Two weeks ago I started this mini-series with an article about how to build your network offline.
While there is no substitute for physically meeting and talking to people, online networking offers a capacity for quantity and efficiency that old-fashioned networking simply can’t keep up with. Here I will explain exactly how to network online as a young entrepreneur through LinkedIn, Twitter and blogs.
Networking Through LinkedIn
Anytime I meet someone at a networking event or during my daily routine, I add them to my network on LinkedIn. People generally need multiple impressions of something before they are able to remember it. So adding someone to your network on LinkedIn is a great way to follow-up with them and they are more likely to remember you next time you meet.
Here’s how to add someone to your LinkedIn network.
- Create and fill-out a profile, if you haven’t already, at LinkedIn.com. You don’t have to have your entire profile complete before you start adding people, but you should at least have your general information and a summary.
- Search for people you have met with the search bar in the upper right.
- Sift through the search results until you find the person you were looking for and click their name. About 70% of the people I search for are on LinkedIn.
- If it’s the right person, click ‘Add [Name] to your network.’
- Unless there’s a specific reason you know that person, invite them to your network as a friend.
- In the comment area, write a short quip regarding how you know them and mention something specific about your previous conversation. For example, “It was good talking to you at the Alaskan Entrepreneurs Tweetup and I hope you don’t get snowed in before your business trip. Also, I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.”
Generally people are pleased to see you added them to your network. They are also trying to build their networks, so it’s like you did them a favor. If done right, your LinkedIn profile should become an enormous database of everyone you meet.
I haven’t experimented too much with groups, but you can also join relevant LinkedIn groups and start discussions with other members. I recently joined the group, Teen Entrepreneurs and Advocates. It’s relatively new and needs more people.
Add me to your LinkedIn network. It’ll be good practice!
Networking Through Twitter
In addition to sharing links and promoting your site, Twitter is a great place to meet like-minded people.
How to Find People
The great thing about networking through Twitter is how easy it is to find people who are from a particular region or interested in a certain topic.
Here are a few tools to find people:
- Twitter Search – search through the latest tweets to find what people are saying right now about a certain topic.
- Twellow.com – the easiest method for finding other Twitter users in your local community. Simply search for your city and state and it will display everyone who has that city and state as their ‘Location.’
For example, if you have a snow removal service in Juneau, AK and are looking for busy people who don’t have time to clear snow from their driveways, try conducting a Twitter Search for “snow driveway AK.” Or you can follow everyone in Juneau, AK on Twellow.com. You should also consider searching for “snow removal” so you can learn from expert snow removers.
How to Network With People
The best method for contacting people on Twitter is through @ replies. A lot of people use direct messages (DM’s) to spam and many people don’t even look at their Twitter inbox unless they are expecting a DM from someone.
Here is how to network through @ replies:
- Find someone you are interested in talking to and check out their site.
- Visit their profile and click on the @reply arrow next to one of their latest updates.
- Write them a message mentioning something you found on their site, something about yourself and ask a simple question. For example, “@snowbuff I noticed you have snow removal clients in 10 different Alaskan cities! I just started my own snow removal service. Any advice?”
If they respond, great! If not, don’t be discouraged. There are over 20 million other people on Twitter to network with.
I don’t do use Twitter to network as much as I should but it’s the best tool in the world for finding people who are willing to help.
Networking Through Blogs
About 90% of the people who have commented multiple times on my site have been people I have networked with online. And many of those people have left comments on my site because I left comments on their blog.
Networking with other blog owners is an easy way to build professional relationships with people who want to help. There are a few general rules I follow to increase the likelihood of being successful by networking through blogs.
- Always reply to comments on your site. I appreciate it when people reply to my comments. It makes me come back, both to check their reaction and as common courtesy. The first time I was introduced to this concept was through an article on Blogussion, What Does it Mean to Really Connect With Your Readers?
- Leave comments and ask questions on other sites. I almost always check out the sites that belong to my commentators. I want to return the favor. Additionally, if you leave a question within your comment on a site with 100+ regular commentators, the post author is more likely to respond to a question.
- Send your questions in an email to other bloggers. Site owners always appreciate feedback and your questions give them a great topic for their next post. Plus, they might link to you and it builds a relationship with that blogger. A great example of how this works is one of the latest posts on Teenius.com, An Answer Session.
As a young entrepreneur, you already have a leg-up because most people are more willing to help young people. All you have to do is contact and talk to them. I think you’ll be impressed with the results of networking through any of these outlets.
If you found this post helpful, you should get JuniorBiz by Email. Thanks for reading and leave your comments below. I will take a look at every single website from people who leave valuable comments on this post.
Photo by: Gary Hayes