Five ways to make online business network connections

Employ these practices on your social media networks to show your worth as a valuable contributor.

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By Ramon Ray, editor of Smart Hustle Magazine (Paid Contributor)
Published: December 10, 2014
Updated: February 01, 2017

Networking, when done right, is one of the most powerful tools a small business owner can use to connect with people and grow his or her company. Now that networking has expanded into the online world, social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter offer huge opportunities to showcase your expertise and connect with a much larger audience.

"Networking is one of the most powerful tools a small business owner can use to connect with people and grow his or her company."

Here are five ways to maximize your online networking efforts.

1. Mind your reputation on social media networks

With today's technology and an ever-growing number of social media sites, it is easier than ever for anyone to assess your reputation. Happy customers often share their positive experience with others on review sites or your Facebook page. Focus on top-notch customer service in addition to selling, and you'll quickly start building a positive reputation.

2. Find and seize networking opportunities via social media

Taking advantage of online networking opportunities requires listening and consistently following up with the right actions. If someone comments on something you've posted or retweets one of your tweets, engage with him or her. This is a way of initiating a relationship, so don't miss the chance. You can also find opportunities by following online conversations about your competitors. If people tweet about problems they are having with a competitor's service, step in and see if you can help them. People want to do business with companies that want to help them, rather than those just looking to make a sale.

3. Build trust and respect via social networks

Technology has made it easier to connect with people, but it's important to create trust and respect in these relationships. For example, respond to people in a timely manner, and provide clear and transparent information. Also, be accountable and commit to what you communicate. If you say something, make sure it happens. If you don't, any trust and respect you've built can quickly dissipate.

4. Share your expertise online

Good business owners prioritize educating others about their business and how they can help. Offer non-promotional content that enriches customers' lives and helps solve their problems. Create a blog that shares complimentary best practices and other solutions to your customers' needs. Then promote your blog posts on your social media profiles. Sharing valuable information demonstrates good character and generosity and conveys your mastery of your industry. If done well, this can lead to new business opportunities.

5. Be in the social conversations

Networking is all about participating meaningfully in a conversation. Many online sites provide a central meeting place that allows you to start and respond to conversations. Here are ways to get started:

  • Spruce up your profile. Your profile, whether it's on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or other social networks, is the first impression people will have of you, so add professional photos or logos that demonstrate who you are and what you do.

  • Join relevant groups. There are countless online networking groups on Facebook and LinkedIn, so join the ones that are relevant to your business or subject matter.

  • Ask good questions. Use industry topics, current events, or helpful articles you've written, and turn them into questions. For example, if you read a great article on mobile tech solutions, you can post: "This article talks about some great mobile tech solutions. What's your must-have tool when traveling?"

  • Make comments. Take interest in others and engage with them and their posts. Add substantial comments, and they will likely reciprocate.

  • Maximize communication. As you become more active in online communities, use tools to automatically schedule social media posts, messages, and tweets to reduce your time spent on posting while maximizing your impact.

Networking online can yield great results if you take the time to do it right and show your worth as a valuable contributor. By employing these five strategies you'll be on your way to networking success.

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