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January 18, 2008

7 Ways To Build Your Virtual Business Network

We all have offline social networks, friends from our association, church or group, business networks that include suppliers, customers and other businesses, and now thanks to the power of web 2.0 we are building virtual business networks.

People are coming together from around the world to learn, connect to each other and share their personal and professional life.

Friendships and networks are being made between a person in the USA and India, someone in the UK and Australia. There are no longer any barriers to making international connections and talk to people around the world.

I refer to this type of online connection as a virtual business network and it is particularly important for you to network in this way if you run an internet based business because you will be at home, working alone and will need a place to go when challenges hit, or just to let off some steam.

Below are seven great ways to build your virtual business network to ensure you and the person/people you interact with gain the most benefit:

Remember Its not about numbers. If you think all you need to do is find a social network with a large number of people you may be missing out on some great opportunities to connect inside smaller groups and build more solid relationships.

Large sites are great if you just want to spread your business link around to get people to visit your website but you really should aim for more than this.

First decide what you want to get out of a network and what you can provide in terms of skills and expertise. Once you do that whether that social network has 2 members or 2,000 you will always gain maximum benefit from taking part.

Leverage the skills. What skills will you have that you bring to a group and can share with them? Let them know your expertise and how you can help. Discover what skills other people have and how you can use them to build your business. Most people in a network group are happy to share what they know so make the most of it and also be willing to share what you know.

Give before you take. It is important that you don’t spend all of your time taking and none of your time giving. Give first, share what you know, invite people to ask you questions, volunteer information, tell people about a great resource you found. Give, give and give some more because givers gain!

Provide value before you sell. When you write your blogs or messages for people to read don’t just leave a quick few words with a link to your products/site. Provide value you in your message. If you are commenting on what someone has written let them know why you enjoyed reading it, or whether you agree/disagree and then tell them – if you are interested in that, you may also be interested in this and let them know what you offer.

Establish yourself in a few rather than spread yourself in many. There are more and more online networks available for people to make use of and it is really easy to just keep joining one after another every time you are invited. It’s great to get yourself out on the internet but it’s also a good plan to establish yourself in at least 2 or 3 groups so that people recognize you. What you are looking to do here is build your reputation within the community and help them to get to know, like and trust you.

Take part and be active. If your business network facility allows you to start groups then start one and invite other members to join, don’t just sit back and wait for them to join. If you are able to upload videos find a few on Google that the community may enjoy watching and include them. If the site has a blog include at least two a week that provide value, tips, techniques or a how to type post that will help people do something they may be unable to do. Some of the best blogs will start a discussion or debate so ask a question, or ask for comments, suggestions or ideas to get everyone talking.

Make a commitment and be willing to work at it. Raising your online visibility takes time to achieve and will need regular contributions and a commitment to being around so that regular members get to know you and new members want to connect with you. You will soon find yourself connecting to more and more people and building your virtual social network. As you meet the same members in other networks you will have an instant connection with them and that will help you where ever you are on the internet.

Building a virtual business network provides you with an opportunity to build international friendships as well as profitable business partnerships and joint venture opportunities. You cannot survive online without connecting to other people in the same industry/community and as with all relationship building it takes time but is very rewarding.

I have and continue to connect with people from the USA and when they visit the UK I meet up and show them round!

So take your time, show your expertise and provide value, before you know it people will seek you out and want to connect with you.

Author:  Diane Corriette runs Women Internet Marketers at http://www.women-internet-marketers.com and works towards supporting women to start their own internet based business and/or raise their online visibility so they can be found quicker and more often by the right people. She also provides an opportunity for women to learn, connect and share at her free social network at http://www.womeninternetmarketers.net and provides free internet marketing information through her online magazine at http://www.womeninternetmarketers.tv

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