There is a growing trend of business owners networking online. Discussion forums provide an excellent opportunity for business networking. Successful networking requires business owners to provide truly valuable information for others in order to be successful. Simply joining discussion groups and forums for the sole purpose of further developing your network and bringing expanded growth to your business will no longer produce excellent results. You must become an active, interesting and valuable member of groups and forums in order to build strong networking relationships.
Most business owners recognize the fact that networking in person can be a challenge. Online networking can be just as challenging if not more so. Developing a good online reputation is essential to your success in this area. In the case of online marketing through discussion groups and forums, you goal is to become a respected member of a group. You are not simply meeting others to establish connections and possibly build a larger and stronger network. Instead, the other members must like you and trust you if are ever going to see positive results from your networking efforts.
When networking online, try to join groups for more reasons than simply marketing your website or establishing a network. Join a group for the opportunity to truly interact with others. You can learn from the experiences of others and in return they can learn from you. Become an active participant and truly involve yourself in a few discussions on a regular basis, but be careful about over-participation.
You should try to find individuals with whom you can truly connect. If anyone is ever going to become an asset to your network, they need to trust you and to have an understanding of your business and how people can benefit from doing business with you. If you are involved in too many conversations each day, you may not have enough time to establish your reputation. You also won’t have enough time to truly incorporate some details about yourself and your business into your posts.
Make it your goal to be involved in just a few posts when you are visiting a discussion forum. You should provide detailed replies to each discussion you participate in rather than one-line soundbites. Little one or two line replies are likely to be overlooked and will not provide any true insight into your business. Instead, you should keep up with the discussion for an extended period of time throughout the day, and when you are ready to post, create a thoughtful and insightful response that addresses many of the issues discussed in that topic throughout the day. This will show participants in the group that you have taken the time to post a well thought out reply.
The same can be said for guest blogging, if you write a post be sure to follow up and be ready to interact, discuss, and refute the topic that you’ve written on. Some of the best blogs that I follow have active comment sections where the information talked about there can almost be as useful as what is covered in the post.
You can also show others in the group that what they have to say is important to you by creating a response that includes a reply to several different people. If people feel that you respect their thoughts and opinions, they are more likely to listen to you. If they like what they hear, they may become an important part of your network someday. These same people could bring you a good deal of prospective clients over the long haul.
Most discussion groups offer you the opportunity to build a profile for yourself that can be accessed by other members of the group. I wrote a post on How To Create a User Profile That Promotes Your Business. Take this opportunity to briefly describe yourself and your business. You certainly do not want to have a profile that is too long and in depth, but you will want a profile that provides some important information about yourself and your business.
Think of your profile as a brief resume that people can access anytime of the day or night. Briefly mention the industry in which you work, some of your experience and expertise and other hobbies and interests you may have that in some way relate to your business. If you have websites online or websites where you have work published, consider linking to them as well. Viewers who find your profile interesting may contact you to learn more about your business, or they may refer others to you if they find that you offer services that someone they know may be looking for. Do not overlook your profile, as it can certainly be a powerful marketing and networking tool.