If you’re a freelancer or small business owner, you’re probably familiar with online business groups – and if you’re not, you should be.
What is an online business group, you may ask?
The term refers to communities of people online, who have gathered on social media sites that enable networking groups for people in business. This is distinct from traditional social media usage, where people tend to interact only with those they already know. Online business groups usually have moderators and group rules that you must follow. Sometimes a formal introduction is encouraged.
LinkedIn is a prime example of a repository of online business groups. Facebook is also really big for business groups. Many Facebook groups are devoted to those wanting to connect with others in similar fields. They attract a mixture of B2B and B2C businesses, so be careful to find the right ones for you.
These can be prime places for marketers to sell their wares – but there is an important etiquette to be observed.
As a freelancer, I sell my services but I know that it’s going to be authentic, personal connections that will be most effective in helping me to grow my business.
Join relevant business groups
As with all things, allocate some time to do your research and find the groups that are relevant to your business, niche or field. Speak to other people in the industry about what groups they’re part of, or do a quick Facebook search. Search for keywords like ‘tech’, ‘freelancing’, ‘online business’ or ‘travel’.
Make warm authentic connections
In real life, you’d use your personality and social skills to make friends with other people, and it’s no different in online business groups. You may be there for a reason, but presumably, that reason is to follow your life’s passion, whether that’s freelance writing, creating a successful online business or getting into the tech industry. Make sure you’re warm, friendly, genuine and polite in order to quickly and easily build up authentic connections online.
Follow group etiquette
It’s so annoying when someone joins a group you’re part of and immediately publishes a post asking for something. This may get a response, but I advise staying quiet for a while to work out the lay of the land and the kinds of things that are appropriate to post. Follow the group guidelines, and, whatever you do, don’t copy and paste generic posts – people will be able to tell. Don’t spam!
Help other people with their problems
One thing to particularly look out for is people asking for help. Whatever your level of experience, there will always be people less experienced than you who you can offer advice and support to. Be polite, non-judgemental and open-minded and you will find you get a very positive response from these people. They may even be willing to help you in return, or show an interest in your business! If this happens, appropriately post a link to more information.
Signpost to resources other than your own
Don’t just post things about yourself. If you have a genuine interest in your chosen field then you will have a lot of useful knowledge that you can share with others. It’s all about collaborating and helping, not shameless self-promotion, and people will respond better if you don’t make it all about you!
Define your goals
People won’t be able to help you if you don’t define what you are looking for. If you are an SME, then that means you may be looking for businesses to partner with, opportunities for promotion or for people to actually buy your products or services. I advise creating a personal ‘shopping list’ that is a hierarchy of things people can help you with, so you always have them in mind.
Be active and post regularly
If you want to be successful in social media business groups, you need to put the time in. They can also be incredibly rewarding places and are nothing like the ‘broadcasting’ method of sending out messages on Twitter. Be prepared to interact, converse and grow with your exciting new network of like-minded individuals.
Most things that are worthwhile take time. Don’t expect results immediately, but be patient, consistent and build a solid reputation. You will end up reaping the rewards.
This post is a contribution from Catherine Heath. Want to contribute to PeoplePerHour blog? Get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org!