How Bee Swedish met the Newbie Guide to Sweden
How to create a physical network from your social media contacts
In November 2015, I was an enthusiastic, brave, and terrified entrepreneur, having just launched my business and website Bee Swedish, and still waiting for my business partner Djina to join me. I had just come back from a pregnancy where I was on sick-leave from day one, and some horrible, long and lonely time at home taking care of twins that were born two months early. I had lost in touch with literally everyone I knew.
Setting up a business is a multi-disciplinary practice. On top of that, successful networking is essential. Having been virtually isolated from any social life for almost two years, I was not in the best position to socialise. Not only had I lost in touch with plenty of people that could be useful to me, but I had also lost all sort of social skills necessary to walk up and introduce myself to a stranger.
My experience of networking through social media
One day, I discovered a Twitter account called NewbieGuideToSweden. They were publishing advice on how newcomers could make Sweden their home, something that relates very much to what Bee Swedish is doing. As I considered several of their posts very useful, I re-tweeted them, and it did not take long until we had established a mutual practice of referring to each other. After a few days or weeks, I received a message from one of the founders - Julieta, asking me if we could have lunch. This was the first time someone contacted me - and not the other way around - for questions related to Bee Swedish. And Julieta seemed very serious. Things could not be better, and I accepted the offer right away.
I had a really good time with Julieta, discussing common interests related to our businesses. We finally agreed that I would write blog posts for the theNewbieGuide, and in return, there would be links to the beeswedish.com. An agreement that would help us both. And it did. Although I am no longer able to blog as often as I did a year ago, the collaboration between Bee Swedish and the Newbie Guide has proved very fruitful, and Julieta is probably one of the top 10 people that have contributed to Bee Swedish as it looks like today, and someone that I still meet up with on a regular basis to discuss our business, and ideas for future collaboration.
Running a business is similar to job hunting
I think there is a parallel to draw, for job hunters. Completely new in a country, you lack that base network of people that can introduce you to others, and as a newcomer your confidence is not on top when meeting new people. Looking for work is not that different from running a business; you need to advertise yourself, appear good at what you are doing, and also seem to be someone people would like to hang out with.
In Sweden, where 7-8 jobs out of ten come only through contacts, networking is more important than anything. By using social media wisely, you can expand your relevant network rapidly and with plenty of success. But there are a few things to bear in mind:
- Use your real name when contacting people online. Make sure that this real name is the same in several channels, your newly found contact may want to look you up on LinkedIn for example before answering to your messages.
- Always state your reason for suggesting a meeting. There is nothing that puts me off as much as a vague business proposal suggesting I will make a lot of money.
- Be clear that there will be no strings attached, that your new contact is signing up, so to speak, for one hour of lunch/coffee only. People are terrified, with good reason, for committing themselves to something they do not know the scope of.
- Meet in a public place, for lunch or coffee.
- Follow up within the next two days, thanking the person for their time, and take action according to any potential agreement.
- Never promise anything that you cannot deliver.
- A good agreement is something that will benefit both parts.
- You never know what your contact will generate, or when. It could be another contact, that in turn will be very useful for you. Stay in touch also if they seem to bring you nothing.
- Avoid stalking. People have their lives and work and plenty of things to get done. They will come back to you, eventually, if you have a valid reason to stay in touch.
It takes time. Plenty of time.
If you value your contacts, help them when you can, remember them when relevant, and do not push them too much, they will help you, eventually. But it takes time. For us, on average, and surprisingly consistently, a good contact generates business one year after the initial contact.