Network online with the mindset of an offline event

How do you network online?

It’s a common thing these days for business owners to misuse the online media, especially when trying to gain interest (or attention) from prospects towards their business.

The fact that we’re looking at computer and/or smart phone screens does not mean we can’t establish human connections when looking to network online. I know there’s a rise in Bot technology and automations (which I’m a huge follower), but when it comes to real human to human interactions within platforms such as Messenger (Facebook), WhatsApp, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc, one needs to approach it as if he/she is doing so in the offline space.

With that said, I’m aware that there are people who attend offline events only with the intention of slipping their business cards into the hands of as many attendees as possible (I’d tag that as “offline spamming”). Spamming has become a habit for most business owners, and if one looks closely at these activities online, there’s usually a few things you’d discover about the person carrying them out:

Desperation: this person just wants to make sales at any cost, so he/she gets into the mindset of “throw everything against the wall and hope something sticks”. Well in most cases, what sticks is usually the harsh responses they get from the people they contacted. They’d be lucky if they get away without getting reported or have curses rained down on them.

Over competitiveness: this person does not back down for any reason, and he/she is ready to do all it takes to get in front of his/her audience, regardless of who’s hurt in the process. He/she does not mind if his/her business’s reputation is tainted or not, the main goal is to get those leads/sales at any cost.

Lack of confidence: this person feels the only way to get things going for him/her is to “gatecrash” as many inboxes, groups, online forums, etc, with promotional information. They are not confident when it comes to building up their positioning online, especially if they’re in an industry where big brands are dominating.

Impatience: this person does not see the need to sit down and plan his/her marketing/sales strategy before venturing out. He/she operates with the mindset of “I’ve got this product, I need to sell it NOW!” This often hinders his/her growth within the online space, because people will take notice and eventually start ignoring him/her.

How can we effectively network online?

In the past (between 2010 and 2013), Facebook groups were never an option for me in terms of Facebook marketing (it was always Pages… but that has now changed). It took me about 3 years since kicking off my online marketing on Facebook, to start joining groups. Now I see things differently.

When you’re looking to network online, Facebook groups are not the only options, but every other platform where interaction is encouraged should be considered. Apart from other social media networks (e.g. LinkedIn groups), it could also be the comment section on someone’s blog/website, a forum, etc.

Think about it, when you attend a networking event, what’s the first thing you do? Bear in mind that everyone’s approach will be different, so play the scene in your mind right now… how have you been networking? Can you use the same process to network online?

The application…

Establish proper connections:

Going back to what I said earlier about establishing human connections when looking to network online, it’s important for us to understand people (who they are, what they like/dislike, what they do, where they go, etc, based on the interactions we have with them). Without this understanding, we’ll be operating based on assumptions, which is what often causes problems down the line.

A connection is possible based on how we approach people, and what we say to them (it can’t be forced; it’s a gradual process).

Find mutual interests:

When we are able to properly connect with people then we’re able to learn more about them in the process. If you want to network online effectively, you have to get in the habit of asking relevant questions during a conversation. This is what helps the conversations to progress, which could eventually lead to a partnership, investment, sale, etc.

As much as people may choose not to admit, the whole concept of networking events (offline) is to gain business, however, during the process of trying to gain business, mutual understanding and genuine interest in what the other person is doing can lead towards success.

Give value:

When compared to the offline aspect, networking online gives one more time/space to give value (this can work as well in the offline setting, however one would always consider the event timing, setting, and other factors that may hinder this approach). The idea here is to carry the mindset that the person you’re having conversations with has feelings / worries / ideas / intelligence / etc, is a business owner (depending), and has his/her own agenda based on the platform of use (e.g. Facebook group).

The ability to hold conversations that will leave the other person thinking or saying to himself/herself — “that was some good information/advice I got today” — is something business owners should develop. The more you’re willing to give, in the bid to help someone else, the more you’re likely to gain trust and proper positioning when it comes to closing sales.

Ask for the sale:

Getting to this point when you network online takes time, and more often than not, business owners who fall under any of the four (4) issues I mentioned earlier on this post hardly make head way at the end of the day.

People these days can immediately detect a sales ridden approach from the very first start of a conversation, which means they’re bound to put up a defense. The way to avoid this is to follow the processes I’ve outlined above, in order to get to the part where you get to ask for the sale… with less resistance.

When you’re presented with the opportunity to ask for the sale, don’t be afraid to put your price(s) out there. Address any objection your prospects may have, and give them reason to trust you to deliver the job. When you demonstrate that you can help them (by actually helping them – maybe via a Skype call, mini training, etc), then asking for the sale will become a lot easier.

Conclusion

Being able to network online with the mindset of human to human connections gives you a edge over those who only seek what they can gain, not what they can give. If you’re not doing things differently, then you may end up getting yourself classified as one of those who only think about themselves when it comes to networking. This, on the long run, can deter you from getting the results you want online.

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