This photo was taken in Atlanta, and I can name every single person in that photo. While it was an offline meet-up, those same people are part of my Private Brainstorming Group that I interact with online on a daily basis.
The various groups and communities that I participate in, both offline and online, have been invaluable to my business growth over the years.
You want to be picky about how you spend your time though, where you spend it, and more importantly: WHO you spend it with. Both offline AND online...
It's important to surround yourself with people who are actively working online. People who are "in the trenches" and learning by trial and error, by testing and tweaking, who are true action takers.
Avoid people who are just talking theory, or just teaching but not actually doing.
There are plenty of groups to choose from. You just have to check them out, pay attention, do a little research even to make sure you're in a place where you can both learn and contribute in ways that make a real difference.
You'll find online groups and communities, as well as offline events and meetups. Look for local groups offline too, as these will give you more opportunities for in-person connections. I was actually surprised at how many people I discovered in my area that are blogging and/or working online. And I bet you will be too!
These groups and communities, and even individuals you meet, can prove invaluable to your business and to your learning & growth as you continue building a business on the constantly evolving web.
Not only can you share ideas, brainstorm ideas, learn about methods & strategies people are testing with good results, get feedback and suggestions, etc... but you'll likely learn far more in shorter time than studying "courses" or "training programs" online. And as I've mentioned before, so much of that is quickly outdated. Or perhaps not even relevant to your business, or to where you are in your business right now.
Start with smaller events like book signings and book parties for authors you enjoy. Also look up free local events like Podcamp, Wordcamp, Barcamp or the Social Media Club events in your area. There are SMC chapters all over the world.
Smaller events give you the opportunity to get to know the speakers, leaders and attendees better. You can find more local events and meetups on MeetUp.com or search Facebook & Google for interesting events and groups that are meeting up in your area.
If you're an intermediate to advanced blogger, you should keep an eye on the calendar at Blogging Concentrated. These are small, local one-day events you can attend without travel expenses.
Meetup.com is also a great place to start your own local events in your niche. In addition to your online marketing and networking, consider how you can expand that offline - and locally!
I'm an introvert and actually prefer staying home, but I've made a big effort the last few years to get out more to some of the local meetups and events. It's a lot of fun to meet & hang out with others who are enthusiastic about similar topics!
There are many ways it can benefit (and grow) your business as well. We had a great discussion about this on Facebook recently, and you can join in on that here:
Do you attend, or even host, local events in your area? If not, that's definitely something you should add to your 2014 objectives! Like I said, meeting other locals in my area has been very beneficial for me personally - and for my business.
Not only have I met some interesting people and made some great friends, and formed profitable business alliances, I've also found great accountability partners to work with - both locally and virtually. There's nothing like brainstorming in person at a local coffee shop with another like-minded entrepreneur!
That said, you really do want to pick your groups & events, and even your associations, wisely. The right groups will inspire and motivate you, and you'll constantly learn things that are actually working online.
The wrong groups will confuse and frustrate you, and could potentially lead you down the wrong path with your business - especially if they're just spouting theory and rehashed outdated information. OR if it's simply not relevant to your business specifically, or to where you are in your business right now.
Invest the time to choose groups that suit you best. It's your business and it's your time, so learn to say "no" or to slip out quietly, and spend more time where you'll get the most out of being involved.
p.s. Of course I'm partial to my own private brainstorming group, and would love for you to join us there! It may or may not be a good match for you, but there have been very few people who haven't absolutely loved it. Some of them have stuck around for 10+ years even!