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How to build and develop your network

When we talk about a network in business terms, 99% of the time we are referring to the social network and relationships you have with others - and not the literal network of computer tools connected by cables.

Although, if you really think about it, the two are not that different. The common factor is the link that you have, between two things. And the better or stronger the connection, the more benefits you receive. In this article, we are going to discuss network in the social sense, and how you can build and develop your network.

What is a social network?

Each of us already has a basic social network, in one way or another. For example:

  • Family and friends
  • Work colleagues (both present and past)
  • School or university classmates (and teachers or lecturers)
  • Members of a club, association, academy, etc.

If you sit down and calculate how many people make up your personal network, you will probably not be able to get through it all.

Each network link you have is a key channel of assistance to the creation and communication of your company. Some may be your first customer, some may help funding start up capital to help you get started, some may be bringing you new ideas over coffee talks, and so on.

Your network is a good place for you to find resources and opportunities - they are there so why not use them to your advantage?

If you want to develop your social network even more, there are a number of ways in which you can do this. First of all, start by attending social events that are relevant to the interests of both you and your company. For example:

  • Conferences
  • Seminars
  • Readings & presentation talks
  • Networking events in co-working spaces
  • Social platforms/forums on the internet

Networking can help your business thrive, by building important and valuable connections

There are countless social platforms online that make it easier for you to find new contacts and networks. In addition to forums and blogs specific to your interests, try joining various pages and platforms such as:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • Youtube
  • Tumblr
  • LinkedIn

On these social networking platforms, your profile is not limited to personal matters, in fact, they help a lot of professional businesses and brands to put their name on the map and reach a wide audience.

These platforms allow you to show what you do as a business more than just the front face that people tend to see. You can speak up about things that matter to do, voice your opinions, and share your achievements and goals.

Focus on quality, not quantity

It is important for you to realise that the focus is not about getting as many contacts or followers as you can, but rather the quality and value of each contact. Connect with contacts who will help you and your business move forward.

One of the advantages we have today is that we are no longer limited by geographical constraints. Thanks to the internet, it is easy to talk to people no matter where they (or you) are located.

The internet also gives you direct access to a lot of published information about people's profiles, lives, and careers. You can use this information to find people you share common interests with, it might be someone who shares the same beliefs and approaches as you do, or someone who started with nothing and achieved to be where you wish to be.

Finally, another useful tool of online social networking platforms is that you can see who your connections have connections with. Do not be shy to ask someone introduce you to one of their contacts! We like to think that nobody is ever 100% self-made, each and every one of us has been shaped, impacted, and supported by others whether we know it or not, which has helped us in some way to get to where and who we are today. So don’t try to do it all on your own, build your network, and keep building!

Who knows, you might be a key network for them too!

Engage in groups

Forums and groups are available for almost every possible sector and interest field. Groups are a great way for you to introduce yourself to a community, and get new networks.

But again, keep in mind that it's not quantity that matters. You should only join groups and forums which are relevant to you, and which you can contribute and add value too. Successful networking is about giving - and receiving!

Have your own page

Having your own page, website, or blog will always be useful. Think of it as an ‘online business card’ for your business. You can use this page to help create your brand and image.

An online front allows your contacts - and potential contacts/customers - to learn about your business, your projects, your values, and many more. Furthermore, it also gives your contacts an easy way to get in direct contact with you.

Just like a child, your online business page will only survive if you pay it attention - nurture it and feed it permanently. You should commit to creating content for your page, filling it with news about your business, or any other thoughts and plans you might have. You can even invite your customers to engage with you and give feedback or reviews by giving them the option to leave comments on your page.

Building your network does not have to be hard, and neither does developing it. However, it takes two to tango, and if you’re sitting waiting for people to come to you the chances are, so are they. Be outspoken and reach out to people - you won’t regret it!