November 04, 2023

Nontraditional networking strategies for digital entrepreneurs

Networking strategies often get distilled into this clichéd advice: attend events, shake a bunch of clammy hands, exchange business cards, follow up. Yet, as digital entrepreneurs in an industry that is tech-driven and fast-evolving, these conventional tactics barely move the needle. You probably yearn for a networking strategy that offers more connection and meaning.

Well, you're in luck. In this article, I'll introduce ways to take your networking from boring to beneficial and create those relationships that are more than just surface level, starting with using social media to create more authentic connections.

Social media: Connecting on a deeper level

Social media is no longer just a megaphone for self-promotion; it's a nuanced instrument for creative entrepreneurs to forge deep, meaningful relationships. Nowadays, it's less about amassing followers (you can do a lot with a small audience) and more about engaging in genuine conversations. Here's how:

  • Listen and offer help: Active listening on social platforms can reveal the pain points and aspirations of peers and potential clients. Use these insights to drive empathetic and valuable engagement on their timelines.
  • Authentic content: Share your journey with honesty. The struggles and triumphs resonate more than you realize—transforming your narrative into a magnet for those with shared experiences.
  • Interactive platforms: Utilize the interactive features of platforms like X Spaces or Instagram Live. These tools can amplify your voice in real-time, fostering immediate connections while building trust.

Connecting deeply with your audience on social media is just one of many nontraditional networking strategies you have at your disposal. Next, let's take a look at the power of personal branding when it comes to building your network.

Personal branding: Your networking superpower

Personal brands can be powerful. When executed authentically, you'll become a magnet, pulling opportunities and like-minded people towards you with force.

The best personal branding consists of telling your story, sharing your values, and being transparent about your identity. Here's how you can turn your personal brand into a networking powerhouse:

  • Tell stories: Weave your experiences into a narrative. Every post you share is a page of your story.
  • Be consistent: Your message, look, and feel are all part of your personal brand's heartbeat. Keep it regular, but most importantly, keep it you.
  • Engage: Talk. Listen. Respond. Repeat. In the digital marketplace, conversations are the currency of networks.

Once you employ the tactics above, you can harness the energy of authentic branding, which can lead to:

  • Trust: Authenticity breeds trust. Trust builds relationships. Relationships are the bedrock of business.
  • Visibility: Stand out in a sea of sameness. Be the lighthouse, not just another boat.
  • Influence: When your brand resonates, people listen. Influence grows from a whisper to a roar over time.

If you take these points into account and craft your brand with intention, it can become one of your most powerful networking tools.

Next, let's pivot from the networking strategy of personal branding to the world of collaboration—where your brand gets to roll up its sleeves and show its value in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Collaboration: Networking by doing

The entrepreneurial spirit thrives on action. True networking for the digital entrepreneur isn't found in idle chitchat and unfulfilled promises—it's carved out through collaboration. Here are some ideas on how you can strengthen your network through collabs:

  • Joint ventures: Like vines intertwining, joint ventures grow stronger by the shared soil of mutual interest. That's a pretty sweet metaphor, right? But seriously, collaboration on a project, especially one that blends two unique abilities or skill sets, can often result in a product or service that's twice as good.
  • Community projects: Building businesses with other entrepreneurs is great, but it's not the only way to collaborate. Try engaging in and contributing to community/open-source projects that matter to you. A significant benefit of this type of collaboration is that it reflects back on your brand positively, attracting like-minded individuals who value action and impact.
  • Guest features: Swap spaces with peers and guest on their platforms. But don't stop there—invite them to yours. It's a sign of mutual respect, not to mention sharing audiences benefits all parties directly and tangibly.

Collaboration can help lay the groundwork, but let's pivot to a lesser-used networking strategy: mentorship. Mentorship is more than guidance. You offer wisdom, and you gain perspective—it's a two-way street that doubles as a network expander. Let's explore.

The mentorship exchange: Cultivating growth together

Mentorship is more than the sum of its parts. It's not merely about imparting knowledge; it's about sharing journeys. As a mentor, you distill your trials and triumphs into lessons for others, while as a mentee, you bring fresh insights and challenge established norms. It's a cycle that propels both people forward.

Here are a few points to keep in mind if you want to explore mentorship as a networking vehicle:

  • Reciprocity reigns: Engage in a mentorship that thrives on mutual benefit. Teach and be open to learning. The exchange should enrich everyone involved.
  • Perspective is priceless: A fresh set of eyes can offer new solutions to old problems. As a mentor, embrace this. As a mentee, offer it.
  • Structured flexibility: Have a framework for the relationship but allow for organic growth. Rigid mentorships can stifle the very creativity they aim to foster.
  • Continuous journey: Mentorship doesn't have an expiration date. It evolves as you evolve, creating an ongoing dialogue that spans the life of your relationship.

Integrating mentorship into your networking strategies can open doors to new opportunities, learning, and growth ripe with potential. This is networking that moves beyond transactions to transformation.

P.S. If you happen to be looking for someone who's been-there-done-that, I offer asynchronous coaching for creative business and agency owners.

Conclusion: Building a network that builds you

To wrap up, the essence of modern networking strategy lies not in quantity but in the quality of your professional relationships. It's about nurturing a network that reciprocates with value and aligns with your ethos.

As you work to network, keep the following in mind:

  • Prioritize genuine interactions: Every meaningful conversation can lead to a partnership that transcends the typical transactional nature of business. Value each interaction for the unique exchange that it is.
  • Stay true to your story: Let your personal brand be a lighthouse for the people you wish to attract. It's about making connections that are drawn to not just what you do but how and why you do it.
  • Seek collaborative growth: Seek out projects and partnerships where your input is not just appreciated but is pivotal. This is networking with your sleeves rolled up, where the work speaks as loudly as any business card.
  • Mentor and be mentored: Recognize that the flow of knowledge and experience is a current that runs both ways. Mentorship is about expanding horizons for both parties and creating shared progress.

Focus on these tenets, and your network will evolve into a dynamic entity that contributes significantly to your professional growth. Now, get out there!