Get All Access for $5/mo

5 Ways to Boost Your Business Using the Connection Economy There's plenty of untapped value in the relationships and connections your business develops online. Here's how to capitalize on that.

By Susan Solovic Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Getty Images

I believe it was Seth Godin who, a few years ago, coined the term "connection economy." The idea is that value is generated by making connections, rather than pumping widgets out of the tail end of an assembly line.

I might put a little sharper focus on this and say that for almost every small-business owner, the potential for value is created by making or strengthening connections. Mammoth social media platforms like Facebook do, in fact, derive much their value by the sheer number of creations they create. I'll point out that these enterprises achieve billion dollar valuations before they do anything with their connections to actually make money.

But, in any case, the value of connections in this connection economy is indisputable. The question, then, is whether or not you are participating in and benefiting from the connection economy. Let's look at tangible ways you can take advantage of the connection economy today.

Related: Marketing Wizard Seth Godin on Success and Inspiration

1. Social media.

For many -- if not all -- small businesses, connecting with customers, prospects, suppliers, and others via social media can deliver tremendous value. Note that even via this short list of connections, I'm suggesting how you can "segment" your social media contacts.

To use social media in the connection economy, you need to understand who you are trying to reach and what your goal is when you reach them. In other words, it wouldn't make any sense to consider established customers and brand new prospects in the same way. Further, you might establish social media relationships with suppliers as a way to improve your competiveness; suppliers may, for example, use their social media channels as pipelines for insider tips and other useful industry information.

Taking this a bit further, Alignable is one social media platform whose purpose it is to create and enhance relationships between businesses. Connecting with similar small businesses can be extremely helpful, for example, when you're trying to determine which cloud services would best suit your business.

Related: How Your Small Business Can Use Social Media to Boost Sales

2. Review sites.

When you're using your social media accounts, you're broadcasting information about your small business and trying to spur people's interest. When customers say something about you on a review site -- or their own social media accounts -- they are taking over the microphone. You need to recognize these instances as opportunities to create connections.

I often scan the hotel reviews on the travel sites. I always notice the hotel owners who respond to criticism and those who ignore it. These kinds of sites are a major component in the connection economy -- don't let the connection "drop."

An important attribute of the connection economy is to recognize that it's not just about your direct connections, it's also about the onlookers and others who will hear things via word of mouth. Take advantage of the review sites and even create strategies that will tend to point your customers toward posting reviews.

Related: How Online Customer Reviews Help SEO and Drive Sales Growth

3. Forums.

Forums are probably the most overlooked avenue for engaging prospects in the connection economy. Some successful small businesses have started because their owners first established themselves as experts on the forums. However, the point I want to stress here is that you should engage on as many good forums as there are that relate to your business, and your posts should be very helpful and knowledgeable.

Carve out a little time each week to browse relevant forums and look for posts that pose questions or discuss problems. The connections you make can be very valuable in the long run.

4. Local community.

Old-fashioned local networking should not be overlooked in this age of high-tech, web-based connections. For many small business owners, their local connections are by far their most important.

Have you noticed that all the highly successful local business leaders are heavily involved in community business groups along with other local events and organizations? Do you think this is merely coincidence? Do you think they had achieved their level of success before they got involved with the community?

I don't think so. Many newcomers start out as unknowns, but by working with community groups they make names for themselves as both knowledgeable and trustworthy. Establishing yourself in your local community will pay big dividends over the years. These are investments you'll make more with your time than with your money.

5. Employees, family and friends.

Connecting with all the individuals in your business and personal lives is extremely important. First of all, your family and close friends should be among the biggest boosters for your small business. This means that you should be certain they understand what you do and have even experienced it themselves.

They should be shopping at your store or using the service you provide whenever possible. Then, when they know people who need what you provide, you'll get a recommendation.

This is extremely important with your employees. You need to develop these connections so well that they go beyond mere employees and become brand advocates who are ready to put in a good word for your small business even when they're "off the clock." This means you must treat your employees well, give them opportunities to advacnce and have input regarding the direction of your business: If you don't listen to your employees, you can't expect them to speak up for you.

Related: Why Leaders Lean on Friends and Family

I've touched on several dimensions of the connection economy. Please note that how you handle each of these can have either a positive or negative impact (increase or decrease value) on your small business. For example, ignoring bad reviews or posting "salesy" comments on forums can drive customers away from your business. Your job is to engage in all of these places and use all of these strategies in positive ways that add to your stature and the amount of business you generate.

Susan Solovic

THE Small Business Expert, Award-winning entrepreneur, New York Times bestseller, keynote speaker, media personality and attorney.

Susan Solovic is THE Small Business Expert.  An award-winning entrepreneur and Internet pioneer, she founded one of the first video-based websites and grew it to a multi-million dollar enterprise.  The company was recognized as the Best Investment Opportunity in the Silicon Valley in 2006 by a venture forum group.  She is a sought-after keynote speaker, New York Times bestseller, media personality and popular blogger.  Her experience provides her with a unique vantage point from which to inform and inspire entrepreneurs around the globe.

 

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Editor's Pick

Business Solutions

Increase Productivity with This Microsoft 365 Subscription, Now $25 Off

It can make the entrepreneur life a lot easier.

Business News

Apple Pay Later Is Ending. Here's What's Taking Its Place.

The program was available for less than a year.

Leadership

This Artist Answered a Businessman's 'Powerful' Question — Then His Work Became 'the Poster Child for Juneteenth': 'Your Network Really Becomes Your Net Worth'

Reginald Adams was the executive director of a Houston-based art museum for more than a decade before he decided to launch his own public art and design firm.

Leadership

Harvard Business School Professor Says 65% of Startups Fail for One Reason. Here's How to Avoid It.

Team alignment isn't nice to have -- it's critical for running a successful business.

Business News

Here's What Companies Are Open and Closed on Juneteenth 2024

Since it became a holiday in 2021, Juneteenth has been recognized by some major corporations as a paid day off.

Growing a Business

I Hit $100 Million in Annual Revenue by Being More Transparent — Here Are the 3 Strategies That Helped Me Succeed

Three road-tested ways to be more transparent and build relationships that can transform your business — without leaving you feeling nightmarishly over-exposed.