Business networking is an inexpensive yet effective way of marketing your business. It allows you to grow your business by spreading your brand among other entrepreneurs. Business networking sites are an effective way to do this.
This opens up the opportunity for new potential investors or business partners.
Traditionally, networking was done through business networking events. However, with the widespread use of the internet, it is now possible to network your business online via business networking sites.
Online business networking sites allow you to reach a wider range of entrepreneurs without being restricted by location. This significantly increases your chances of acquiring investors or business partners, allowing your business to grow.
Online business networking continues to grow, with sites like LinkedIn, Eventbrite and Bizbuysell making it easier to build connections, promote your business, and find new opportunities. In this guide, we compare the top 10 networking platforms based on features, audience, pricing, and more. We also provide tips to help you maximize your networking strategy.
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What Are Business Networking Sites?
They are professional networking sites dedicated to the exchange of information between businesses. This is done through the sharing of knowledge and common interests where businesses choose to help each other, expecting the favour to be returned.
This creates a community of like-minded entrepreneurs who share the common interest of helping each other. Business networking sites also allow you to find capable individuals for recruiting.
It can be a great asset when looking to fill a vacancy quickly. It has become incredibly popular among businesses and individuals looking for a job. It is a tool by which they can find a common interest.
Check out our guide to hiring writers for proof of how useful these networking websites may be in recruiting.
Now, let us explore some of the most popular business networking sites and how they can benefit your business.
Overview of Top 10 Sites:
LinkedIn – The world’s largest professional networking site with over 690 million users. Ideal for B2B lead generation and recruitment.
Eventbrite – Event management and networking platform. Allows users to discover events, network with attendees, and manage registrations.
Bizbuysell – Largest online business for sale marketplace. Allows owners to market their business to over 1.6 million monthly buyers.
Shapr – Growing networking app with over 5 million users. Facilitates mentorship and professional connections between like-minded individuals.
Meetup – Platform for organizing online and in-person group events. It has over 44 million users and covers professional topics.
BranchOut – Career and networking platform within Facebook. Useful for connecting with industry contacts.
Ryze – Business networking site with over 800,000 members. Focuses on incubating startups and entrepreneurs.
FoundersCard – Exclusive platform for founders, CEOs, and entrepreneurs to connect. Has over 35,000 members.
GrowthHackers – 300,000+ members focused on growth marketing, startups, and entrepreneurs. Facilitates asking questions and marketing advice.
Commun.it – Networking platform focused on introducing business contacts based on trusted relationships.
Best Practices for Maximizing Results:
- Complete a detailed professional profile highlighting your expertise
- Join relevant industry or niche groups aligned with your business
- Actively engage with other members by commenting, sharing, etc.
- Publish blog posts and original content to build authority
- Participate in discussions and ask for introductions or advice
- Use advanced search to identify and connect with ideal prospects
- Leverage premium features like InMail on LinkedIn
- Integrate platforms with your CRM and email marketing tools
- Track tangible business growth and engagement metrics
Using a combination of broad networking platforms like LinkedIn and niche sites can help maximize your reach and connections. The key is actively participating to build relationships, establish trust, and drive real business results.
LinkedIn is the most popular business social network, used by most companies regardless of their size.
Its strength comes from its incredible versatility, where you can find seasoned professionals looking to switch jobs or fresh graduates looking to explore their job opportunities.
You can add people under “connections”, similar to most social media websites. You will then be able to message them privately.
Here are some of the key features of LinkedIn:
LinkedIn also allows you to create a profile that displays all your qualifications in a simple, neat way. Your profile contains basic information such as name, occupation, picture and location.
In addition, you can customise sections to include various information, including a summary of your work experiences. It is an electronic CV with the benefit of being interactive.
Similarly, you can create a page for your business, which includes similar information, including your services, number of staff and even case studies about your clients.
This lists all the people and businesses you are connected to. Based on these connections, LinkedIn will also suggest more pages that you might find relevant.
One of the reasons for the success of LinkedIn is its powerful search feature. It has very specific customization through filters and tags that allow you to find exactly what you want.
This is great when you are a person looking for a job or a business looking for a vacancy.
This business social network allows you to create job listings for your company. Due to the incredible popularity of this platform, you are sure to receive lots of applications for your vacancy.
LinkedIn’s algorithm also suggests jobs to users according to their qualifications, location and such. This is guaranteed to provide great exposure for your recruitment process, significantly speeding it up.
How to Use LinkedIn for Marketing
Of course, most businesses are primarily concerned with how LinkedIn can make them more money. Luckily, LinkedIn is a powerful marketing tool. Let’s take a look at some of the ways that LinkedIn can be used to market your products and services.
Inbound Marketing with LinkedIn
Inbound marketing is all about making sure that potential customers can find you. For LinkedIn, this means optimising your company and employee’s profiles for search on the platform.
The starting point is figuring out what your target market searches for on LinkedIn.
Unfortunately, there aren’t any dedicated keyword research tools for LinkedIn. This means that when deciding on keywords for your LinkedIn profile, you must take the lead from Google search volume.
This isn’t an exact science, but we can assume that the queries with the most searches on Google will likely be the most popular search terms on LinkedIn, too.
Once you’ve figured out what your target keywords are, you should implement them across your profiles:
- Job History,
- Additional information.
On your company page, they should be included in your:
- And the personal profiles of all of your employees.
Once you’ve done this, ensure you have a professional-looking profile and header images, and wait for the enquiries to come flooding in.
Outbound Marketing with LinkedIn
You can also use LinkedIn for outbound marketing. This means targeting campaigns at other users rather than waiting for them to find you. However, even if this is your priority, you should still optimise your LinkedIn profile using the steps above.
In addition to generating inbound leads, this will make your outbound efforts more effective.
There are essentially two types of inbound strategies on LinkedIn:
- Researching and directly reaching out to potential leads,
- Using LinkedIn statuses and updates for mass messaging.
Which will work best depends on your business model. For instance, in a high-value service business, reaching out to potential leads directly will likely be the best strategy, as it offers you the best chance of reaching your ideal customers.
By contrast, regularly posting updates and content to your larger LinkedIn audience will suit businesses targeting a larger volume of less specific leads.
In reality, most businesses will fall somewhere in between these two situations. That is, a mixture of direct and mass messaging will pay the greatest dividends.
Other Business Networking Sites
Of course, there are other business networking sites besides LinkedIn. Although LinkedIn is generally thought of as top of the pile, there are plenty of other sites out there which offer benefits for businesses and individuals alike.
Some may be industry-specific, while others are just as general as LinkedIn.
Let’s look at some of the other major players in the online business networking space.
AngelList focuses primarily on forming a connection between investors and startup companies. By focusing exclusively on startup companies, startups have a unique opportunity to find investors through AngelList.
This was successful in many cases, such as Uber and PillPack.
In addition, job seekers have the opportunity to get some influential jobs, which can be a big step up in their careers. We’ve discussed tools like this in greater detail in our total SEO guide.
Plaxo is an online address book that keeps your contacts organised and accessible. It is synchronised across all of your devices, which ensures that you never lose contact.
It also integrates with all mail options to import contact data, allowing you to unify the storage of all your contacts across all different mediums in one app. By simplifying the process of keeping contacts updated, Plaxo makes networking a lot easier.
With an invite-only model, Quibb is one of the most exclusive business networking sites. It has an acceptance rate of around 35% of applicants. It contains relevant links and discussions regarding your chosen field of work.
Quibb’s high exclusivity comes from the fact that it allows you to interact with some of the highest-profile people in most fields. These people have a significant effect on the market, and their opinions should always be considered.
Being a part of the Quibb network means you will stay ahead of the curve in your field, which is why it is so hard to get into.
Social Media Groups
Finally, some of the most important business networking sites aren’t websites. That is, you’ll find countless networking opportunities in industry-specific groups on social media. These can primarily be found on Facebook and LinkedIn.
For example, there are countless groups for different freelance niches where professionals share tips and opportunities.
Similarly, there are groups for just about every imaginable job role, for both freelancers and 9-5 professionals. Similarly, these are great opportunities to get to know other professionals in your industry and create opportunities for yourself.
Business Networking Sites: FAQ
Q: Is a paid membership required to use these sites?
A: Most offer free access to basic networking features. Paid tiers provide extra capabilities like more profile visibility, unlimited messaging, seeing full profiles, etc. LinkedIn Premium is an example.
Q: What’s the best business networking site for small businesses?
A: LinkedIn and Eventbrite are great options for small biz owners due to their large user base and focus on lead generation or events. Meetup also helps connect with local professionals.
Q: How do I maximize my profile on these sites?
A: Have a professional headshot, detailed expertise/bio, recommendations, published content, and complete work experience. This builds credibility.
Q: Is cold outreach effective on these platforms?
A: It can be, but personalizing requests and leveraging existing connections is best. Reference shared groups or interests.
Business Networking Sites: Summary
You’ve heard the phrase, “It’s not what you know. It’s who you know.” This is the cornerstone of having a successful business. Business networking is the process by which you gain connections within the industry.
It gives you the edge over your competitors, and it allows you to predict changes in market trends. The whole idea of networking is built on the idea of common benefits between businesses.
Networking is not only useful for gaining information, but a person may also be able to find a job through his network. Similarly, a business owner may be able to find investors through his contacts.
This makes networking an essential skill for any entrepreneur, and we have provided you with some websites that should simplify your networking process. Several of those sites will provide you with new business contacts with whom you will share a common interest.
When your business needs to fill a vacancy, you will find that being established on these business social networks will help create exposure for your available job.
This is why it is a good idea to set up your online presence on these networking sites before you need them.