example, perhaps they are followers or members of the RRR Network, and your paths just have not crossed previously. Focus on genuine conversation and connection.
Once we are in post COVID-19 life, these principles of building an online network are still going to be incredibly relevant, as the way we work going forward will likely change forever.
Tori Kopke is a business coach and strategist based on the family farm in the Wheatbelt of WA. She works with rural business owners to set clear goals, identify a rock-solid strategy and sky rocket their success.
0477 428 753