Almost two years ago I left the corporate world to start my own business as a writer and consultant. I loved the company I worked for but knew in order to grow both personally and professionally; it was time for a change. It was going to be a challenge going from a well-respected, globally known brand to a virtually unknown brand – me, Holly Rust. I definitely had my work cut out for me.
The first six months were rough and I questioned my decision daily. Luckily, I scored my first few accounts from leveraging my own local network. To grow my network further I tried to fill my schedule with coffee and cocktail dates and I attended local networking events. These activities were beneficial to growing my business, but unfortunately they took up a lot of time. With two small children and a traveling spouse, time was not a luxury I had. I needed to work smarter – not harder. I starting utilizing what little time I did have to build my network online, from my couch, and it usually involved ice cream. The Internet was always available and I was going to take advantage.
Almost two years in, I have a large network that now expands globally. My business is booming and has even opened doors to new ventures – all because I turned to the Internet to expand my network.
Helpful tips to build your brand or business online:
Stay Active! If you can’t make it out locally, be active online. Potential clients need to be reminded you’re out there and you’re ready to work. Every day you need to reach out to people personally – even if it’s just to let them know about your new venture or to keep the connection alive. Consistency is key.
Use Social Media. Using free tools that expand your network ten folds – no brainer! Sign up on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc., for your business. Use your personal accounts to promote your brand as well. Update your profile on LinkedIn often. Let people know what you’re doing. Be proud and passionate; this will translate to your audience.
If your friends don’t want to support you or get annoyed by your posts, they can easily hide your notifications. Furthermore, if they can subject you to their life drama and political rants – then they can surely support you in your entrepreneurial aspirations. My rule: If my current friends will not support me, I’ll just find new ones who will!
Proudly display your accomplishments on social media for everyone to see! An old boss always told me, “No one will ever toot your own horn louder than you.” So toot away because this let’s people know your succeeding in your business and will want to follow you more.
Make New Friends. Connect with 5-10 new people a day from any outlet. Post daily if possible about what you’re doing and the services or products you’re providing. Don’t forget to continue with your regular lifestyle posts too if you’re using your personal accounts to promote; otherwise your audience will become desensitized to your business.
Ask Or You Shall Not Receive. Ask for partnerships. Ask for business. Ask for referrals. Ask for advice. What’s the worst that can happen? They say, “No”? You cannot wait for people to notice you; you have to make them notice you. In my experience most people are willing to share their best practices and love to partner with others. You also must remember that to have a friend, you have to be a friend. Enter each conversation asking how you can help them first. Your good will always comes back to you in one shape or form.
Use Hash Tags. When posting on social media – make your posts work for you. Use hash tags! Hash tags, used correctly, make your posts easily searchable. Also, if you incorporate whatever topics are trending at the time of your post you will broaden your audience.
Become ‘Besties’ with Bloggers. Bloggers are great resources to help spread awareness for your brand or business. Businesses and individuals reach out to me on a daily basis to partner with them or to sponsor a post. Many bloggers also do reviews, referrals and cross promotions. I rarely turn down a chance to be exposed to another individual’s or business’s network.
Join Online Networking Groups. Even if the group has nothing to do with your business, you may uncover some business opportunities. These groups usually have rules about promoting yourself, so be sure to check with the admins before posting. You can, however, reply to other group member’s posts soliciting your business if the post applies to what you offer.
When building your brand or business online you first need to manage your expectations. Rome was not built in a day! Like with any investment, these things take time. Stay consistent and present in the online world, but above all – don’t give up.