Let's face it. As an entrepreneur or small business owner, networking isn't always at the top of the to-do list. Between meetings, calls, and other daily essentials, it can feel like a drain.

And yet,  networking is a critical aspect to business success and career advancement. But it's not enough to simply collect business cards. You must be intentional in your outreach, and that's where social media comes in.

The steps below will help you break down barriers and create connections that last.

1. Create an outreach campaign on LinkedIn.

Start by using LinkedIn to find like-minded peers, possible customers, and powerful connections. Search by keyword (this could be industry or niche topic) and begin to work through that list.

Pick 5 people per day that you'll reach out to, but don't do this haphazardly. Instead, be specific and personalize your message.

When they accept your request, immediately send another message. And no, this isn't a spammy, "hey, buy my course or product," type of message. It's helpful and creates reciprocity.

Here's what that looks like, "I'm always eager to help people connect with other like-minded individuals. Is there anyone in particular that you're looking to connect with? I'd be happy to make that introduction!"

See how you've immediately set the tone as beneficial to their network?

Now, before you begin, here's one important caveat: Always ask the requested connection if it's okay to make that introduction. No wants to feel obliged to respond. Honor others time and the reason you've connected in the first place.

2. Use Twitter Advanced Search.

With Twitter Advanced Search, you can dig into keywords or terms used by those you want to connect with. For example, if you're a food blogger focused on healthy chicken meals, you might type in "healthy chicken recipes." Once you hit enter, you'll see a list of global conversations around those words.

Review that stream and the engagement for each tweet. Take a look at how many people commented, shared, or interacted with the person and their content. Write down 5 people you'd like to follow and begin to add them to a list. Twitter Lists are an easy way to stay involved in the conversation on a daily basis.

3. Tune into Facebook Audience Insights.

All great relationships begin with a common interest. To find like-minded individuals, head over to Facebook Audience Insights. This is inside your Facebook Page drop down menu. What you're researching is the demographics, likes, and needs of your perfect audience.

Let's say you're a dog groomer and you want to connect with area vets, breeders, and pet supply stores. You can search based on demographics, income, location, or by competitor pages. You can also include their specific interests like "dogs" or "cat lovers."

Your goal is to find a handful of pages every day and begin your personalized outreach.

4. Hack your hashtags.

Hashtags are one of the best ways to reach a completely new audience about your product or service. But not every hashtag will get you results, you have to be strategic.

A tool like Hashtagify will show you the top 10 related hashtags. As someone that helps entrepreneurs build their personal brand, I could search "personal brand." I'm now shown the top 10 related hashtags and their popularity.

Think about the 3-5 most relevant hashtags for your business. Now research each one and write down an extra 5 hashtags that will help you reach a larger, but targeted audience. Once you're done with your search, start using the hashtags in your social posts.

5. Use tools to build your outreach list.

Two of my favorite tools when creating a networking list are Followerwonk and BuzzSumo. With Followerwonk, you can search bios based on your keyword. As you read through their information, add them to your Twitter List.

On BuzzSumo, click on the "Influencers" tab and search by topic, keyword or username. From here, you'll see a list ranked by page authority, domain authority, average engagement, and more.

As an example, if you search "social media," I'm number 7. You can read my bio, connect with me across social media, and add me to a list.

From there, you'll begin to follow relevant people, reach out and say hello or ask a question. In other words, be a human and show that you care.

Because when you take the time to show interest, others will take an interest in you. And that's where the magic of connecting with anyone you want actually begins.

Published on: Oct 19, 2017