Starting a new business is all about who you know. Both online and community networking can help you build your brand; in turn, solidifying your customer relationships and allowing you connect with potential investors, mentors, and peers. Here are some tips to help you grow your social capital both online and in person.
Treat the Relationships You Build Like Currency
Each and every connection you make is worth its weight in gold, so it’s important to cultivate and nurture each individually. After attending a networking event, reach out by making a call or sending an email to those you are interested in maintaining a business relationship with. Remember it’s not about how many contacts you have; it’s about placing value on and investing time in those that matter.
From mentors to brand evangelists, allowing individuals to be involved in your brand can help reinforce its worth. Human capital is as equally as important as financial capital. When someone believes in your brand, they are willing to invest their time, energy, and knowledge to help you succeed. Reward your followers by including them in special events, provide them with exclusive access to up-and-coming products or services, and welcome their feedback.
Invest in Your Community
Yearly community events or charity fundraisers are a great place to get involved and give back to your local supporters. Choose an event that means something to you and donate your time and, if you have the cash, some funds. Sponsoring an event in the name of the business is a great way get the word out about your brand and build trust and support for your business within your local community.
Provide Value with Social Media
Social media interaction is absolutely necessary for today’s entrepreneur. Continuously posting, tweeting, or pinning, however, is not the way to garner attention from the masses. Each social media interaction should provide your followers with something valuable to share. Provide your users with media they can and want to interact with. For instance, provide an inside look of your facility with key staff member interviews, showcase new products with teasers, provide "how-tos" or instructional content; be creative and engaging.
Team Up with Peers
Building relationships with other entrepreneurs and small businesses in your area can double your social capital and help both businesses grow. Once you establish a working business relationship with vendors and subcontractors, refer your customers to them for service. Networking with complementary businesses can help you build a "spider web" network, allowing each business involved to gain from the relationship.
The New Word of Mouth
Social networking has allowed customers and brands come together on a much wider scale and this type of word of mouth can spread like wild fire. No matter what type of interaction you encounter, you must maintain professionalism at all times. Be strategic when planning your campaigns to ensure the "good word" gets out to both supporters and critics.
Vigilance, perseverance, and strategic action in both personal and digital interaction will build sustainable social capital. Keeping your customers happy and community engaged in your brand will help your brand reach the next level; remember to always provide value to your followers and take stock in the insight mentors provide, this can help you stay on track and keep up the demands that come with building both human and financial capital.
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