My mantra is that relationships, not content, are king, but that doesn't stop people from asking me daily how they can get more fans and followers. While I whole heartedly understand the urgency to grow your audience as quickly as possible (I mean, you don't want to be talking to yourself out there, right?) your community is more than a number count on your computer screen. Your community can sense the ever-so-slightest scent of bullshit from a mile away and don't care to share, like, or comment on posts that add zero value to their lives. Harsh, I know — but it's the truth.
can't be achieved with shortcuts. It takes good old fashioned networking. Actually talking TO people, not AT them. Getting to know their likes and dislikes, and allowing others to get to know you, too. You know — effort. Face time. Commitment. Just like your Mamma used to do in the old days, but instead of standing awkwardly in a room full of strangers with a white wine spritzer, you're chatting with hundreds, even thousands from behind a computer screen. Let your (true) freak flag fly, my friends, because networking these days can get you followers and fans with the quickness, if you're doing it with heart.
Below, you'll find five ways you can network, build relationships, and grow your following online. As long as you stay true to yourself, share your wealth of knowledge, and come correct with a positive attitude, your following shouldn't be too far behind.
- Twitter Chats — Twitter Chats have been around since the dawn of Twitter time, but that doesn't make them old fashioned. In fact, if anything, those participating in Twitter chats have perfected the art of engagement and even extended their footprint far beyond the designated time slot. If you keep your eyes open, Twitter Chats can not only provide you solid networking opportunities — be on the lookout for those who freely share awesome advice and get to know them, and those who could use your expertise — but amazing content ideas. If you're blogging for your business (and if you aren't yet, what's the holdup?), a Twitter chat could be just the place to unhinge the idea floodgates of your mind. What are common answers to questions? How can you take a different angle? What are the FAQ's participants are asking? Take a stab at answering them for your audience in your next blog post.
- Networking groups — Remember that old timey, face-to-face networking, yo mamma senario I mentioned earlier? Well, those aren't exactly out of style. In fact, I'm a big fan of Meetup for its unique ability to get in you in a room with people who share your passions, your goals, and your vision. There's lots of meetups nationwide and plenty of topics to choose from, but you can't be a wallflower — prevent awkwardness by being prepared. 1.) Have your company's elevator pitch memorized so when people ask you what you do, you have a smart and intelligent answer. 2.) Bring plenty of business cards so you're not fumbling for a pen and paper, or exchange only your Twitter handle. It's pretty much the new biz card anyway, right? 3.) Don't let the communication end when the clock strikes midnight — follow and friend folks you've met on Linkedin, Twitter, and Google+ after the event so you can continue your conversations virtually.
- Google+ Communities — Google+ may be the red-headed stepchild of the social network family, but the search engine power it has behind it is no laughing matter. Good news is, that while some people consider Google+ a graveyard of engagement, things are taking off in its Communities. Join a few you like, read and post frequently. Add people to your circles, and engage with them by adding commentary, asking questions, and sharing interesting articles. Basic stuff, but it all makes a difference.
- Linkedin Groups — Just like Google+ Communities, Linkedin Groups are the secret sauce of networking. There are millions of professionals using Linkedin and its related groups every day, and these are resources you can't afford to miss. First rule? Don't spam. Try to create a balanced diet of comments, shares, and pimpifying of your own content within your groups.
- Conferences — Conferences can be great networking ops for women, and just like Meetup, can provide a connection to sisters-in-arms for you to learn from, lean on, and collaborate with.
How have you grown your online communities? Share your networking success stories, tips, and advice in the comments.