12 Ways to Network Authentically

Successful entrepreneurs understand that in order to do well, they can’t go it alone. Networking is a key part of not only reaching new audiences and gaining referrals, but it’s also beneficial for building relationships and combining forces/talents. I’ve learned that one of the most fundamental ways to truly connect with other industry professionals is to demonstrate authenticity. 

Here are 12 ways that you can genuinely network with others in business. 

12 Ways to Network Authentically - Elle & Company

1. Partner together for a giveaway

Giveaways are a great way to  pool audiences and gain new followers, but they’re also a great reason to reach out and network in the first place. This could take many shapes and forms from a giveaway for the launch of your new brand or website to a loop giveaway on Instagram. Whether you go about it on your blog or over social media, this could be a great opportunity to meet other people in your industry and say hello to some peers that you’ve been following along with.

2. Ask for or feature a product review

Do you have a product that you’re trying to sell? Reach out to other business owners who share your ideal audience and send them your product in return for a review on their blog or a post on their social media accounts. Not only is it a great way to introduce your offerings to other entrepreneurs, but it gives you an excuse to get the conversation started. It also helps that everyone loves free stuff. 

When I first started Elle & Company in January 2014, I sold a planner that I called the Daybook. In order to spread the word and make connections, I reached out to a handful of my favorite bloggers and business owners and offered them a free Daybook in exchange for a product review on their blog or a post on their social media accounts. Among those bloggers was Michaela from Michaela Noelle Designs, and she generously took me up on the offer. Since then, I’ve partnered with Michaela in several ways, from the design of our Suite to rebranding the workshop that she co-founded. We’ve become great friends and I’m actually writing this blog post from her apartment in Grand Rapids, where I’ve been visiting all week to attend another Bloom Workshop. All because I reached out to her for a product review. You just never know!

3. Guest post

Inviting others in your industry to guest post is another great way to connect. You can do this through a number of ways: a Q&A on your blog, an Instagram takeover for the day, or an expert post on a certain topic on your blog. 

A year ago I featured other creative ladies on my blog in a series I called Coffee Dates. Every Friday I would publish the simple Q&A with photos, and it gave me a reason to reach out to industry leaders that I admired while giving my readers a behind-the-scenes look at their life and business. I gained so many friendships through that series, and I continue to keep in touch with a lot of those ladies to this day.

4. Arrange an in-person coffee date

Speaking of coffee dates, email another entrepreneur in your area and ask to meet up sometime at a coffee shop in town. The best conversation usually comes from face-to-face meetings instead of emails and phone calls, and meeting others in the area is an extra bonus. 

5. Exchange services

This is an idea that benefits everyone involved, especially when you’re just starting your business. Are you a designer in need of photography for your portfolio and website? Contact a photographer and ask them if they would be interested to do an exchange in return for your design services. It’s a win-win and a great reason to reach out to other creatives. 

6. Ask a question

Asking questions is a great way to initiate conversation with another person, and there are many ways that you could go about it. You can ask a question in a blog post, a tweet, a Facebook or Instagram comment, or even an email. While it’s important to be mindful of someone’s time and keep the number of questions small, questions can lead to more conversations and networking opportunities down the road.

7. Extend an invitation

Are you hosting a workshop, conference, or meetup in your area? Personally extend an invitation to people you’ve been hoping to network with. By going out of your way to send a personalized message, they will remember your thoughtful, intentional message even if they aren’t able to attend. 

8. Collaborate

Styled shoots, blogger meetups, and other creative collaborations are a great reason to reach out to others in your field (especially if you have a beneficial end-goal in mind for all parties involved). Whether it’s partnering together for a feature in a large publication (like Andrea, Michaela and I did in with the Suite) or joining forces to come up with a one-of-a-kind offering, collaborations can lead to great networking opportunities.

9. Introduce yourself

When I first started Elle & Company, I shied away from several opportunities to tell others about my business apart from blogging and social media. But in-person introductions can go a much longer way than reaching out over the internet can. Start to look for opportunities to personally introduce yourself to others and tell them about your business. It might be awkward at first, but the more you do it the more opportunities you’ll come across. 

I was having a workday at Starbucks a few months ago when I overheard two photographers having a mentor session at the table beside me. Although it was a little awkward, I approached their table as they were wrapping up and introduced myself. We exchanged cards and both women emailed me the next day, one asking to keep in touch for design work and the other asking me to meet up again for coffee. Again, you never know!

10. Attend a workshop, conference, or meetup

While workshops and conferences are a great way to continue your education and learn more about your field, they’re an even greater networking opportunity. Bring a lot of business cards, introduce yourself to others, and stay in contact with your new acquaintances long after the event is over. 

11. Join a Facebook group

Facebook groups are another great way to meet others with similar interests who are in similar industries. This is an networking option that I’m not quite as familiar with and would love to learn more about, so leave a comment below with some of your favorite Facebook groups that you’re a part of. I know some of my other readers would love to read your feedback, too!

12. Jump in on a Twitter chat

I’m ending the list with one of my favorites. When I began the #ellechat a few months ago, I didn’t fully understand what an excellent opportunity it would be for everyone involved to network. Not only is everyone sharing helpful feedback on a weekly basis, but they’re getting to know each other better and many have collaborated and kept in touch as a result. If you haven’t joined in our Twitter chat yet, mark your calendar for next Thursday, May 14th at 8pm EST (we’ll be discussing authentic networking!). 

Many of these ideas are geared toward giving you a reason to reach out to others and connect, which is why they seem more authentic and genuine. It’s always important to think of the other person and the value that you could bring to them when you reach out instead of only thinking of how you could benefit. Put yourself out there and get out of your comfort zone; you never know which new friends and awesome opportunities are right around the corner.