Networking as an Entrepreneur in the Military Community
By Jenny Hale, The Military Social Media Guru at jennyhale.com
As a military spouse or veteran entrepreneur, owning a business can offer a sense of independence, freedom, and personal self-accomplishment.
However, the key to success is making sales, providing value to the community you are serving, and marketing your business successfully. While some MilCommunity entrepreneurs have mastered this, others may not have (yet!).
For example, have you ever done any of the following online?
- Built a Facebook page and invited all your personal family and friends to “like” it?
- Started a Twitter account and scheduled out your tweets weeks in advance…and then just let it run because you have 1,000 other tasks to worry about?
- Created a LinkedIn page and connected with everyone you ever knew from high school and college?
If so, you’re missing the point of modern social media usage and the benefits it has for your military-focused business.
The key to modern marketing success as an entrepreneur is networking and building relationships. Below are three ways to network within the military community as an entrepreneur in order to find business success.
1. Use Community Groups
There are so many communities online based on your veteran status, marriage affiliation, service branch, duty station, industry, and more. Tap into these communities on Facebook. Facebook groups are a great way to meet other people interested in what you do for a living, as well as find future clients and customers. If you are a U.S. military spouse or veteran entrepreneur, you can join this group for marketing and social media support.
Twitter lists and Pinterest group boards are just a couple other examples of online groups that you can become involved in as an entrepreneur. These platforms allow you to connect and share content from others who enjoy the same passions you do.
There is also more to networking than just being online. The military community has the ability to find like-minded clients and audiences through spouse groups, children’s programs, and adult-excursions on installations.
There are also many civilian groups available, including MeetUp, local Chamber of Commerce organizations, local business groups, and regional/city entrepreneur events.
The more connected a military community entrepreneur is with their surrounding community, the higher the referral and customer base will become.
2. Use LinkedIn (Correctly!)
LinkedIn is such a powerful tool for those who write career-focused content and want to connect with like-minded professionals. LinkedIn is the networking powerhouse for all things career and business.
However, LinkedIn needs to be used as a way to expand your network, unlike Facebook. The goal of Facebook is to add your friends and family, post, “like” a few things you found amusing, and move on.
LinkedIn is completely different. It is an entirely professional platform to discuss a variety of topics that can include marketing, lead generation, entrepreneurship, careers, job skills, job searching, and more. For me, 50 to 75 percent of my leads and blog views come from LinkedIn. I have connected with a targeted military audience, stayed engaged in both the entrepreneurship and full-time career communities, reached out to everyone I have met, and worked to provide value to others.
As a result, LinkedIn has done wonders for me, but if you’re using it to gain connections, promote yourself, ignore inbox introductions, complain about your job, or start political debates, you’re on the wrong platform and doing nothing to help your brand on the site. Using LinkedIn can be a powerful boost in your business if you use it properly and are in the right niche.
3. Be Social
Social media for business is not about inviting your family and friends to like your content. In most cases, these individuals are NOT your target audience or ideal client. If you want to be successful on social media, you cannot just schedule your blog articles and walk away, post a link on your Facebook page, or add hashtags to an Instagram post and expect a successful venture.
Social media is about being social. This means engaging with your followers, asking questions, generating participation, and sharing content that encourages networking. If you’re using social media to just promote yourself and your business, you’re doing it wrong!
Running a business can be tough and marketing it can be even tougher. It can also be a giant time sucker if you are marketing to your community the wrong way and not reaching the right people. Instead, re-evaluate your marketing goals. Is the way you are currently marketing your business right for your audience? If your content is more about you than your target customer, focus on more relationship-building and networking strategies.
Jenny Hale is a marketing and social media consultant, coach, and teacher for military spouse and veteran business owners. Nicknamed “The Military Social Media Guru,” she uses her background working with military non-profits, corporate companies, the Army, and as an entrepreneur to help others struggling to meet their business dreams. With the goal of bridging the gap between the military community’s marketing efforts to civilians and vice versa, Jenny works to make an entrepreneur’s vision come to life. You can follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Facebook.