I’ve been in a few discussions lately, regarding online networking. We’ve been discussing the different networking groups and forums available, networking etiquette, and a few other things. For most of us with online businesses, networking is essential to the growth of our businesses. Whether we are networking with other entrepreneurs in our own industry to gain support and share ideas or information, looking for answers to questions or solutions to a particular business problem, gathering information, or looking for new clients, online networking groups like Ryze and LinkedIn has taken networking to a whole new level.
One of the network moderators on Ryze recently asked the members about whether or not they felt online networking was beneficial to their business or a waste of time. For the most part, everyone said that networking was an absolute must in their businesses.
Personally, I network for all of the reasons I noted above. I belong to several online listserves (YahooGroups); two of them, specifically for Virtual Assistants.
Some of the networks, forums and listserves I participate in are:
International Virtual Women’s Chamber of Commerce (IVWCC): Although it says “Women’s” Chamber of Commerce, there are a few men who join us on occasion. The IVWCC has an online Meet & Greet each month, a monthly eRoundtable, and a Virtual Women listserve that is quite active. The IVWCC will launch a new women’s portal at the end of the summer for virtual business women. It will be a place for women to get information on running a virtual business and networking. The IVWCC Meet & Greets are monthly events that I rarely miss. The networking and information exchanged during this 24-hour period (officially starting on the first Thursday of the month at 3:00pm EST, and often continuing into the weekend) is phenomenal. Guests may attend one M&G without joining the IVWCC, and there are several levels of membership to join the group and reap all of the benefits available. Very worthwhile!
Ryze Business Networking: Ryze allows you to have your own page and guest book, much like a web page, and there are individual networks you can join, regarding just about any subject or industry you can imagine. It’s easy to get hooked on Ryze networking, so I’ve narrowed my network participation down to one network for VAs, a couple of marketing networks, and a couple of networks for professional speakers and coaches. You can join as a free member, or upgrade to Gold for extended benefits @ $9.95 a month, and Platinum for a bit more.
I am an active member (and moderator for a couple of discussion areas) of VANF (VA Networking Forum), which is a wonderful forum for VAs at any point in their business. There are established VAs who have many years of business under their belt, as well as VAs who have only been in business a short time, emerging VAs, and those that are just thinking about becoming a VA. The support is great, and it’s probably one of the best networks on the net for VAs or anyone thinking about becoming one.
Digital-Women is a great organization that provides tremendous resources for virtual women in just about every industry. In addition to the resources and information on the Digital-Women website, they have a very active YahooGroup where women from all walks of life and in all types of business industries network with each other for just about every reason you can think of. Alliances are made, friendships are made, products and services are sold, and problems are solved on a daily basis. Ask any DW member, and they will tell you it’s one of their favorite networks.
I’m also a member of LinkedIn and ecademy, but am not active. Mainly, because I don’t really understand the way it all works. I believe that membership in both LinkedIn and eCademy are by invitation only, but I’m not sure.
How do you feel about online networking? Do you find value in joining online networking groups, or forums? Or do you think they are a waste of time? What networking groups and forums do you participate in? How do they help you in your business?
I’d love to hear your comments on whether or not you are an active online networker; and if you are, what are your favorite networks or groups? Do recommend any that I haven’t mentioned? Do you use LinkedIn or ecademy, and if you do, do you find them easy to navigate or confusing like I do?
Let me know what you think!