As a businesswoman, it’s very important to have a good support network. You need fellow businesswomen to share experiences and tips with. You need women who are in fields related to yours to ask questions. The sense of community provided by a group of businesswomen can help see you through the tough times.
But finding a group in your area isn’t always practical. Maybe there are networking groups that you could join, but they might meet at times that are not convenient for you. Or if you’re not in a metropolitan area, there may not be any groups that are especially for women in your area. That doesn’t mean that you’re left out in the cold, though.
There are plenty of online communities designed for businesswomen and female entrepreneurs. These communities offer such features as profile pages, forums, chat rooms and classified ads. They give women a place to connect with like-minded women from their own homes and offices.
With all of the online communities for businesswomen out there, it can be tempting to join and participate in them all. But by doing so, you limit your opportunity for meaningful connections. Keeping up with so many different communities takes a lot of time, and there’s little possibility for reward. By finding one or two good communities and sticking with them, you can better reap the benefits they have to offer.
Here are some tips for finding the right online community for you.
* Keep your objectives in mind. If you are looking for referrals, a group that consists completely of women in your field is probably not the best choice for you. That doesn’t mean you can’t join for the opportunity to learn from others in your business, but if referrals are what you want, you may not want to limit yourself.
* Ask colleagues for recommendations. Those who are experienced in online networking often know the best places to do so.
* Take the groups that interest you for a test drive. Many communities offer a free trial, and some are completely free. So if you find one you like, join up and network with the members for a week or so. This will give you a feel for how everything works and how supportive the other members are. If you decide it’s not for you, move on and find something else.
* Read the rules of such communities carefully. Most have restrictions on blatant advertising. While it is rarely banned outright, there is often a designated time or place for it. Disobeying these rules could get you booted, and at the very least it will turn off the other members.
Online networking is a great way to find business partners and generate referrals. Communities designed specifically for women are also valuable sources of business advice, and can result in lasting friendships. Even if you have the opportunity to network locally, networking with fellow businesswomen online offers lots of rewards.