Online networking is one of the best things you can do for your creative business. Especially if you live in an area that is maybe -ahem- light on passion for the things you love.

Connecting with people who are like-minded or in similar fields can:

a. help you feel less alone in your quest for online business domination and

b. make sure you keep up to date with new trends and knowledge key to your own development.

When I think of networking, I think about those traditional networking events in a big open room with creepy business folks telling you all about why you need to buy into their business idea.

Online networking couldn’t be further away from this image!

Like many things we come across in online business, we’re filled with misconceptions and it’s important to learn what will work for you and keep working on your mindset.

Key Features of Online Networking:

It’s Online

Online Networking can happen anywhere online. Think:

  • Facebook
  • Online forums
  • Blog post comments
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • Anywhere you can connect with someone else or strike up a conversation is part of online networking.

And, you should probably be using all of these things (not in one go but gradually over time).

Value

This type of networking works best when you add value to the conversations. Unlike traditional networking in physical locations, online networking is about adding value to the conversation and not instantly peddling your own product and services. You’re there to build a relationship that’s strong and about you helping rather than about your constantly selling.

Community

Think of it as developing a community. You wouldn’t want to be in a community meeting or group relationship (think about your household here) where there was that one person constantly saying “buy my stuff/ look how great I am/ look at what I can do / give me your money”. For communities to feel good they need to be filled with people that share ideas, volunteer time, and help out when things get a bit tough.

Lasting relationships

Online networking is about the long relationship not the quick fix. Think of it as building friendships – you don’t have to be in touch constantly but you do want that easy rapport in place.

Building those relationships in the right way builds you a business support system. One that you can gently lean on when things get a bit stressful.

Where to go for Online Networking

Anywhere!

Focus on the areas you like. If you’re a knitter than maybe Ravelry is the place for you. Or look on instagram for hashtags that are kinda your thing. Facebook is also chock-a-block filled with groups for any niche. For the millennials out there try the Rising Tide Society, which is filled with advice for entrepreneurs and artists.

Following blogs that you love and leaving thoughtful comments can also be the first steps to building those rich connections.

How to Start Networking Online

Be willing to offer tips and advice to other people’s problems, this is especially the case in those Facebook groups. Be a giver!

Follow up with people you meet in real life or online. Send them thank you notes or simply tell them you had a great time.

Basically, get out there. See how other people are doing it. Online networking, unlike traditional networking, is great because you have a record of how people are interacting. If you get stuck model (don’t copy) people who do it in a way that looks good to you.

Making Time For Online Networking

Schedule time.

It’s as simple as that.

It takes less time to do online networking than it would to go to a physical networking event.

So, maybe make 30 minutes a day, or two 15 minute segments a day, to connect with groups and comments. Be mindful of your time online and connect with others.

The more you do this the more you’ll make a reputation for yourself as the awesome person that you are.

Finally, consider making time for those physical networking events too. They can be really great and they do work best if you approach them in the same way as online networking. Build value, ask questions about other people and their work, and follow up afterwards.

I’m always open to connecting with you, whether it’s on Facebook and Instagram. I love hearing from you in the comments or email. Let me know if you have other online platforms that I haven’t mentioned. I’d love to know where you’re hanging out.