The digital age has created numerous opportunities for entrepreneurs to network with others virtually. While you still want to connect with people face-to-face, online networks can help you stay in touch with entrepreneurs you have already met and help you establish ties with leaders in the same industry. There are many sites to choose from and below we listed the best available to entrepreneurs.
There are more than 467 million members in over 200 countries and territories on LinkedIn, which makes it the largest professional network on the Internet. There are two strategies for networking on LinkedIn. The first is called strategic networking where you focus on quality not quantity. These people usually have less than 500 in their network. This allows them to have deep connections with a small amount of people. The second approach is called open networking and they have thousands of connections. They have a limited connection with a lot of people. Creating a professional profile complete with a photo and desirable skills will help other entrepreneurs notice you and want to connect. Once you meet someone you should send them a personal invite. Once connected with someone, you can view their networks and build second-degree relationships. This will expand your network. Another way to network is join a LinkedIn group. There are a variety of groups that can foster new and strengthen old relationships.
2. Participate in startup and entrepreneurial AMA’s
Ask Me Anything (AMA’s) sessions will help you connect with startup leaders and give you the opportunity to ask questions to industry experts. Reddit is the original forum for AMA sessions, but you can find them on other entrepreneur websites and Facebook Live. It’s great to watch the sessions and learn from experts, but the best way to network is to participate in the sessions. Research which sessions and leaders will impact your career the most and then create a list of interesting and engaging questions to ask. The expert may not answer every question you have, but the more unique questions are likely to get picked.
3. Use Meetup.com to find events in the area
Sign into Meetup.com and search for keywords that pertain to your entrepreneurial style. Check out startup or networking. You can narrow the area of your search and find groups in your local area. Join groups that can help you network and find their calendar. Go to events and meet other group members in person. The knowledge from the people you meet can be very valuable in your startup journey. Once you have connections, you can start your own Meetup. You want to create a reason to meet local people who have an interest in an area of your business. Running your own Meetup makes you the hub of activity. Make sure you update your Meetup often and answer questions or reply to comments to keep the group happy. Remember to provide value to the attendants, so they keep coming back and spread the word about your Meetup.
4. Join relevant Slack channels
Slack lets you communicate with your network virtually. Not only can you message individuals but send notes to an entire group. Slack allows you to upload and send files or photos which can help you spread important work information. Other apps can be integrated with Slack, so you could use Skype to video call. This allows you to meet face-to-face and continue building relationships when distance keeps you from attending events. Slack is a great way to communicate with the network you have already built and has potential to connect you with other like-minded individuals.
Networking is a major part of an entrepreneur's’ world, because the business world is not always about what you know, but about who you know. Virtual communities are helping entrepreneurs make connections with others in their industry as well as keep them in touch with already acquired acquaintances. LinkedIn is the perfect example of an online community used to build networks and find potential employees. Meetup.com will connect you with local people and get you involved in area networking programs. These virtual communities are changing the way entrepreneurs connect with future business associates.