Online Networking in the New Normal

Remember networking events?

Pre-COVID, we all attended them – some of us embracing the events – looking forward to seeing familiar faces and chatting with friends in the small business industry. Others may have found them a bit painful and cheesy, hoping to make new business friends, but dreading the process.  Maybe you attended a networking event and found it really wasn’t as bad as you thought and actually had a good time, met new people, and networked like a pro.

In 2020 we were all thrown into the COVID shut down and suddenly, individuals discovered they really missed those networking events!  While some of us are back to networking the “old fashioned way” in person and probably in a mask. Others have expanded their online networking presence and have found it to be extremely beneficial to their business.

 

Networking in the “New Normal”

I know – we’re all tired of hearing that term, “the new normal,” but it does explain where we are in business, in relation to the Pandemic. Out of necessity, and the lack of in-person networking opportunities, COVID helped shape and refine online marketing and networking. Online platforms like Zoom meetings, Skype, Webex and Go To Meeting, became the new, edgy, and fun way to network. Businesses got creative, hosting networking classes, meet-n-greets, and even cocktail hours – all online. Other websites expanded and began to offer more networking capabilities, all aimed at growing business and creating meaningful business and personal contacts.

 

Which websites are best for networking?

We’ve all heard ads that end with “Follow us on Facebook” or “Trending on Twitter.” The choices of social media platforms can be endless.  It may seem impossible to get on every type of social media, but there are some you should consider essential.  Not only will a presence on these websites help your business, but they will also help your networking capabilities. Here is a short list of the most popular social networking websites for businesses:

  • Facebook: Probably the most popular of social networks. Facebook currently has 2.7 Billion active users.
  • LinkedIn: Long considered the network for professionals, LinkedIn boasts 800 million users.
  • Twitter: Twitter users have 200-million users and a younger demographic than Facebook.
  • Instagram: 1 billion active users per month pop onto Instagram.
  • YouTube: 2 billion active users either post videos or watch them on YouTube.

 

Before you join a social media network – know your demographics:

Maybe your small business would like to attract and sell to the teenagers with disposable income (or large allowances.) Or perhaps you would like to focus on the older, professional, executive customers. Each business is unique and not every social media platform is “necessary.” For instance: you shouldn’t turn your initial focus to getting an Instagram account up and running if you are marketing to older 50-something professionals. However, if you want to sell your super cute kitten leggings to the 13 to 18 year old’s – Snapchat, Instagram and even TikTok may be your “go to” social media platform.

 

Breakdown of social media demographics:

Use the following chart to plan where you should network, based on the ages of social media users:

Website Name Age Demographic Number of Users
Facebook 35% globally are men 18-34

24% globally are women 18-34

*It is important to note that 85% of all of Facebook’s users are from outside the US and Canada

2.74 Billion
LinkedIn 60% are ages 25-34

19% are ages 19-24

51% have a college degree – or above

75% are from outside the US

800 Million
Twitter 37% are ages 18-29

25% are ages 30-49

200 Million
Instagram 59% are ages 18-29

33% are age 30-49

68% are female and 90% of all users are under age 35

1 Billion
YouTube Has a fairly even use-distribution across all age groups. 2.3 Billion
WhatsApp 27% are age 26-35

19% are age 15-25

20% are age 36-45

17% are age 46-55

2 Billion
TikTok 25% are age 10-19

22.4% are age 20-29.

21.7% are age 30-39.

20.3% are 40-49

1 Billion
SnapChat 50% are under 25

37% are age 26-34

2% are over age 55

498 Million
Pinterest 38% are age 50-64

34% are age 30-49

32% are age 18-29

442 Million

 

I’m on social media, now what?

The primary reason to join social media platforms is to advertise your small business and to network with fellow business people not only in your immediate area, but across the globe. Here area few simple things to do, now that you’ve taken the leap onto a few social media platforms:

  • Ask: You guessed it, ask people to follow you on Facebook. Each social media platform offers the opportunity to engage with fellow businesses and associates. Send out those friend requests and ask people to follow you.
  • Advertise: Post the name, location, logo and hours of your business.
  • Like: Like other business posts, follow other businesses and look for companies or individuals who compliment your business.
  • Follow: Follow other businesses and individuals who can help promote or compliment your own business.
  • Look around: Take a look at your competition – see who they follow, what they are posting and maybe even collaborate with them to promote both businesses.

 

Online Networking in the new normal can be fun, interesting, and actually a lot easier and less time-consuming than the one-on-one networking events of the past. With online networking, you can reach more people, more often. You can expand both your business contacts and your customer base. The best part? Most social media sites are free to join!  Get out there!  It’s worth the time investment!

 

For additional information regarding online networking in the new normal, and how to expand your small business’s social media, please contact us at the Small Business Development Center – SBDC – Serving Paris area:  Lamar, Hunt, Hopkins, Delta, and Red River counties.