If you’re reading this article, then you’re probably wondering about the best ways to network with other small businesses, entrepreneurs, or corporate business people. Networking is an interpersonal skill essential to business people, startups, and entrepreneurs alike (Muriuki, 2020). It’s not only about exchanging information or simply asking the business community for answers.
What is Business Networking?
According to an article on The Balance Small Business, “Business networking is the process of establishing a mutually beneficial relationship with other business people and potential clients or customers” (Ward, 2021). In other words, it is about establishing, nurturing, and maintaining long-term relationships with people and businesses where both parties can thrive from each other.
There are many benefits that parties of business networking can take advantage of. For starters, it allows you to establish yourself or your business as an expert in the industry. This creates revenue and new leads, opening more doors for you (Ward, 2021). Secondly, by speaking and connecting with the right groups of people and businesses, entrepreneurs can improve their skill sets and stay on top of the latest industry trends.
Social entrepreneurs must always be on the lookout for new opportunities such as client leads, partnerships, business or asset sales..etc. (Karunanidhi, 2017). There are many ways to network, but it depends on how you utilize tools and resources available in-person and online.
Why is Networking Important?
The most successful social entrepreneurs, such as Bill Drayton and Shiza Shahid, understand business networking importance. Business networking allows you to create and form valuable relationships with like-minded individuals in your industry. Networking allows you to meet people in the same field as you, succeed, and offer advice to do better (Karunanidhi, 2017).
It’s the ideal way to learn the best practices and to expand your knowledge on current events. For example, if you’re in the process of launching a product or want to pursue a collaboration with a local nonprofit, then you can gain valuable insight from someone successful in doing so (Ward, 2021).
Where Can You Network?
There are many online and in-person opportunities to network. At the same time, most people focus on simply meeting people who share the same ideas and interests as them. However, entrepreneurs and small business owners use every opportunity to diversify their network and personal connections with businesses and people of every industry and niche (Muriuki, 2020). There are many ways one can go about networking, which includes:
- Social Media
- Professional Organization
- Attending a Networking Event (in-person or remotely).
Social entrepreneurs should always be looking for people who can mentor and offer feedback on their current efforts. Below I will explain each of the methods and how they can be used for business networking.
Establishing an online persona and building a brand is much easier, thanks to social media’s power. On platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, users have the ability to quickly market their products and services to the people searching for them (Muriuki, 2020). It’s also the easiest way to meet and learn about social entrepreneurs and business people worldwide. Many social media platforms are also geared specifically towards the business industry.
- Linkedin: LinkedIn has millions of users who range from students to professionals to politicians, scientists, and much more. It’s one of the largest professional social media platforms and continues to grow. If you’re looking to apply for jobs or learn more about a specific industry, then LinkedIn is the perfect social media platform to start at (Loretto, 2019).
- Clubhouse: Clubhouse is an emerging social media platform that allows users to explore and partake in different audio conversations. It is an invitation-only audio-chat social networking app. Each room within the app is hosted by industry experts, celebrities, influencers, and academics who wish to start a particular subject conversation.
Millions of professional organizations and associations are geared towards like-minded individuals in the industry you’re in. Most organizations have a fee or specific requirements for joining, but it is crucial for future entrepreneurial growth. By joining the proper organization or association, you can expand your network and grow your business into other industries within your niche.
Here are some organizations and associations social entrepreneurs should consider joining
- Entrepreneurs’ Organization
- National Entrepreneurs Association
- Association for Entrepreneurship USA
- Social Entrepreneurship Association
- Social Enterprise Alliance
Networking events include anything from a business seminar to a cocktail party. These events vary in time, length, and location but are a great opportunity to meet and find mentors within your industry. Networking events are designed to help businesses and entrepreneurs to learn new skills, contribute to industry conversations, build a trustworthy network, and find or create new opportunities.
Though it may be more difficult to find these opportunities thanks to the pandemic, there are ways to go about it. Most online ticket vendors such as Eventbrite are hosting conferences and events for business people, entrepreneurs, and academics looking to meet each other. Other ways you can find online networking events include joining Zoom conferences and searching through the events filter on LinkedIn.
Students have the most significant networking opportunities. The point of business networking is to create and establish a long-term and mutually beneficial relationship. By building a relationship with professors and peers, students can access an unlimited amount of information, tools, and resources to utilize before they enter the workforce. It also provides many opportunities to listen, learn, and get advice from thought leaders in the business world.
One of the most prominent places to network besides on social media in the workplace. Building a relationship at work and developing new connections leads to references, new job opportunities, finding mentors, and career development training. Your boss and coworkers can help you to identify your personal and professional strengths and weaknesses. This allows you to understand better which situations you thrive under and what traits you need to work on.
Networking at the workplace has many advantages. For starters, your boss, manager, or supervisor can serve as a mentor to you. They will give you advice and guidance on how you should navigate the industry and the workplace itself. Through self-improvement, you make yourself a valuable employee and an even more valuable future job candidate.
A coworker with a specific technical skill or industry background might be willing to show you a few tricks if you’re kind towards them. Through your daily interactions, you develop the necessary interpersonal skills that are needed for any industry.
As mentioned previously, business networking is important because it allows you to form valuable relationships with people in the industry who can provide guidance, create leads, or become future sales prospects. Business networking is about the way you utilize current resources and tools to create a mutually beneficial relationship with the person you’re connecting with.
There are many ways to go about business networking, including social media, professional organizations, events, class, and work. By taking advantage of these various networking opportunities, social entrepreneurs can grow their enterprise, meet people who have already succeeded, and offer the best advice.
Karunanidhi, R. (2017, August 22). #6 ways networking helps entrepreneurs. Retrieved February 15, 2021, from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/299088#:~:text=Many%20successful%20entrepreneurs%20got%20to,never%20achieve%20on%20your%20own.&text=Following%20up%20on%20these%20referrals,business%20goals%20easier%20to%20achieve.
Loretto, P. (2019, May 30). How do I use LinkedIn to build my network as a student? Retrieved February 15, 2021, from https://www.thebalancecareers.com/how-to-use-linkedin-as-an-intern-1987001
Muriuki, P. (2020, May 05). Business networking- why is it important for startups and entrepreneurs. Retrieved February 15, 2021, from https://startup.info/business-networking-why-is-it-important-for-startups-and-entrepreneurs/
Ward, S. (2021, January 18). What is business networking? Retrieved February 15, 2021, from https://www.thebalancesmb.com/what-is-business-networking-and-what-are-the-benefits-2947183