Sure, networking at events and social settings is essential for business. But networking online is in many cases better than a business card exchange and it’s no less critical to your marketing success. Here are the basics of online networking.
1. Blogs are the new websites. Traditional websites are meant for one way conversations where consumers are fed information. Blogs are two-way conversations where engagement and personal connections are possible. Your blog should be personable and informative. People enjoy hearing opinions just as much as they do facts, so don’t hesitate to express thoughts, theories, speculations, and doubt. If there is an area in which you are particularly knowledgeable or interested, then identify that niche and run with it. Also, don’t be scared to get ideas from other bloggers. See what bloggers in your community are talking about and provide your own interpretation.
If you already have a traditional website, add a blog and open the conversation between your company and potential customers (and existing ones, too). Not only does it give a voice to your brand, it can educate your customers, build relationships and market your services and expertise.
WordPress is a good platform for adding that blog component. It is open-source, free, and very easy to learn. You can add it on to any existing website or can start from scratch and let your blog be the face of your online presence.
One your blog is up and running, make sure to blog often. This is another great thing about blogs. Whereas a website typically has the same information posted for months – if not years – a blog can flow with new information, keeping your customers engaged and wanting to come back for more. An effective blog should be updated AT LEAST once a week.
Make sure to link your blog to your Facebook and LinkedIn accounts and tweet about upcoming posts. Twitter is a good way to ask for blog post suggestions and feedback.
2. At this point, I am sure everyone has told you to get social. And here it goes again. GET SOCIAL! Every single industry can benefit from social media if it’s done correctly. Social networks expand your personal networks and allow you to filter who you reach by interests. You can tap into the connections of others with similar interests, see what people are talking about and follow trends. Again, to make an impact, maintain a continuous presence. Your Twitter account will not get any traction if you only tweet twice a month. For Twitter, daily tweets are the best way to increase your following. Remember, be professional, consistent and personable in all of your social networking. It’s OK to share non-work-related information if it’s something that interests you.
3. Be Part of a Two-way Conversation
Develop a list of other sites that share common interests or professions and engage them. Even if you would typically consider someone a competitor, that competitor may have social media followers you haven’t reached. Leave meaningful comments that show your knowledge . Always use your full name when leaving a comment and leave link backs to your own website or blog.
4. Google-proof yourself. Once you have a website or blog, make sure people who are using search engines can find you. Look into search engine optimization (SEO) to improve your position. Make sure you include relevant keywords, Meta tags, H1 tags and titles in all of your blog posts. Once you get traction on your website or blog, then Google AdWords would be a good thing to consider. AdWords is pay-per-click advertising where you can display your ads on Google and their advertising network. Finally, create a Google Analytics account to see if your self-networking strategies have paid off!