In-person networking at conferences isn't possible anymore, at least for a while. Online networks, though, are thriving. Here's how to join in...
Covid-19 is having a dramatic effect on business. Large conferences all over the globe have been cancelled.
It seemed shocking in late February when Shopify Unite was cancelled. But now—just a few weeks later—we are coming to terms with our new reality, which has upended our living and working arrangements, at least for a while.
You'll likely agree that conferences are never about the presentations, really. Conferences are about the community. Shopify Unite was one of the few places where you could meet other people who, just like you, lived and breathed Shopify. It was about collaboration and synergy. It was how we kept our finger on the pulse of the ecommerce industry, and how we grew our businesses and our networks.
Due to the new era of social distancing for the next little while we're all going to have to cope without offline, IRL conferences. Let's not let this ruin our community spirit and instead utilize the power of online networking. Community spirit is more crucial now than ever.
Don't hunker down alone.
I'm going to propose three ways to grow your Shopify Partner business and expand your professional network in a world without offline conferences:
- Deepen relationships within your existing network.
- Join and participate in Shopify-specific social media and online communities.
- Attend or present at online conferences or host your own online events.
Deepen Relationships Within Your Existing Network
At its core, networking means building relationships. And yes, broadening your network, without the benefit of conferences, is difficult. So instead of going wider, go deeper.
Reach out with a personal note to people in your network with whom you haven't connected with in a while. Send them a resource or a link you know they'll find useful. Or just check in to see how they're doing in this new era of social distancing. Stay top of mind in a friendly, open-ended and open-minded way.
Or go virtual. Another way to go deeper is to start holding "office hours." Send out a Calendly scheduling link to your network to make yourself available for one-on-one chats. Meeting face-to-face, even over video, instantly improves the know, like, and trust factor.
A Zoom call with a coffee in hand is almost as good as meeting someone in person at your local coffee shop. With the world changing so quickly, everyone is doing a lot of processing, pivoting, and planning. There's a lot to discuss. Brainstorming one-on-one with people in the Shopify community can help you weather the storm.
Join and Participate in Shopify-Specific Online Communities
Without the benefit of the "hallway track" at Shopify Unite, we're all going to have to get better at online networking. If you've been putting off updating and optimizing your social media profiles, get on it — stat.
Optimize your Facebook profile to make it easy for anyone browsing your profile to instantly understand who you are and what you do.
Make sure your profile picture and cover image are on-brand and professional. And don’t forget to regularly check your "other" folder and friend requests so you don't miss out on any leads.
As B2B businesses, Shopify Partners should consider leveraging LinkedIn. This platform is literally built for online networking. It also happens to be, right now, one of the most generous platforms when it comes to organic reach.
You can go beyond using your LinkedIn profile as an online resume. LinkedIn is an incredibly powerful sales funnel, too. You can rewrite and redesign your profile and turn it into a conversion machine.
By doing so, you are more likely to attract and encourage your profile browsers to get in touch with you.
Additionally, just like with in-person networking, your existing LinkedIn network will be the key to expanding your network. If there's someone on LinkedIn you'd like to meet, it's entirely appropriate to ask for an e-introduction if you have a connection in common.
Join These Shopify Online Communities
With Shopify conferences cancelled, online Shopify groups are the new public square.
Online networking is efficient, effective, and easy … and you can do it in your pajamas.
You need to be where your customers are. And your customers are now online more than ever before.
Below are some of the best groups where Shopify Partners can find their people.
- Collaboration-focused slack community for Shopify and Shopify Plus partners
- 130+ members
Shopify Partners, hosted by Shopify
- Free Facebook group, must be a Shopify Partner to join
- 8,000+ members
Partner-Merchant Blended Groups
Shopify Entrepreneurs, hosted by Hey Carson
- Free Facebook group, must be a Shopify Partner or own a Shopify store owner to join
- 100K+ members
- Great place to connect with potential clients
Roadmap to 50K on Shopify, hosted by Social Sales Girls
- Free Facebook Group for Shopify store owners and Shopify Partners
- 12,000+ members
All of these groups are well moderated and have strict anti-spam policies. As always, read the rules before you post.
Here’s the secret to online networking success: lead with value. Don’t just post a link and run. Engage thoughtfully and be generous with your knowledge and expertise. Don’t tell the world you’re a rockstar, be a rockstar.
Be a social butterfly, too. If you know the perfect person to answer someone’s question, tag your expert friend along with an introduction. You'll find that Shopify business owners and other Shopify partners will soon start to regard you as the expert that you are, and the connections will start rolling in.
It would be rude to eavesdrop on other people’s conversations at a conference. Not so online! Never forget that every conversation you have in an online group is public. Of course it behooves all of us to be on our best behavior online, but it also means that the rewards for meaningful contributions to the community are amplified.
You never know who else will read your post, notice you, and then get in touch. So be consistent.
Online Conferences and Meetups
Perhaps the most obvious replacement for in-person conferences is online conferences.
Online conferences remain the best way to stay current on industry trends, which is crucial in a time when customers' shopping habits are changing so quickly.
Submitting a proposal to present at an online conference is a great way to become better known among your peers and to position yourself as an expert.
One real benefit to online events, unlike offline ones, is that they can be short and sweet. You don't have to organize a whole conference to get results and expand your network. A powerful way to do online networking—and provide real value to the Shopify community—is to organize an online meetup or roundtable around a specific topic.
Go beyond webinar-style presentations. Small group discussions get people interacting with one another, and good ideas flow from this kind of collaboration. Smaller, invitation-based meetups are perfect for introducing people in your network to one another, which creates dynamic conditions for business growth … for everyone.
It's a strange new world we're living in, and everyone is still trying to find their footing and make sense of what all of this means for our families, our communities, and our businesses.
The Shopify community has always been global. Now's the time for us to work together to make the various venues where Shopify business owners and Shopify partners meet up online to be as encouraging, positive, and as productive as we can make them.
We're all in this together. Let's do this!
Content, information, and ideas contributed by:
- Ben Murray, Media Carry: a Shopify Agency focusing on growing enterprise brands.
- Derric Haynie, Ecommerce Tech: Helping connect Ecommerce merchants with the right Ecommerce tech solutions.
- Vanhishikha Bhargava: a B2B SaaS Content Marketer who works with Shopify apps to help them establish their digital presence and grow their user base.