Networking is essential to building your business. These days there are many different networking opportunities available to you and your business. They may be local or international, but how you take advantage of them can make all the difference.
Local, face-to-face networking opportunities come in the form of breakfasts, local chamber of commerce and other meetings and events organised by individuals or groups. If you’re unsure where to start looking for networks, check with your local chamber of commerce first, or even your local Enterprise Centre. People like to see who is behind the business, so face-to-face networking is a great way to connect on a more human level with potential leads and people who could refer you to others. Face-to-face networking requires a little travel (depending how far you live from the event) and a little guts (it can be a bit daunting walking into a room of strangers for the first time!). But it’s very worthwhile as you will be getting to know other local business people who can eventually become advocates for your business, even if they never buy from you personally.
Online networking, through Facebook, Twitter etc. is different in that no one will see you face-to-face (unless you use a live stream like Periscope, Blab, Snapchat, Hangouts etc), so you can attend in your pyjamas if you wish! Online events usually happen every day in your region – the most popular online networking events take place on Twitter. Check out ones like #BritishBizParty on a Monday night 9-10pm* for all UK based businesses (although it’s not exclusive for those from the UK), #irishbizparty 9-11pm* Wednesday (again, not exclusively for Irish businesses), #viralchat 2-3am* Friday morning and many, many others. There is a full list of UK twitter chats here.
As with face-to-face networking, online networking is a great way to build relationships, but if you’re not willing to at least put up a picture of yourself on your profile, no one will ever see who is behind the business and may not feel as confident to recommend you. Either way, networking takes time, and time is money, so make sure you’re networking in the right place and with the right people. You never know who the others in the room (physically or virtually speaking) know – after all there are only six degrees of separation! So get out there and network!