Having a Big One Matters: Here Are 4 Ways to Build Your Network

Size matters. At least it does when it comes to your network. The larger and more diverse it is, the more likely your business is to grow big, according to a Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report. It may come as a surprise that women, who tend to be better at collaborating and communicating, have smaller networks than men. Let’s change that.

opinion, commentary, social media, small businessI just finished reading e FACTOR: Entrepreneurship in the Social Media Age by Adrie Reinders and Marion Freijsen. They are advocates for social networking via social media, online forums, blogs, and even specialized venues, such as their own, EFactor. This struck a chord with me. Women have come to dominate social media. I think it’s high time we also dominate social networking. It’s been a powerful way for me to build my network and do business. Here are four tips based on my experience.

Commenting Builds Relationships
I “met” Maisha Walker of Message Medium by commenting on her Inc.com blog. Based on my comments, she decided to interview me and do a blog on my use of LinkedIn. Maisha and I stayed in touch, periodically meeting in person and by phone. At one meeting Maisha mentioned her interest in doing a survey about the online marketing habits of small businesses. I had already done a survey of nonprofits social media habits. This was a perfect expansion of that research.

I also met Beth Kanter, a nonprofit social media guru by commenting on her blog. We, too, built a relationship and I now periodically blog on her website, highlighting the research I did with Maisha among other things.

Don’t Neglect In-person Meetings
I met Marc Halpert, Connect 2 Collaborate and Maria Semple, The Prospect Finder separately through in-person networking. The three of us covered different aspects of using LinkedIn and have teamed up to train thousands of nonprofits. We do this both online and in person. The research Maisha and I did lays the foundation for what Marc, Maria, and I present.

Online Forums Are a Good Place to Meet People
Marc met Bryan Breckenridge of LinkedIn in a LinkedIn group and then introduced me to Bryan. Bryan specializes in helping nonprofits find talent. Bryan and I collaborated on a webinar and I also wrote several blogs on how nonprofits can use LinkedIn to find talent.

Get Introductions
Bryan introduced me to Larry Eason, DotOrgPower. Larry was coming to New York City, where I live. He was meeting up with a colleague, Ray Tetz, MOMCOM (Mind Over Media, Inc.). We all got together, which led to a speaking gig for the "Social Media Taskforce" of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America. I based my presentation on the research that Maisha and I did.

Bryan also introduced me to Meg Garlinghouse at LinkedIn, who was overseeing the development of a free service that would allow nonprofits to use LinkedIn to search for board members. I became a beta tester and a case study for LinkedIn Board Connect. I serve on the board of Praxis Housing Initiative, which provides housing and support services to the chronically homeless. They will soon have two new top-drawer board members through the LinkedIn service. I provided five tips on how to ensure success using LinkedIn Board Connect on Beth’s blog.

For some, social networking is a less intimidating alternative to face-to-face meetings. However, it is not a substitute. The process of building a relationship takes longer when doing it online. You’ll also limit the types of people you meet so you still need to get out there to mix and mingle. For those times, here are seven tips for in-person networking.

But, whether in-person or online, the bigger your network, the easier it will be to grow your business.

Graphic by iconolith
 

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