Networking. This is perhaps one of the least understood concepts among budding business owner hopefuls. This is especially true with today's bombardment of social media. Its noisy, often valueless, and there is no navigation roadmap. In this post I will share with you the basics of networking, some ways to network and why your network is vital to your crowdfunding campaign.
Why is networking vital to your crowdfunding campaign?
It is not about you, but the value added
There has to be a mutual benefit among parties, otherwise the relationship will not last. An author needs to find people who want to read his work, not people who want to support an author. A software company needs to solve people's existing tech problems, not hope that people will flock to their company just because they are new. The same is true with networking. If you are using social media to spam the world with your posts or to direct message/mention big companies and industry gurus, are you adding value or are you asking for a handout?
Once you are established in your industry, it is ok to send frequent updates to your followers, because that is what they want. However, if you want to grow your following, bombarding them with everything "you" is not effective. What your current and potential network is looking for is value. Identify how your network receives value and then cater your services to doing just that.
This is easier said than done, but does your client base want efficiency, low price, better service, more options, knowledge, etc.? To best identify the leading value-adding areas for your client base you will need to step away from the Kool-Aid for a moment and objectively look at your industry through the lens of your clients. You may try to brainstorm the following:
Social media ≠ networking
When it comes to social media, many companies just don't get it and post under the assumption that noise equals an increase in followers, fans, likes, and revenue. Social media is a tool to reach people in ways that weren't possible in the past. It is fast, cheap, and powerful but in and of itself it is not networking. Networking is the process of making a meaningful connection between parties.
Now before I go any further, you may be asking 'how can I create a personal connection with thousands or even hundreds of thousands of followers?' Well you can't. When building a network there are two main silos: professional (B2B or those who contribute, mentor and aid the development of your business) and consumer (B2C those who enjoy, consume, and purchase your product/service). I want to focus on networking with the B2B silo.
Before social media, networking was alive and well. An introduction would be made, usually by a mutual party, and then the relationship would need to be cultivated to continue. If neither of these two parties did anything beyond the initial meeting then that would be the end of it. This process of networking continues today. With social networks it is a little skewed. Generally speaking people still need a mutual party to introduce them (LinkedIn) or your contact must accept your connection request (Facebook). However, when connected, no further interaction is required to maintain the "friend" or "follower". This can leave some with an impressive network count but how valuable are they really?
Slow and steady wins the race
Don't try to expand your network faster than the expansion of the galaxy--the galaxy will always win. It takes time to build a network and then it takes additional time for that network to mature. Warning: there are services out there that offer guaranteed followers. This is cheap (a few bucks per thousand followers) and instantaneous (overnight), but is this going to help your company and brand in the long run? This is a business decision that you will have to make. However, purchasing followers is not networking.
So, how do I build my network?
Ideas to build your network
Networking and crowdfunding
Success in crowdfunding is when a large amount of people come together in support of your product or cause. But, to get a crowd you need a crowd. Nothing hurts a crowdfunding campaign more than low numbers in the first few days of launch. The biggest factor in whether or not you have large numbers turn out to support the campaign depends on your personal network.
Indiegogo suggests that you should raise 20-30% of your goal from your close network of friends and family.
Your close networks are those that you can inform in advance of your campaign's launch, so that they can come out in large numbers in the first few hours of the campaign. This will drive up the number of backers or funders that your campaign generates, as well as the dollars raised. Both of these metrics are utilized by large crowdfunding platforms to rank and trend your campaign. If you rank highly here, then you have the potential to be seen by millions of viewers.
In summary, networking is all about adding value to someone else--that's why they want to join your network. When you have found out how to add value, you can better leverage social media as a tool to magnify your efforts as you enhance your relationships. Now you are ready to crowdfund your idea.