Business and networking are a natural combination. The term ‘networking’ is relatively new name given to an activity that successful business leaders have used for generations – building a wide range of contacts to whom they can turn for a variety of commercial and social reasons.
The connection between effective networking and business success is explained in the well-known sales phrase: “People buy from people.” There is a considerable truth in this because, as naturally social beings, we generally prefer to buy from individuals with whom we have a relationship.
This fact has been obscured by modern retailing, where we have become used to purchasing from large faceless organizations, either in stores or over the internet. However, these are typically low value transactions and when it comes to more significant purchases most of us prefer a stronger element of human contact.
Business and Networking Success Takes Time
The business owner wanting to leverage networking to achieve success must be prepared to invest time in the process and they need to understand that they will not see results immediately.
Networking requires time because it it based on relationships being established and developed. The process of creating a relationship does not have to take very long — a five minute conversation is enough to confirm contact with someone and to exchange cards. Speed networking events take this to an extreme, with networkers being given only a minute or two in which to explain what they do before moving on.
Developing the relationship will take longer and it could be months or even years before it brings tangible commercial benefits. Some relationships will never bring a benefit, but it is impossible to tell at the outset which ones will be the most fruitful. It can also be difficult to measure the benefit of many relationships because networking often leads to referrals but the business owner cannot always be sure who has referred new customers to them.
Business and Networking Success is Built on Trust
Trust is a vital component in commerce. People buy from organizations that they trust, and that trust is built over time by delivering a consistent quality of service.
Networking is also founded on trust. When individuals meet in a networking environment they exchange ideas and information and much of this is taken in good faith. However, the information is usually validated by speaking with other people.
For example, someone who needs their car repaired might talk to a vehicle mechanic who explains that they do work on behalf of many local people, implying that they are well-regarded. The individual with a car might then speak with someone else and them whether they use that particular mechanic.
The reply they receive can significantly alter their perceptions — they might be told “No, he’s not very reliable” or “Yes, he provides excellent service for a great price.” Both comments contain valuable information and although they are highly subjective and represent only one person’s view, they could directly affect whether the mechanic gets the business.
Trust is won over time and can be lost very quickly. This is another reason why having a strong network benefits business because most organizations will have the occasional failure and dissatisfied customer. However, they will usually have many more satisfied customers and a strong network will help with promoting the positive messages.
Networking is not a mysterious activity conducted in highly orchestrated ‘networking events’. It is the day to day process of talking to people, listening to what they they to say and sharing news and information. A proactive approach to networking should deliver commercial and social benefits in the long term.
Twitter Tips for Businesses
The following Twitter tips for businesses will help users abide by these evolving best practices:
Don’t Spam Twitter Followers
Twitter users don’t log into the service so they can be bombarded with a stream of blatant advertisements. It’s a tool for connecting, learning and sharing. Businesses should offer content that provides a value to their networks, such as free trials, promotions, helpful links or educational resources.
Do Build a Twitter Network Strategically
The quantity of a user’s Twitter followers doesn’t matter as much as the quality of followers. Seek out potential and current customers, brand loyalists and strategic partners. Then, develop a plan to engage each of these groups. Twitter can also be used to monitor competitors’ actions and promotions.
Don’t Use Twitter as a One-Way Tool
Businesses will find the most success from Twitter when they actively communicate with their networks and build meaningful relationships with followers. Respond to other tweets and re-tweet other useful messages. The interaction will encourage other users to spread company tweets as well.
Do Make Time to Listen to the Twitterverse
Twitter is not all about pushing messages. It’s a valuable tool for listening too. Conduct Twitter searches to discover what customers are saying about the company, its products and its brand. Use the feedback – both positive and negative – to improve customer relations, monitor brand perceptions and identify areas for improvement.
Don’t Get Discouraged from a Slow Start
Twitter takes a serious, daily commitment. Continually work to build a Twitter network. Follow others. Engage with others. As the network grows, so will the awareness.
Do Ensure Company Tweets are Transparent
The user manning a company Twitter account should be a representative of the company. Additionally, don’t lie about personal identities within the company. For instance, if the president of a company has registered an account, then the president needs to do the tweeting. Twitter users who are discovered to bend the truth often receive negative backlash from followers and the public.
Business users who are strategic with company tweets are likely to experience the most success in expanding their customer bases and communicating with a targeted audience. Listen and engage with other users, rather than pushing a stream of advertisements.
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