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Thanks to the internet, building a strong personal network to bolster your business is easier than ever. Websites and social media profiles are inexpensive, invaluable tools that allow you to connect with other professionals in your field.
However, it can be tricky to determine the best ways to use these assets to your advantage. Consider the following techniques to expand your personal network online, connect with people on an authentic level, and ultimately grow your business.
Reaching out to strangers can be intimidating. Begin by dipping your toes into the shallow end and contact people you already know. The U.S. Small Business Administration recommends building your network by reaching out to alumni from your former schools, past co-workers, and even Facebook connections.
If you have a LinkedIn profile, try sending one message every day to a connection that you haven’t talked to in a while. Even if these correspondences aren’t immediately helpful, it can’t hurt to foster relationships with other professionals and businesses. You never know when an opportunity to collaborate will arise. When you tell people about your business, you increase the chances of getting referrals.
There are several ways your website can be used to build a personal network. Maintaining an active blog will draw people to your site. Content-marketing strategies are inexpensive and proven to be lucrative for many small businesses.
For example, Pet Sitters Ireland grew its revenue by 450 percent over the course of three years by answering FAQs on its blog, according to marketing consultant Mark Schaefer. By providing educational content, the company earned more than 10,000 website visitors per month and attracted 30,000 Facebook followers.
You can also foster connections within the WordPress.com community by reaching out to other bloggers and website owners. Follow and engage with websites in your industry by liking posts and leaving comments. Share your thoughts on blog posts, and don’t be afraid to forward articles of interest. The number of business owners who are open and receptive to communication will surprise you.
Another efficient way to make new connections is through a referral program — especially if your demographic is within the 18-34 age range.
According to research from Ambassador Software and Nielsen, 92 percent of shoppers in this demographic ask for recommendations from family and friends before making purchases, and 95 percent report that they would share a product using social media or email in exchange for rewards like loyalty points or giveaways.
While there are ample ways to connect with other people in today’s digital world, it isn’t necessarily an immediate process. Sure, it would be nice if you could simply create a viral video and instantly generate a vast network of lucrative connections — but that’s not the reality for most small business owners and creatives.
Instead, be consistent with the network-building efforts outlined above. You might not see results within a week or month, but if you stick with it, learn from your successes and failures, and adapt accordingly, it will pay off in the end.