By now, you probably know that your business should have an online presence. Some entrepreneurs build an online business or a location-based one. While others choose to grow their business using a mix of both. Even if your business is location-based, it pays to have an online presence and collaborate with other people in and outside of your niche online.
A few benefits of online collaboration are:
Benefits of Online Collaboration
Through online collaboration, you can learn what works and what doesn’t in business. The best online business relationships are mutually beneficial. Just like real-life networking, connect with the most successful people as possible. It will propel and motivate you to succeed.
A word of caution: An unknown person today can be a business sensation by next month. The very nature of online collaboration is that you do not know people in their entirety, what resources they have, who they know, or their true knowledge level. You are left to make assumptions about people online with the limited information that the person has chosen to put out there. A smart business person does not leave themselves totally exposed. It never pays to ignore or discredit anyone! So, seek out successful people, but don’t make the mistake of ignoring the “little people”.
Do not be afraid to network outside of your niche. People outside of your niche but that are in a complementary niche may be more willing to collaborate as they feel less threatened. However, remember that it is human nature to be competitive and most people are not going to give anything valuable away for free. True experts know the value of their knowledge and usually sell their expertise in some form such as a class, book, seminar, or event.
Online collaboration eliminates the fishbowl factor of in-person networking. In-person collaboration opportunities are limited to geographical location. When you collaborate online you have the ability to make connections all over the world. This exponentially increases the opportunities that can come your way. Yet another reason to get outside of your niche to network.
Life is better with friends!
Being in business is a difficult and sometimes lonely adventure. Networking and forming online collaborations with people that are experiencing a similar journey can help you feel less alone. Need help dealing with the naysayers that don’t appreciate your entrepreneurial aspirations? I have it covered.
While the purpose of online collaborations should not solely be to get free exposure for your business, it is often a side benefit. The reason for this is human nature. People do business with and recommend people that they like, know, and trust. When you have strong collaborations in place, it is only natural that when your business or service is needed, your name comes up.
Get Started Collaborating
If you do not have social media accounts for your business, you need to get started. If the thought of social media overwhelms you, start out on one platform. Youtube has tutorials on how to use and interact on every major platform. Gradually add and connect on other social media networks.
But, do not focus on only one platform long term. This limits your social reach. When you limit your reach, your online presence will not develop to its fullest potential.
After you feel comfortable on a social media network, join forums or groups with others that are in and outside of your niche. Forums and groups are where the collaborative magic usually begins. If you do not have success in one forum or group try another. You should be able to find your “fit” somewhere.
Furthermore, when on social media, try to act as if you would in real life. Use your manners and communication skills. An easy way to remember what to do on social media when interacting with others is to Respond, Reciprocate, and Thank (RRT).
Social Media Strategy- Respond, Reciprocate, and Thank (RRT)
Respond to social media just like you would in a real-life conversation. Reciprocate by sharing other people’s content when they share yours on social media. Thank people on social media for their help in sharing, when they answer a question or refer people to you. It really is that easy!
As you begin to network and collaborate with others on social media, you will quickly find that others do not follow the RRT rule. You begin to wonder if reading or sharing their content is a valuable use of your time. This decision is yours to make.
How do I handle this situation? When I find that a person is not willing to be reciprocal, I rarely share or read their content. However, I will if they are a true expert. (Note – There are very few people that I would title “true experts”. ) However, most experts still respond on social media because they have social media assistants.
When I find a person that is reciprocal, I share them on multiple platforms and comment on their blogs. I do not care if they are popular as long as they follow the RRT method and I can identify with their content. Think about this…is it better to have a smaller number of true fans that spread the message or a ton of hits to your website that never engage or return?
As a business owner, it becomes a major time investment to effectively network online. From a business standpoint, would you invest in something that does not yield returns? Besides, why should someone benefit from free promotion when they are not willing to put in the same time investment as you do? Frankly, I believe that time is more valuable than money. I like to use it wisely.
If you make a connection online that you would like to deepen, approach them via email. Email them your contact information and times that you are available to talk via phone, Skype, or Google Hangout.
I would also let them know that if none of the times work for them, they could send times that they are available. After speaking with them on a personal level you can determine if you would like to take additional networking steps. The next big step could be proposing a collaboration through a joint venture or even a team venture.
Advanced Online Collaboration
Joint ventures (JVs) are an advanced form of online collaboration. The parties involved usually co-create a product or a service and leverage each other’s social media audiences/newsletters. Online businesses that are interested in growing rapidly utilize this technique to maximize their time investment and grow their results. The results of this technique are amplified by being in more than one joint venture at any given time.
A few important suggestions when considering a joint venture:
- Choose your JVs carefully. Make sure they have the incentive to be as invested as you are in the relationship.
- Are your personalities compatible?
- Make sure it is an equal partnership and your partner does not take advantage of you.
- Start small to go big. The more successful partnerships that you have been involved in, the more likely that you can attract partners with larger followings.
These ideas should get you started in collaborating successfully online. What about you?
Have you used these suggestions to grow your business?
Or, do you have another approach that has been successful for you?