How to Leverage Your Network to Build a Successful Business During a Pandemic
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In an age marked by a lack of in-person connection, the power of networking has never been more critical. Despite the social distancing arrangements and the complete shutdown of large in-person events and gatherings, entrepreneurs continued to find support, camaraderie and friendship through their networks. And as the impacts of the pandemic continue, it is evident that operating the networks will remain a top priority. But how do you do it tactfully, given current global limitations?
One of the perceived benefits of times of social distancing has been the ease of access to others around the world. With no other way to communicate or continue to network, entrepreneurs quickly created, nurtured, and supported their global communities through social media, virtual events, and new products specifically designed to forge connections online. Entrepreneurs know how essential a strong network can be in building a successful business. While reopenings will continue, these tips for connecting to your dial-up network will be helpful moving forward.
Related: How Do Virtual Events Facilitate Community Building and Networking?
1. Join online groups
There is no shortage of online group opportunities for connecting, learning and sharing. Facebook groups host entrepreneurs from similar backgrounds and industries, and networking groups host virtual events with speakers, happy hours, and workshops. These online groups are a great resource for expanding your network, as many of them allow participants to ask for help and offer their own assistance. The more you can participate in these groups the better, but be sure to get involved. That way, you build that recognition within the group, so when the time comes when you need to leverage the network, people know who you are.
For example, many online entrepreneurship groups function as support centers. Spend some time answering questions from other contractors or offering to make short phone calls as much as you can. Build a name for yourself virtually by joining the conversation. You don’t always need these in-person interactions to make yourself memorable.
2. Offer help and assistance
One of the best ways to forge a relationship with key stakeholders or other founders is to see where you can help. It can still be done virtually. Think of it this way: if you were to receive a direct message or email from someone offering to help you in a way you were looking for, you would definitely take the phone call. Indeed, leading from a place of service is one of the only ways to stand out from the noise online. Pay close attention to what other participants are sharing in online events and networking groups, and see how you can help. Or ask around to offer your expertise or connections in your specific area.
An example of how this helped a business thrive was with B.ZAAR Collective. As an online marketplace for Southeast Asian designs, founder Monica Recto knew she needed designers to source her products. “Presence is everything,” Recto explained. “Both through phone calls and in-person visits, I have proven to be an ally and someone who can help, rather than just being a customer or someone asking for help. By telling them why I was hoping to connect and what their inclusion in the online marketplace might involve, it was easy and straightforward to forge symbiotic partnerships with many designers. ”
This can be done online – Recto has been introduced to many designers through tips – but don’t be afraid to come to someone’s workplace or office, either, especially since reopening continues. This face-to-face interaction, in tandem with your offer of help, is sure to build your network.
Related: Rethink Your Networking Goals: How Entrepreneurs Can Improve Their Post-Pandemic Networking Skills
3. Host virtual events
Attending virtual events is always a great way to grow your network, but hosting your own is even better. Hosting an event gives you authority in your space and positions you as an expert. For example, suppose you are a software developer and you are hosting a Virtual Hackathon. It’s a powerful way to connect with other software developers and businesses in need of software development. The nature of virtual hosting also requires great communication with attendees, speakers, partners and others.
People also like to attend events with friends, even when they are virtual. Many invite friends to connect together at virtual events. It attracts more attention to what you offer, which leads to more visibility and credibility in your field.
4. Get help easily
Finally, don’t overlook the possibility of asking for help easily through social media. Many artists and entrepreneurs have turned to platforms like TikTok for help in promoting themselves in the same way as crowdfunding campaigns. It goes like this: a musician shares a song that he wants to release soon, and he asks the viewer to like, share or comment if the song resonated. It works and can take off like wildfire with the virality these online platforms offer. And, it only takes a few actions to get the ball rolling. Get your friends and online network to help you right off the bat, like sharing your video or posting to their Instagram stories or even just commenting on your content for the sake of the algorithm.
Remember that human nature is about connecting and people love to connect and help others. The more you can reach out for help, friendship, advice or even ask for the help you are looking for, the better. Networks are built by creating and maintaining lasting individual relationships over time. And, pandemic or not, these networks will always offer powerful leverage opportunities.