In the 3rd and final article in our series on networking for wedding businesses, we bring networking right up to date and look at online networking.
Social platforms like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are all excellent networking tools. What’s more they are free, you can fit them around your other commitments and there’s no need to get dressed up.
You may think of social media as somewhere to promote your business, but actually it can be much more effective as a networking platform.
You can use social networking both for finding and connecting with people you’d like to get to know. And also for maintaining relationships with people you’ve met but don’t see regularly.
It can be great for finding opportunities – photoshoots, maybe a networking event you didn’t know about, other suppliers local to you who you could work with.
This is my personal favourite for networking. Partly because there are lots of wedding businesses on there but also because it has some really useful little features that help you filter out a lot of the noise you get on social media.
Twitter Lists let you create segments of the people you’d like to stay in touch with. You can have lists for journalists, referral partners, people you want to connect with. You can then ensure you don’t miss important tweets from these people. And by re-tweeting and replying to those tweets you get and keep your name in their minds.
Twitter Chats are sessions at a specific day and time where you tweet using a hashtag – they are great for finding new people to connect with. They can be industry specific (there are lots of wedding specific chat hours such as #weddinghour), locally based – great for finding other local suppliers or more general.
Facebook Groups are a good place to start – there are plenty of wedding related groups around. When you join a FB group, be an active participant. Ask questions, comment on other’s posts and you’ll gradually get to know the other active people in the group.
Unfortunately many groups simply become places where people post sales pitches rather than have conversations. Don’t be one of those people!
Make sure you Like the pages of people you want to connect with and share and comment on their posts.
LinkedIn is known more for its business to business connections and it’s not the platform of choice for many wedding professionals. But there are plenty on there and it’s easier to stand out. It has a great search facility to help you find people – especially useful if you want to connect with people in larger organisations.
Again, groups are really useful for online networking on LinkedIn. Check out the wedding related ones and you’ll find plenty of like-minded people there.
There’s nothing to stop you using other social platforms as part of your networking. Instagram, Google+ can all be effective as long as you follow the basic principles.
Be a giver – share others content, have conversations, answer questions.
Be careful not to spread yourself too thinly. We all know that social media can be horribly time consuming. Pick one or at the most, two, social platforms and really concentrate on building your presence and getting to know people on there. If you don’t you’ll end up broadcasting rather than listening and connecting.
Don’t underestimate the importance of “small talk”. You wouldn’t go up to someone at a networking meeting and immediately launch into your sales pitch (at least I hope you wouldn’t).
Be patient. As with face to face networking, these things take time. You’ll usually need to maintain consistent activity over a period of time before you see solid results.