Effective networking is integral to the success of any business and has become essential to small business management. But small business owners are bombarded with the same few networking tips. Attend community events, keep up with social media sites, and re-tweet industry professionals you respect are just three of the same, consistently-circulated tidbits that others in the industry are likely doing in spades.
To set yourself apart from your competitors, it’s important to think outside the box. These twists on traditional networking methods can put your small business over the top, setting you apart as a leader, rather than a follower.
Start a Conversation on Twitter
Instead of merely replying and re-tweeting, deliberately engage other Twitter users in conversation. Deliberately tagging someone in a post is far more likely to get attention than a mere reply or re-tweet.
Example: “@markjohnson I really enjoyed your lecture at #nasaa2013 Do you have additional tips?”
Be sure your post is genuine and that you are truly interested in learning more. By showing your respect and admiration for someone else in your industry, you’ll not only gain a contact in the person whose advice you’ve requested, but you’ll also likely get a response that will help your own followers. The reply post could additionally attract the attention of his or her followers, as well, which will expand your own network.
Research Attendees at Events
Most conferences provide a list of speakers and other key personnel prior to the event. Research each speaker and identify those who might be beneficial to you in your business efforts. If applicable, read any books or other publications these attendees have published. This will allow you to genuinely state that you’re familiar with their work when you approach them.
You may decide to contact these attendees prior to the conference on social networking sites. Reach out to any of the attendees you’d like to meet and make it clear that you look forward to seeing them at the conference. You’ll be surprised how much this improves your conference experience.
Use LinkedIn Groups for Networking
Much attention has been given to reaching out to customers on Facebook and Twitter, but LinkedIn is one of the best tools available for professional networking. Instead of simply searching out other professionals and sending invitations to connect, consider joining a few LinkedIn groups that are relevant to your business. You’ll meet other people and gain valuable insight at the same time. Make updating your profile and interacting with groups a part of your ongoing small business management.
To access LinkedIn Groups, click on “Groups” once you’re logged into your LinkedIn account. Choose “Groups You May Like” to identify groups that relate to your own interests. If this doesn’t yield desired results, try searching LinkedIn’s Groups Directory.
Are a Concur client? Join Concur’s LinkedIn User Group today to network and ask advice with other Concur users.
Launch a Fun Promotion
Using your social media profiles, launch a unique promotion that gets people talking. This can be effective even if your networking efforts are geared toward others in the industry. If you’ve set up a table at a conference, invite others in attendance to stop by your booth to enter a giveaway or get a free prize. You’ll be surprised how many additional contacts you’ll make through offering freebies.
A little creativity can help you go from simply networking to networking like no one else in your chosen field. The key to being successful is to have fun with your networking efforts. If you’re having fun, others will want to do business with you.
Take the first leap today and reach out on Twitter to Concur’s own Elena Donio, Raj Singh or Steve Singh. Or, start a simple conversation with me on Twitter to discuss more small business networking tips.