How to grow your business network as an Introvert using Instagram

Instagram

This article originally appeared in The Introvert Effect magazine.

Mention the word ‘networking,’ and from behind the introvert-owned computer screens across the internet you’ll feel the collective groan and shudders hurtling right at you through your wifi.

Us introverted folk, we’re not ones for small talk or the idea of meeting new people for personal gain, are we? And because that’s the general rep’ networking’s earned, the idea of swappin’ business cards is enough to make us want to bunker down under our duvet’s in an introverted cocoon for all eternity, amiright?

Yet making new connections is essential to growing a business. We all know it. And meeting new people? Well I’m not sure about you, but despite what most extraverts might think about introverts, for me, getting to know people is one of the greatest joys of life. Just... one person at a time, not 100, okay?

So recently, when I decided to funnel more energy into making new like-minded connections, I started to think of all the ways I could do it without overwhelming my introverted heart. And I realised one way was literally sitting in the phone at the end of my fingertips: Instagram.

Backstory: In 2015 I packed up my life into a 30kg suitcase, and with my boyfriend Will, moved across the world from Sydney, Australia to London, England. My business’ main service at the time was blog coaching for health coaches, and though I hadn’t intentionally ‘networked’ in Australia, I also hadn’t realised how much of a personal and professional network I actually had on home turf. That is, until I landed in a new country and had to start doing it all from scratch.

At first, ‘networking’ happened unintentionally. The places that made sense to me to make new friends were via Health Coach meetups so I could meet fellow IINers and other health-interested folk. I went to a few blogger meetups and a few wellness events too. But the one thing I struggled with the most was my awkward inability to approach complete strangers in a networking environment and knowing what to say. I’m usually the one hovering in the corner until I lock eyes with another relieved introvert who’s happy to latch on to me and chat the night away with me only. Introvert life, right?

So back to Instagram. After creating an Instagram course, Instagram Tribe, to help business owners connect with and convert their ideal clients via Instagram, I began to realise how powerful Instagram was for not only online connection alone, but also for instigating relationships that can later be taken offline, or maintaining and furthering relationships created in real life.

When you dive into the topic more, you start to realise that online connection via Instagram is powerful stuff, for everyone, but especially for introverts, so below I’m sharing 5 creative ways you can use Instagram to expand upon your introverted superpower of meaningful connections to grow your network, while forgetting about small talk and the awkwardness of striking up a convo with a complete and utter stranger.

Find a new friend via Instagram search

Use Instagram to specifically discover new people doing similar things in your area. I first came across my friend Lauren, from Welltodo Global on Instagram in 2015 before I moved to London from Sydney. After reading through her Instagram posts, I discovered she was a fellow Australian who’d also moved to London and started a business, so I decided to send her an email to see if she’d be interested in catching up for a coffee once we’d landed in Blighty. I didn’t seek out the connection with Lauren to get anything out of it (in fact, I wasn’t running my business for much of 2015 after moving). However, when I started offering personal branding photography in 2016 I did a shoot with her for practice and gave her the photos to use in her business, which worked out really well. Since then, she’s also referred photography clients my way which is a great example of how something so awesome for both of us worked out from a simple connection that started with Instagram.

Strike up a friendship with existing followers

Instagram is a great place to make a new acquaintance. It’s ideal for getting on the radar of entrepreneurial big-dogs who you aspire to meet or to make the first move on your entrepreneurial girl crush. When I moved to London, a few of my now-friends, Ariadne, Yolie and Phoebe contacted me via Instagram to offer themselves up for a coffee catch up when I first arrived.

They were fellow business owners who I hadn’t connected with before, though had found (or been following) my account on Instagram. However because we knew we had mutual interests and they were so kind to reach out, I’ve gained 3 really good friends over here from them reaching out alone.

Connect before an event

When I was 19, I went on a month-long Contiki Tour through Europe (don’t judge, it was what everyone did at the time!) This was when Facebook was in it’s infancy, however I managed to figure out how to create a Facebook group for our tour group, and via the Contiki forum invited all the members on our specific tour to join the Facebook group before we left.

This meant almost all of us who found the group were able to get familiar with each other, put faces to names and even connect via DM with those we had something in common with, which made the whole ordeal of meeting 50 new people and jumping straight on a coach with them a whole lot less daunting to this little introvert.

If you’re an introvert going to an actual IRL event, this trick can really help ease your nerves and is not strictly limited to Instagram alone. Prior to the event, try searching the event hashtag to find other attendees, participate in the Facebook group if there is one, or mention you’re going to the event in your Instagram Stories and ask if anyone else is going. If you find a few people who are going, have a quick chat online before the event, and maybe even arrange to meet one or two people beforehand so you can go in together. This can really help ease the nerves so you don’t feel overwhelmed by going into a room full of people you don’t know. Who knows, you might even spend the night having a D&M with one of your pre-connections if they’re a fellow introvert. Sometimes for an introvert making just one new connection at a networking event and having a meaningful conversation is enough!

Connect after an event

Instagram is like the new business card these days, and instead of exchanging digits, when you meet someone at an event often one of their questions will be ‘What’s your Instagram?’. This means post-event, you have an opportunity to immediately follow up by engaging with your new friend on a few of their posts, and depending on what kind of relationship - if it’s more casual and doesn’t quite call for an email - you can follow up via a DM.

This happened recently when I was invited by my biz bestie Lauren to a casual dinner with some of her fellow business owner friends. We met at Farmacy, a chic vegetarian restaurant in beautiful West London for a meal and some drinks, and I met Lou, Meredith, Alison and Bobbi.

I had to leave early for a show at a jazz bar that had already been arranged beforehand, however as soon as I left I found each of the girls on Instagram, followed them and left a comment on some of their photos to say how much I enjoyed meeting them. This was a dinner completely without the intention to ‘get business,’ however one of the ladies at the dinner has since signed up to attend one of my in-person workshops in London, and I’m so excited to see her again!

Stay in touch via Instagram

Finally, Instagram is the perfect place to stay in touch with and abreast of the happenings of all the people in your life: Peers, friends and clients alike. I always make an effort to comment and like photos of people I’ve met in person or worked with, to keep up a relationship and show my support. This is a great, low-touch way to help nurture your relationships, which helps you stay top of mind for people in your network and also manage your energy so that even in those periods when you simply want to hibernate in your introvert cave, you’re still connected with the people who play an important part in your life and business.

So, while Instagram isn’t the ultimate destination for networking, for Introverts, it’s an ideal tool to use to supplement your efforts and manage your energy. Use it to spark, follow-up and maintain relationships so you can skip the awkward surface-level small-talk (Soooo…. you like, stuff?) and dive straight into the juiciness of connecting with the more meaningful aspects of being a human when you meet in real life, so your introverted heart completely lights up!

 
hayley-signature.png