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The importance of networking in entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurs understand that the foundation of any solid business is networking. After all, networking leads to new ideas, partners, and investors. It’s the best way to gather feedback on a working prototype or find potential customers for the launch of a service.

But entrepreneurs are busy. Handling day-to-day business operations, as well as the overall strategy, can be time-consuming, and the last thing any entrepreneur would want is to browse a social network. And yet, the value that social networks add to a startup business cannot be overstated.

So to save entrepreneurs time, we’ve compiled a list of the most important social networks for business owners:

LinkedIn

If you only have time and energy for one social network, let it be this one. LinkedIn is the quintessential professional network, with over 50 million users- everyone from executives to venture capitalists to interns. It functions the same way as Facebook, which involves a profile and a feed, but with features tuned for the entrepreneur. For example, you can see how many degrees of separation you are from any particular contact, and you can even find jobs through their search function. Be warned, however: some of their features will require shelling out for their premium plan.

Be sure to read our previous blog post on becoming a LinkedIn Influencer.

Kickstarter

Kickstarter isn’t so much a social network as it is a platform for exciting and innovative startup ideas. Featured on the site are new self-driving car prototypes, a special edition reprint of a famous book, a luxury vegan restaurant in New York, and many more. Backers choose a product or service they want to fund and decide how much they would like to invest. Once the project reaches its goal, it can move into its next phase of production, and backers are rewarded with limited-time collectibles or even a part in the development. That’s why Kickstarter is more than a project funding platform, it can be a place to connect with the actual creators and inventors. Just be prepared to invest a significant amount towards their goal to get noticed.

Slack Communities

Slack itself isn’t a networking community, but there are thousands of communities to be found on the platform. Whether you’re a freelancer looking for work, or an entrepreneur looking for assistance on a new startup, there’s a slack community just for you. To learn more about the various Slack communities online, check out our previous blog post on the topic.

StartupNation Community

For those looking for a community board setup, StartupNation has you covered. Their forums feature useful articles for freelancers, entrepreneurs, marketers, salespeople and more. They even have unique boards for crafting 30-second elevator pitches, building an effective website, and finding inspiration. If you’re looking for people to get in touch with, there are boards for women in business, veterans, millennials, and office workers. There’s something for everyone in this little-known gem of a website.

Twitter

Twitter has become a household name for live events and news sharing, but did you know you can also use Twitter to network? Unlike LinkedIn, Twitter encourages users to @mention (or publicly message) each other, reshare links, and connect with complete strangers. It’s far more open than most networks, which makes it a great platform for giving and receiving feedback, as well as finding new business opportunities.

Meetup

Social networks tend to have a flaw: all the interaction happens online. Seeing this issue, Meetup was designed to get people to meet in real life. When you join the service (there’s also an app available) you have the option of joining a Meetup, or creating one. Meetups range from building a mobile app to networking with real estate investors. And when you don’t feel like networking anymore, there are always casual events like learning to cook or dance on the service as well.

Spare to Share

Headquartered in Chicago’s Novel Coworking The Loop, Spare to Share offers a unique and vital service for all kinds of building communities, including student dorms, apartment complexes, and of course, coworking buildings. Planning on hosting a lunch and learn? Post it on the newsfeed and see who else in the building is interested. Looking for a programmer to build an app? Search through the community directory. Getting in touch with people in the same building has never been so easy.

Tips for social networking online

Be selective

There are thousands and thousands of services and communities online. Don’t spend hours trying to comb through each one (chances are, you don’t want to anyway). Instead, pick one or two communities, and make a list of the type of people you want to get in touch with. Not only will you save yourself time, but the connections you make will result in more fruitful relationships.

Complete your profile

For many of these listed websites and communities, your profile is how other users will see and understand your presence online, so don’t neglect it. Include a photo to make it more personable. Add some bio information, such as why you’re on the website, and what you’re looking for. The more information you provide, the less likely you’ll come across as some random robot.

Follow the site or community etiquette

No two communities are the same. How you behave on Twitter is not how you’re expected to behave on LinkedIn. Before jumping in and posting or connecting, observe how other users communicate. You may find that each website has its own unique culture.

Take your time

There’s no rush when it comes to networking. Don’t rush people into connecting, or continuously bother them when they haven’t replied. Usually, an introductory message and one follow up should be enough to get someone’s attention. But if they don’t respond, don’t force it. There are other opportunities so don’t risk building a reputation as “that one annoying salesperson”.

Help others

If you want people to help you, start by helping others around you. When you see someone lacking experience or looking for help, be one of the first people to respond and assist. The smallest action can go a long way, and you never know- the person you help could end up being the person to help you later on.

Interested in starting your own networking group? We’ve covered that before too. Check out our previous post here.

To read other guides, tips, and tricks for entrepreneurs, visit Novel Coworking’s blog today.