How to Network using Social Media
Networking can have a bad rep. It's usually associated with events that force you to talk to people who might be able to help you boost your business in some way, but let's face it - you probably wouldn't get on with in real life.
Wikipedia describes Networking as "a socioeconomic business activity by which businesspeople and entrepreneurs meet to form business relationships and to recognise, create, or act upon business opportunities, share information and seek potential partners for ventures."
At this point, I'm filled with dread, being in a room with a person who calls them self an entrepreneur? No thank you.
But the way we network is changing, and something that I never thought would be essential to my business has opened doors for me. But I've not had to go to any events and stand around in a loud stuffy room making awkward conversation. No, I've found some amazing connections online - and not on LinkedIn! In this post I'm going to share my secrets and help you connect with the right people...
A brief history of Networking
Networking became popular in the late 20th century, and you'll be interested to know (as a woman) that it was originally encouraged for marginalised groups at the time (women, African-Americans etc.) to networking in order to identify and address the limits that were holding them back from professional success.
Fast forward to now, and networking is kind of seen as outdated, but we do other activities that would probably be classed as networking but are much more fun. This could be something like going to a supperclub, or joining a parenting group with other mums to share tips. The reach of networking has expanded far beyond the office, and it can only be a good thing!
A new way of networking
If like me, you've always felt like a socially awkward person (even if actually you're not!) networking can be a really daunting task. Thankfully I've managed to find a way that works for me and means I can speak to like minded people that I actually get on with on a personal level too!
All you need is your preferred social media platform.
Instagram is a great way of connecting with like minded business owners, and people who are doing similar things to you.
The most important thing to note here is that even if you do something similar to other people, everyone does things slightly differently and you might be able to learn a thing or two from others. Don't see them as direct competitors, follow and learn from them - in the same way they might be able to learn a thing or two from you!
How to find the right communities on Instagram
For me, I wasn't even aware that I was trying to network. I wanted to find people who could contribute to the Sassy Bites blog so I searched for hashtags like #womeninbusiness #girlboss and saw what came up. It took a bit of digging but after finding a couple of useful accounts, they pointed me in the direction of people who I could relate to.
Facebook groups can be a really brilliant way of connecting with other women in business and people in the same industry. Again, usually a bit of time googling and searching through Facebook and you'll be able to find some useful communities. Groups are usually closed, and you'll have to ask to join but once you're in they can be a brilliant source of information and support! You may also find some new acquaintances, friends or useful contacts!
Here are some Facebook groups to start you off:
This is the obvious one, but I'm not sure many people actually know how to use LinkedIn to their advantage. Instead of checking once a month, rejecting requests from recruiters as you go, it's a community you'll really need to update a few times per week...if you've got something interesting to say.
Sharing blog posts, interesting links to industry-related articles and general business updates can let people know you exist, remind them you're there and you may even notice other people you like getting updates from. I recently met an amazing local woman who does PR through LinkedIn!
If you're looking to get your name out there, make sure you join groups here too. Join your University Alumni Group, and any other industry related groups (for me this might be marketing and digital marketing groups). Interacting with them will boost your brand awareness, and potentially put you in contact with a whole host of people who could help you - or even better you could help them!
These rules can be applied to any of your favourite social media platforms - Twitter is great for it too. You just need to have a search around for active and genuine people who see eye to eye with you and your values.
Finally, here are a few of our favourite inspiring accounts for women in business on Instagram:
Comment below your favourite Facebook groups, and inspiring social media accounts to follow!