Creating an Online Network

Apr 2013
wall-e photo, facebook, katie wagner social media
Photo Credit: @me2ko

Everyone wants to get more fans, followers, subscribers and connections for their business.   How do you do that?  The key is to start small, and grow from there.  Here’s how to take the first step toward growing your online network.

Identify your offline network, and create it online.

It’s a pretty simple concept; yet very few businesses do this and even fewer do it effectively.

Identifying your offline network

Start by thinking of everyone you know in your business – your clients, customers, employees, strategic partners, vendors, contractors, referral partners etc. – and create a list of names and contact information.   Notice, I didn’t mention friends or family.  Only include people who you have worked with and you know from your business.  If one of your friends is a client, then include them.  If not, don’t.  It will make your company’s online network stronger, and you won’t annoy your friends by subjecting them to all your work posts.

Once you have created this list, you have essentially listed your company’s offline network.  Now that you have this, it should be your goal to create this network online.  That will be the foundation of your online network and you can grow it from there.

Creating your online network

First, pick one social media channel you want to build your network on: for example, Facebook.  Second, make your network aware of your new Facebook fan page.  Sounds pretty simple, however, this is where most people go wrong.

Most people simply ask people to like them on Facebook without giving a reason to do so.  They send out a mass email saying “Like [my company] on Facebook!” and expect to get great results.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t really work.  You might get some fans out of it, but you won’t get the best fans for your business.

Instead, take a different approach.  Don’t simply tell people you are on Facebook and ask them to like your company – give them a reason to like it!  Define what is going to happen on your Facebook page.  Are you going to educate your fans about your industry?  Are you going to give them special deals?  Are you going to use Facebook as a way of communicating with your network about upcoming events?

Once you do this, you now have a much more compelling reason for them to like your page.  Instead of broadcasting the message “Like us on Facebook!”  (90% of all businesses do this), you can be more strategic.  Invite them to connect with your company on Facebook and then tell them WHY you want them to connect with you and what they will get for ‘liking’ your business page.

When people “like” your page on Facebook, they are letting you into their lives.  They are saying that it’s ok for you, as a business, to talk to them, right next to their friends and family.  People don’t “like” pages just because you ask, they “like” pages when there is a good reason to do so.

Once you have defined a compelling reason for them to like your page, but before you start spreading the word about it, start updating your page. Post for a week or two with the kind of content people will expect to see if they like your page.  Even if you have no fans, update your page as if you have 1,000.  That way, when you do invite your network to the page, they can actually see good content from your page.

Now, it’s time to spread the word.  Take one month and make a concerted effort to let everyone in your network know that you have a Facebook page and would love it if they would join you there because of what they are going to get out of it.  Send an email, talk about it with everyone you interact with, write a blog post about it, put a Facebook button on your website, put a link and invitation in your email signature, record a new voicemail greeting and include it.  Make it your goal to communicate with your network for that entire month about your new Facebook page and the reason for them to like it.   At the end of the month, you should have a lot more fans than you did, and they will be people who actually care about what you have to say.

This is your starting point.  Just like word of mouth spreading through your offline network, it will do so with your online network.  Only online, it can spread faster and broader for less money.

Speaking of Facebook, we would love for you to connect with us there!  Our goal is to be a resource to help you create a solid social media presence for your business.

Katie Wagner Social Media Blog, stephen wagner, social media





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