3 New Ways to Network Your Small Business

Recently, I’ve noticed a couple of interesting details about the e-mails I receive inviting me to connect online.

First off, I’ve been receiving more invitations than usual. Don’t get be wrong; this is just fine by me, but I started to get curious about why the number was growing at such a fast rate.

It was the second detail however, that really caught my eye: I was receiving invitations to connect on 3 sites that I had never heard about before the e-mails arrived.

This may not seem like a big deal, but it’s part of my job to keep up on all the ways a business can use the web. Because of that, I’m always looking at new solutions, tools and methods for marketing and managing a business online.

Given that, this upsurge in new business networking sites made me very curious about the new ways businesses are networking using the web so I decided to spend some time digging into the 3 new sites.

Not LinkedIn

When it comes to business networking online, LinkedIn is at the top of the heap. I am an avid LinkedIn user and have enjoyed seeing how the site has evolved from launch up to now.

Often, new online business networking solutions are “LinkedIn Wannabees”; sites that offer the same functionality and features. Sure some of them focus on smaller regions, specific industries and even other countries, but at the core they are the same solution in a different package.

In this case however, it became immediately clear that each of the 3 new business networking sites were not “LinkedIn Wannabees”. Each one brought something unique and different to the table and below, I’m going to dish on the details.

3 New Business Networking Sites to Try

Branch Out

Out of all three sites, BranchOut is the most like LinkedIn. The primary difference is that BranchOut is actually an app built on top of the Facebook platform and that means it’s completely integrated with everything Facebook.

That integration offers some handy features such as the ability to:

  1. Invite and connect with Facebook friends on a professional level as well;
  2. Post jobs to your company’s Facebook page; and
  3. Easier that LinkedIn search capabilities that allow you to find folks in your network who work at specific companies (handy if you’d like to learn more about, or get a job at, that company).

Bottom-line: BranchOut allows you to leverage your personal connections in a professional way, opening up a huge world of opportunities.

Referral Key

With Referral Key, you get just what the name promises: a platform for sending and receiving referrals to and from your professional network.

One of the cooler features on this site is the ability to reward referrers for successful referrals. You set up your reward in your profile and then, when a successful referral occurs, you click the “Reward” button. After that, your referrer can select a reward from the options you choose to offer. Best of all, it’s all hands-off once it’s set up.

There’s also a handy search feature here that allows you to find professionals with many types of expertise. You can even use this to grow your local network by searching locally and connecting online.

Bottom-line: Referral Key is a focused system that greatly facilitates the time-honored tradition of giving, and receiving, referrals.


Commonred is a young offering with a very interesting take on, and some really cool ideas for, business networking.

To start with, they take “common” to heart, offering you tons of data points you can enter in order to find people with whom you have something in common. Nothing is off the plate here with spots to record things such as companies where you’ve worked, places where you’ve lived, your favorite sports teams and even your hobbies and personal preferences.

With all that data, it’s easy, and fun, to search for other like-minded professionals. However, the data they collect is more than just functional; it forms the basis for starting conversations and building relationships both on and offline. In other words, it’s an “ice-breaker” and a pretty powerful one at that.

Two other interesting features of Commonred are:

  1. Board of Directors — you can create a board of directors out of those people who “have your back”. These are folks who advise you, refer business to you and more. You can also be a member of a board for someone else. Though loosely structured right now, this can become a solid system for the mentoring that many business folks crave.
  2. “Get a Meeting With” Contests — on a regular basis, Commonred holds a contest where the winner gets a meeting with industry bigwigs. To win, you need to enter the reasons why you specifically should get that meeting and then all members can vote on the entries. The entry with the most votes wins.

Bottom-line: Commonred is just ramping-up, but there is a lot of potential there for robust community building, practical mentoring and business networking. It needs to grow so give it a shot and invite your friends.

Matt Mansfield is the Head Tour Guide at Matt About Business where he helps entrepreneurs and Fortune 500

companies figure out what their business SHOULD be doing online. From providing global leadership as the head of e-business for a $1 billion manufacturer to designing the functionality and look-and-feel of an award-winning online student-learning environment, Matt has mastered the art of using the web to manage and market a business by connecting online strategies and tactics with real-world results.



  1. says

    Hi Melinda,

    My name is Ali and I am BranchOut’s Community Manager. I just wanted to say hello, and thank you for using BranchOut and sharing a bit about your experience to the “Succeed As Your Own Boss” world.

    If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out! I’d love to be a resource for you.



  2. says


    Thank you for the great suggestions.
    I have another one.. SNB Connection.

    Social Networking Business Connection is business owners and professionals who are active on social media and promote the businesses of the other members using social media by liking, sharing, posting, and promoting each other virtually!

    It’s all the things you do want to grow your business smarter without the demands, stress and things you don’t like about traditional business networking and referral groups!

    This is the website: http://www.snbconnection.com

    Malanya Monette

  3. says

    Thanks for sharing these tips, Melinda. I’m vaguely familiar with Branchout. I’ll have to look into getting more involved with it. Referral Key & Commonred, I’ve never heard of before. Glad I read this post because I know that it’s the people who get to something first that will be the ones who take advantage of it before others catch up.

    You’re right….it’s always a great idea to keep your ear to the ground for new ways to network online to build your small business.


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