Whether you are looking for one or more online networks to join, or are thinking about starting your own network, there are a lot of factors to consider. Planning is vitally important to ensure you join the right network(s) that will deliver the business benefits you are looking for.
General points when joining a network:
- Develop your user profile. Networking is all about relationships. The more people and businesses know about you, the closer that relationship. However, be careful when exposing information about yourself and your business. Always check your data is being held securely.
- Obey the network rules. Every network has its own rules. Ensure you are aware of the etiquette that is in place.
- Maintain contacts. It can be difficult to maintain a large number of contacts as you join more networks. Identify the key contacts you want to maintain a relationship with. This will enable you to better budget your time and resources.
- Create new, original and engaging content. No one wants to read boring posts on the networks you are a member of. Try to write relevant and engaging content each time you contribute to a network.
- Place advertising on carefully chosen networks. The online networks that have developed over the last few years are clearly a great location for your business' advertising. Banner ads are now appearing on network websites. Careful consideration must be given to what kind of advertising is placed on these networks and what messages they contain. Research the profile of network members to help you design an engaging advertising message they will positively respond to.
Checklist when joining a business network:
- Choose the right network for your business goals. Ask yourself why you are joining an online network. What do you want to get out of this activity?
- Avoid the hard sell. Your core motivation for joining an online network may be to sell your business' goods or products. Try to avoid hard sales pitches on your networks as these are usually rejected.
- Commit enough resources. When joining one or more online networks that support your sector, think about how much time and resources you have available. You and your business need to maintain these network connections, which can take more time and resources than you might initially think.
- Enhance your business brand. Joining a network can have a great positive impact on your business' brand. The close working relationships you can build via networks is now an essential component of modern branding practice.
- Include online networking within your marketing mix. Online networks may have marketing at their heart, but don't forget the other forms of promotion your business is using. It's easy to disproportionately assign resources to online networking. Don't forget your other forms of advertising and promotion, as they are effective as well.