Social Networking

12 Tips for Creating Meaningful Business Relationships Online

Reader Resource

Position yourself for growth in 2017—join us live at the Entrepreneur 360 Conference in Long Beach, Calif. on Nov. 16. Secure Your Seat »

The Internet has become an important tool for reaching customers and building brand awareness. Businesses spend a great deal of time learning the best way to market their products and services through social media and their websites. But in an effort to get the word out, they often fail to create truly meaningful online relationships with customers and colleagues.

Creating a solid online connection can make a huge difference in getting your name out there. Strong relationships allow you to form strategic partnerships, which can lead to opportunities. An online connection may recommend you for a speaking engagement, to serve on a panel, or to take on work that his firm can’t handle. Here are 12 great tips you can use to build more meaningful business relationships online.

1. Be strategic.

You likely already have a limited amount of time to dedicate to your online networking, so it’s important to make every minute count. To make the most of your efforts, it’s important to know ahead of time what you hope to accomplish and create a plan to reach those goals. If you know where you’re going, each post will be more likely to move you forward.

2. Be genuine.

Even if your goal is to build your brand, you’ll be much more successful if you participate online in a way that is true to your own interests. Initially, you’ll need to build your follower base, and the best way to do that is to participate in conversations in line with your professional interests. Even if you’ve been online for a while, you can still grow your existing reach exponentially by interacting with others in a natural way.

Related: 5 Online Faux Pas That Will Doom Your Networking Potential

3. Find influencers.

One of the best ways to reach a large audience quickly is to find influencers. This group of people has a large number of online followers and a broad reach that can quickly get your name in front of a large audience. There are tools you can use to identify top influencers in your field so you can reach out to them.

4. Join online conversations.

One of the best ways to build your online presence is to participate in a natural way. Find topics of interest to you and join in the conversation. This can extend to personal interests. If you’re watching a big sporting event or awards show, joining in the conversation on Twitter can be a great way to meet others and get more comfortable with using the platform.

5. Find common interests.

As you’re following others in your field, you’ll likely occasionally notice interests you share. Take advantage of this by interacting on those topics. If you share a common love for a certain sporting team, a big game could be the perfect time to tag that person in a social media post, initiating a conversation that could lead to a long-term work relationship.

6. Share meaningful information.

Online, we tend to follow those who regularly provide information that is valuable to us. Instead of reminding everyone about your new product for the hundredth time, re-tweet interesting posts or create your own blog filled with insight. If you link it on social media, you may find you get multiple shares and re-tweets.

7. Have the right followers.

As you’re building your follower base, pay far less attention to quantity than quality. Buying followers can result in a sizable audience that never really pays attention to your posts. It’s far more valuable to find followers who may be interested in what you have to say. Follow those members and you’ll likely get a return follow.

Related: 5 Ways to Tame Your Busy Schedule and Network Like a Pro

8. Create a sustainable conversation.

As you post blogs and share the link online, it’s important to find a way to capture that audience in some way. Opt-in email lists are a great way to gather customer names for sending newsletters and special deals. With each blog post, you should also invite readers to follow you on social media and share the content across their own networks.

9. Don’t spam.

Too often, brands scare off followers and email subscribers by simply being too spammy. Rather than overwhelming consumers with marketing information, instead focus on providing interesting or useful information. Followers will naturally want to learn more about your brand if they find your content interesting.

10. Network through your blog.

Your blog can be one of the best networking tool you have, when used correctly. Regularly read blogs you find interesting and share the information with others. Ask other professionals to guest blog and offer your own services on colleagues’ blogs. The backlinks will help with your search ranking and you’ll be able to introduce yourself to a larger audience.

11. Share and give.

As you find others whose work you respect, support them on various social media sites. Endorse their skills on LinkedIn, share their blog content, and re-tweet any interesting posts they share. They’ll be more likely to return the support when you need it.

12. Follow up offline.

While online relationships can help build your business, the key to true lasting connections is to take it offline. Introduce yourself to social media connections at conferences or ask to meet for coffee if you see an online follower will be in town. If an online contact is appearing at an event in your town, show up and invite your own friends and associates. The person will likely appreciate the support and remember it later.

Professionals spend a great deal of time on social media, so it’s important to use it to its fullest. By making the right connections, you’ll be more likely to translate your social media activity to your offline life, which is where it can really make a difference.

Related: 4 Ways to Get Influencers to Spread Your Brand's Message