Life can be great for a web pro in a small town. Lower overhead? Cheaper groceries? Less hustle and bustle? Sounds great! But if you’re not careful, feelings of isolation and fear set in. Am I connecting enough with like-minded peers? How can I grow my network when no one is near me? Do I have a thumb on what’s happening everywhere else?
These six tips can help put those fears to rest:
1. Pick a Lane Your town is small, but the Internet is big. Narrow your online focus by maximizing just one social media network. Choose your network based on the preferences of your peers, industry influencers and potential customers. Learn how to work this network, and dedicate time every day – yes, every day – to nurturing and maintaining your connections there. Social media networking isn’t icing on the cake; it’s the very batter itself.
2. Lean on Your Small Town Peers All right, yes - most people in your network and potential client base do live in metropolitan areas. But the trend toward small town living is gaining traction. You are not alone in this. Reach out to others who’ve walked a mile in your shoes. Even if their industry is completely different from yours, talking about your experiences can provide unexpected insight. Check out Small Biz Survival; this website is an excellent resource for the small town professional. Its contributors might be the influencers you never knew you always needed in your network.
3. Don’t Be a Vampire How would you feel if you had a friend who only called you when he needed something? Drained? Used? Disinterested? Don’t be a vampire that sucks the life out of your virtual connections. Remember - every online contact represents a real, live human being. Reach out and ask what they’re working on or what they’re excited about these days. Comment on their recent posts to show you genuinely care about their ideas and work. Networking is about relationship building not sales-pitching.
4. Don’t Be a Show Off Striking the right balance in online posting is tricky. Resist the urge to constantly self promote. If your posts only include your content and promotional offers, you miss opportunities to engage and interact. The bulk of your posts should create the water cooler banter found in big city offices. Share the work and posts of key influencers, adding your unique insights and questions. Limit the number of posts featuring your original content and promotions. When you do offer original content, ensure it’s valuable and will enrich the lives of others. This builds your brand and establishes you as an expert who really wants to see people succeed, a valuable quality in digital networking.
5. Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing What’s the next best thing to an in-person coffee date with a key network connection? A virtual coffee date. Use Skype or Google Hangout to connect with someone over your morning joe. A fifteen-minute screen-to-screen connection invests both parties and enriches resulting digital conversations. Everyone’s time is valuable, so plan a conversation that will be meaningful. This isn’t the junior prom – don’t be bashful. Aim to “meet” one new connection a week.
6. Peak in Your Backyard Ok, you live in a town of 10,000, and the businessmen there all opened shop before you were born. From the surface, it may seem like a barren field in which to sow networking seeds. But hold on for a second. Don’t assume your neighbors can’t help you. Moreover, don’t assume you can’t help them. Get out of your web cave! Make a point to become an active member of your small community. Each one of those 10,000 people has expertise, interests and needs - just like you. It’s All About Relationships Never forget that networking is about relationships. Focus on building a reputation for authenticity, expertise and a desire to help others. People – online and in real life – will always be drawn to that brand.