Small businesses flourish through networking, but putting together events can be daunting and expensive. If your staff consists of just one ambitious person, you, then it's likely you don't have the budget to arrange and host a monthly happy hour, or any other opportunity to mingle face-to-face with potential clients and business associates. What's a budding entrepreneur to do?
Try hosting an event online, using your business's social media page as your venue. Think of it as a Facebook networking party. What are the advantages? It's easy to plan, you'll attract attendees from everywhere (versus your immediate locale) and the best part: it's free! Little Cottage Engagement Marketing Services hosted a Facebook networking party this week and it was a resounding success. I will take you through the process, and you can use these easy steps to host successful Facebook Fan Page Party of your own.
Start by creating an event. Give it a name that is both catchy and relevant. I called mine, "Won't You Be My Neighbor! A Facebook Networking Event." Ask a friend, preferably another small business owner, to host the event with you. Find someone who lives outside of your immediate network. For example, my co-host lives in Pennsylvania and we have none of the same professional acquaintances. This prompts a wider reach and the opportunity for everyone to meet someone new. Next, invite your online business associates. In the invitation, explain the goal and make sure invitees understand this is an all-day, online event.
The text for your invitation could read like this:
"Please join us for an opportunity to grow your network. On Wednesday, we will post a party photo and invitation on our business page. Visit us at [insert your Facebook business page link]. On the day of the party, when you see the party photo and posting on our page, use the comment section to highlight your own business page. Showcase what you do and be sure to include a link. To link to your Facebook page simply place the @ symbol in front of your business page without any spaces, drop down menu will appear and you can select your business page. In the spirit of genuine networking, you are then invited to visit the other pages listed on the comment string. Please note: while you might be interested in liking some pages, you are not obligated to like them all."
That is the gist, but you can tweak your own invitation accordingly. Remind your guests that they can also invite their own contacts. More guests lead to more networking and more visibility for everyone's businesses.
Choose an event photo to accompany the invitation. This should be something that stands out on your page, because your network needs to look for and click on this familiar image. Naturally, my photo featured Mr. Rogers and I overlaid it with information about the event. Post the picture to your Facebook page, and then let attendees know that the party is happening from a post on the event page.
The networking party I coordinated this week was a resounding success. It became a forum for growing businesses to showcase their services and forged channels of communication between entrepreneurs that may have never met otherwise. But it doesn't end there. When your event is complete, be sure to write a personal thank you message to each person who participated. Thank them for their involvement, "like" their page and let them know you are truly interested in learning more about their business.
A growing business needs as much publicity as it can get, without a hefty investment. Getting creative with your social media engagement will help you accomplish this. Involving your entrepreneurial peers will let them know that you're not just an awesome marketer, you're an awesome neighbor too.