How to Become a Master Of Online Networking and Dominate Your Niche
This is a guest article by David Campbell. David Campbell is a digital marketing specialist at Ramp Ventures. He helps manage the content marketing team at Right Inbox. When he’s not working, he enjoys traveling and trying to learn Spanish.
If you want to advance in your career or grow a business, you need to master networking. Effective networking will help you find leads, get referrals, and allow you to establish yourself as an expert in your field.
This guide will discuss how to become a master of online networking. In the following paragraphs, I will show you how to grow your network, develop relationships with influencers, and achieve your business or professional goals. Ready? Let’s get started!
Set Long-Term Networking Goals
The first thing you should do before anything else is set your long-term networking goals. Setting clear goals will help you determine your approach to networking. Your goals Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound or SMART.
Your networking goals should align with your business goals.
For instance, if your business goal is to get more companies to purchase your human resources software, your goal could be:
- Generate one new sale each month
To achieve that goal, you might have to set logical sub-goals. For example, you could set the following target:
- Have five sales meetings each month
- Connect with 30 HR professionals
Those sub-goals should align with your overarching target. The assumption underpinning the sub-goals is that you’ll secure five sales meetings if you connect with 30 HR professionals. From five sales meetings, you average one sale.
You can see how the sub-goals flow into your overarching target. You need to create these types of goals for yourself.
Pick Your Most Important Social Channels
The next most important part of any online marketing initiative is identifying the best social channel for your needs. Your choice should be based on where you want to establish a presence and where your customers are active.
There are various social media channels you can use. If you’re interested in professional networking, for example, you might focus on Linkedin. On the other hand, if you want to become a speaker or an online influencer, you might focus on Instagram or YouTube.
Don’t try to have a presence everywhere. The further you stretch yourself, the harder it will be to make an impact. Choose one or possibly two social media platforms for your networking efforts.
Once you’ve decided on your preferred social media channel, familiarize yourself with the platform. Each platform requires a different approach.
Make Relevant Connections
Once you’ve set your goals and decided on the best channel for your needs, it’s time to start networking. I like to start things by creating a list of people that I want to connect with based on my target audience.
There are various ways you can create a list of people you want to connect with for online networking. For example:
- Google My Business: If you’re working for a marketing agency or B2B business, you might use Google My Business to find a list of companies to target. You can then identify who in the business you should meet.
- Online Lists: Lists like the Inc. 5,000 and others are a great way to find relevant B2B online networking opportunities.
- Influencer Outreach Tools: There are a range of useful tools you can use for influencer prospecting. For example, Buzzsumo helps you identify people who have a large social following on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc.
Set aside time to create a master sheet of people who you want to connect with online. I recommend generating a list of 100+ prospects.
With a list of people to target, you’re now ready to start your online networking.
The platform you choose should determine your approach. On LinkedIn, I recommend sending a connection request directly to the person who you want to connect with online. If you’re using Instagram, you should follow that person online.
Once you’ve made a connection, you want to make yourself visible. Subscribe to their newsletter, comment on, and like the content that they post.
Show them you’re interested in their work and try to start a conversation.
You can use an email finder to get the contact details of a person. There are some great email finders. The most widely used is Hunter. There are some very good alternatives to Hunter.
After a few likes and comments, send them a message. Send across an email to introduce yourself.
Here’s a sample connection request:
*Hi [NAME],* *I hope you’re doing well. I’ve been following your posts with a lot of interest. I particularly enjoyed what you said about [insert something you liked in their recent content]. The reason I’m emailing you is that I saw you have [Insert problem]. I think I’d be able to help you out. I’d be happy to [offer something for free].* *All the best,* *[YOUR NAME]*
The message is direct and to the point. Some people will not reply to your request, but that’s okay.
Start a Conversation
Let’s say some people accepted your connection request. Congratulations! Now it’s time to start that conversation. How do you approach someone you haven’t met and develop that relationship?
It’s all about finding that common ground. Here are some things you can say:
- A remark on a recent topic: “I saw your recent post/tweet/article on…”
- A shared connection: “I saw that you know [insert name here]. He/ She is a [explain your relationship]…”
- A shared viewpoint: “I agree with you that [insert shared viewpoint]”
Remember, the key is to focus on them and their needs. In general, people don’t like to respond to people who only talk about themselves.
Also, don’t make your message too long, and be straight to the point.
Here’s an example message you can send:
*Hi [First Name],* *Thank you for accepting my connection request.* *I saw your recent post on [topic of recent post], and I couldn’t agree more. [Discuss why you agree with the influencer. Make sure you provide in-depth insights and give added value to the conversation here].* *How about [raise another topic]? What are your thoughts on that? I hope you do let me know. It’s nice to talk to people who have such in-depth knowledge and understanding of [your industry]* *Talk to you soon,* *[Your name]*
Make sure your message ends with a hook to continue the conversation.
Give Favors & Offer Support to Develop the Relationship
The most effective networking revolves around adding value to people in your network. You shouldn’t immediately ask for favors when a person has joined your network. Well, you can, but that’s just going to put the other person off.
Instead, prove first that you’re someone who can contribute something to the relationship. That way, when you need a hand, they’ll be more likely to help.
So, take every opportunity to help the people in your network. You saw someone in your network looking for someone who can create a website? Refer them to a friend who is an experienced website developer.
If someone is looking for a place to stay in New York, recommend the hotel where you stayed that provided a great service at an affordable price. Someone from your network is hosting a webinar? Promote it, too!
Provide value where you can. Think of networking as an investment. If you do your part, you’ll surely reap those benefits.
Review Your Approach
Remember when I told you to set networking goals? At some point, you’re going to have to go back to those to see if your strategy is effective.
You should review your achievements against your targets. Your review is a chance to improve on your strategy, make changes, or undertake a pivot.
If you are achieving your online networking goals, then continue what you’re doing. Or, you might even choose to expand on what you’ve been doing.
If there is a problem, you need to review your strategies to determine where you went wrong.
Maybe many of the people you sent a connection request to did not respond to you? Then there must be something wrong with your connection request message. Or maybe you’re just on the wrong platform?
Review your approach to determine its strengths and weaknesses.
Networking is critical to your success. For networking to be effective, though, you can’t just send out connection requests to random people. You need to have clear goals and a good strategy to achieve them.
In this article, I gave you tips on how to master online networking. After setting your long-term networking goals, make sure you pick specific social channels for your networking. Connect with the relevant personalities, and start a conversation. Don’t forget to provide value to the relationship. Finally, review your strategy so you can pinpoint its weaknesses and strengths.
Invest the time and the effort. Once you have your network in place and you nurture your connections, of course, you’ll see everything will have been worth it.
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