When I first started my own company, the most common advice I got from other business owners and entrepreneurs was to get in front of other people, join the chamber of commerce (or something similar). After a year of running my own business, I would definitely agree that’s in the top actionable advice I could give to someone starting their own company and trying to grow a business. Word of mouth referrals are like golden leads. They already have social proof of a friend who they heard of you from, you have instant credibility. Word of mouth referrals aren’t guaranteed business, but they’re about as close as you can get.
So when we talk about growing a business online, why would it be any different? In the movie The Social Network, Zuckerberg says he wants to take the social experience of people in college and bring it online. That’s exactly the mentality to have when trying to grow your business. The key to bringing in more prospects is to get in front of more people, networking, building your brand and gaining authority in your market.
Plenty has been said about inbound marketing, content development and social media strategies. The key is to put them all together and get your content (that shows off your expertise and positions you as an authority) while promoting and networking through the right social media channels.
Once you determine a topic you want to discuss and create your content on your website (or another if you’re guest blogging), it’s time to get out in front of people!
Join online networks like LinkedIn groups and niche forums. These are places where there are like-minded professionals gathering around similar ideas, sharing information and building a community. If you can join these online communities and get your content in front of your ideal customers, you are going to bring in more leads and more business. Just like if you were to put together a presentation and go and speak in front of a local group at a chamber of commerce or professional association.
Every day when you sit down in front of your RSS reader to catch up on your industry news (you are doing this right?), when you read an article you like, leave a comment. Voice your opinion on the topic at hand, don’t just give a “good article!”.
Think about what you would say if you were having a conversation with the writer of the article and you were to respond to what they just said. Make the online world your place of networking just like it was an event you would attend in person. Get over the mental hurdle of how difficult it is to leave a smart, insightful comment and just talk to the author. Talk to your customers. Don’t be shy, be natural.
If you want to just browse around the Internet reading articles and keeping the knowledge in your head or scroll through your Twitter feed and LinkedIn Today emails without chiming in, you might as well be on your couch watching TV. That would be the equivalent of a business owner twiddling his thumbs and wondering why no one is calling to hire him. Get out there and join the fun!
How do you equate networking online and offline? What tips do you have for getting your name out there in front of your target audience?