Shaper, Alignable, LinkedIn, BNI, Local Chamber of Commerce and What They All Mean
Despite our limited face-to-face interactions, networking is now more important than ever and you need to do what you can to keep your business in the conversation. From swiping to Skyping and everything in between, check out these ways to stay connected during the pandemic.
LinkedIn: Likely the most well-known networking platform, LinkedIn allows you to connect with other professionals, find new employees and generate referrals. Each profile is set up almost as a resume making it easier than ever to expand your team. If you are looking to broaden your professional networking circle, LinkedIn makes it simple with the “People You May Know” feature under the “My Network” tab. This allows you to filter through potential connections of others who perhaps have a similar role in the same city, or to reconnect with former colleagues and college alumnus. As a business, you can create a page for your organization and create engaging content to boost your brand’s identity. With their in-house publishing platform, LinkedIn allows you to produce full articles that others in the industry can share, solidifying your brand and establishing your businesses as an expert in the field.
Shapr: Imagine sitting in a coffee shop and a stream of like-minded individuals all enter through the revolving door. Using your phone, you can anonymously say yes or no to having a coffee and connecting with them. That is the premise of Shapr! From new friends with an entrepreneurial spirit to potential mentors and future employees, Shapr provides the opportunity to “swipe” and start a conversation (albeit virtually for now). The algorithm of Shapr channels your interests, location, career experience and any other tags you have included to create roughly 20 potential matches in your desired industry. Shapr is ideal for those wanting the networking opportunities of LinkedIn, with the swiping technology and simplicity of Tinder.
Alignable: Another great way to create meaningful connections and share your brand and specially targeted for small businesses. Alignable is a platform where you can search for other local businesses to join your network, discover local events in your area and ultimately get the conversation started. Alignable is similar to LinkedIn, but on a smaller scale that encourages more communication and collaboration. If you imagine LinkedIn as a packed nightclub in downtown Toronto filled with people from all walks of life, Alignable is a cozy coffee shop in your hometown just 45 minutes outside of Edmonton.
BNI: Are you familiar with BNI, Business Networking International? BNI mandates itself as the world’s leading business referral organization and fosters an online environment for people to expand their businesses and enhance their business skills. BNI allows you to sign up for your local chapter and meet, virtually for now, each week with your chapter members. The assumption is that once you get to know other entrepreneurs and small business owners in the chapter, you will be more likely to refer them. BNI has a Canadian division with over 30 chapters in Edmonton alone. You can attend a chapter meeting twice as a visitor before deciding whether to join the BNI as a member. Not only does BNI provide implicit network and referral opportunities, but local chapters also provide training, structure and even technical support to help set businesses up for success.
Local Chamber of Commerce: When was the last time you were involved in a community event or connected with your local Chamber of Commerce? Aligning yourself with your Chamber of Commerce is a pivotal way of establishing yourself as a leader in your community and creating a trusted image for your brand. Being a member not only provides credibility to your business within the community but gives you a voice in your local government that can potentially help shape the future of business, government and education in your community. Your Chamber can help refer business your way, provide mentorship opportunities (or allow you to be a mentor yourself!) and keep you in the know about any legislative issues that may be affecting your business. If someone in your community calls the local Chamber of Commerce for a business recommendation – ensure that it is your business they are recommending by keeping connected! Many local Chambers are currently offering virtual networking events, mentorship programs and training opportunities, so this is a pandemic-friendly way to get involved.
Covid-19 may have revolutionized the way that we interact, but thanks to the availability of online connections and social media platforms, the networking opportunities for your small business do not have to suffer.
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