In such a digital world it’s hard to make genuine connections with people. But it’s not impossible! I have talked to some of my colleagues to dig up ways that they have successfully made meaningful connections and built relationships online.
A big reason that small businesses, especially online ones, get so darn competitive and catty is that they lose sight of the “growing together” mentality that American small business is built on.
Consequently, sometimes we lose sight of a bigger picture. Treat your fellow entrepreneurs you meet online like the “mom and pop” shop you want to support in your local town.
So, join forces! Step outside of your ego and comfort zone and reach out to like-minded business owners online. Talk about what they are doing that you are not, to get more customers in the door. What can you do with that business owner to build a business relationship — share the wealth — and grow together?
If you’ve been in business a while – you have knowledge and experience. Share it with your new connection. Encourage them. Allow them to teach you new ways in marketing, technology, products, anything! Offer what you know to help them as well! Host online events with the both of you to get both of your customer base going to both of you. Offer discounts for using you and your new connection for services.
What can your business share with other startup owners to help them grow? Keep in mind if you root for them to fail, chances are karma will be coming around to your business soon.
Jacquelyn Tolksdorf is from 8-create.com. She’s your web host with the most, finer designer, and developer! Creating has always been a blip on her timeline, but in 2009, that dot on the timeline got an upgrade to a professional career.
Online relationships are no longer covered with the “lonely kid in his mom’s basement” stigma they once had. True friendships and partnerships are forming from online interactions. The way I have created true relationships online is to meet over a video call. The simplicity of hearing someone’s voice, seeing their facial expressions, everyday clothing, and surroundings is profound for online relationships. By meeting in this way, you’ve taken a small profile picture and text on a screen to a deeper interaction and connection. Mannerisms, tone of voice, and body language make up most of our communication, so using tools like, Skype, Zoom, Join.Me, and GoToMeeting have been great resources for my relationship building.
Clear time in your schedule for video calls each week. It doesn’t have to be time-consuming or cumbersome, schedule calls with the people you interact with most online and want to know better. Some of the best video chats I’ve been on were “girl’s nights-in” where a group of us get together, in our yoga pants and messy buns with a glass of wine and chat about our week, work, and kids.
Adrienne Barnes is a content marketer, homeschool mom, and true coffee enthusiast. She’s a research and word-nerd, who loves getting her Grammarly report each week.
Linkedin Groups can be a great way to branch out with new online contacts/relationships & target a specific audience. I suggest to my artists to join groups with active communities and ask questions occasionally in there. It helps them expand their knowledge, and start a conversation with others in their specific industry.
Linkedin articles are another great way to help build relationships online. Write an article, ask a critical question in the article, and get engagement from others. Sharing this article in Linkedin Groups, Facebook Groups, or out with your mailing list can initiate conversations! Follow-up with those who comment, and build from there!
As a final tip, create a survey to give yourself more in-depth knowledge on the topic your professional career revolves around. Share it out with your network. Ask those in your network to share it as well. For your survey make it brief, to the point, and so it provides key helpful information. Make it anonymous, unless those responding are select they are willing to an additional interview on the topic. Then follow-up with those who are open to the additional interview with more detailed questions to gain data/insight. This is your springboard to starting a new relationship online!
Ashley Ranasinghe works as an agent and provides one on one coaching for emerging artists.
When you work online, networking can feel strange and forced. After all, you don’t have a name or voice to connect with! There are several ways to overcome this awkwardness, though.
Start by reaching out to someone. This could be a comment on a blog post or social media or an email. Mention something specific that you like about them and their content, business model, etc. If you want to make a deeper connection, suggest a way that you could collaborate or ask if they would be interested in a coffee chat (usually a video chat or phone call if you’re not local).
Find areas of shared experience as you get to know them and build on that. Share your own expertise and help them wherever you can so that it’s not a one-sided relationship and don’t expect anything in return when you do. After all, we’ve all probably had that ‘friend’ who is always taking and never giving, and you don’t want to be that person. Find ways to be mutually beneficial to each other and your relationship will grow that much more.
Making the first contact is often the hardest part of starting a relationship. Humans crave that one-on-one connection, though! If you make the first move, the chances of getting to talk to that person have just increased exponentially.
Jenn Zellers and her team at Unit 25 provide a one-stop shop for business growth services and coaching for entrepreneurs and small business owners, both local and online, to empower them to grow their businesses.
The Shapr app! I have made several fantastic connections through Shapr, a free phone app that is set up in style like Tinder but connects you with people on a professional level. You can seek connections with others for mentorships, freelance projects, new jobs or co-founders. I’ve even made a handful of great friends, which was definitely needed when I moved to a completely new town last year, and a few connections that turned into clients!
Kaitlyn Holeman is the owner of a digital marketing firm that aims to help women entrepreneurs with strategy, web design, SEO and more.
Only join a few Facebook groups, and then engage, engage, engage! Being a member of 100 groups only means your attention is split that many times. Focusing on a couple groups means you create quality connections.
Ann Marie O’Braskin loves helping crafty parents use their talent to grow a business where they can work from home.
My favorite way to connect online is through Instagram. Instead of just doing random follow/unfollow I look for accounts I love (and are my target audience) in hashtags and leave meaningful comments on their pictures. I interact with their accounts and they usually do the same thing back if they like my content. I built many valuable relationships AND friendships through Instagram. I also answer every single comment on my pictures and try to ask a question back and try to start a conversation to get to know my followers even better.
Nadine Rohner is a social media strategist, consultant, and manager. Two years ago she quit her job, sold her stuff and left Switzerland to travel the world. She fell in love with Bali and decided to stay there as long as she had money. The island inspired her to create content and she started a travel blog and focused to grow her Instagram account.
Did you know you can track networking in the ProtoPreneur Planner? Click the button to the right to learn more.