Business events and conferences have always been one of the most beneficial means of growing your network.
However, with COVID-19, building networks has been forced almost entirely online. For many, this seems like a daunting task.
We asked eight professionals to share their best tips for networking online without trying too hard.
Their answers may inspire you.
Lead With Authenticity
People are struggling with uncertainty and the last thing they want is to feel like someone is using them for career advancements. When sending a message that is intended for networking, be a person first. Ask how they are doing, ask about their family, their health and then proceed to mention work-related things. People will appreciate a genuine message and be more inclined to stay connected long-term.
Pick Up the Phone
What I’ve found is that it’s actually easier for me to have a conversation with someone over the phone without video than it is with video, so all of my networking efforts over the last few weeks have been focused around phone calls. I believe this is because in video calls you are trying to read the other person’s body language, but you can’t effectively do that over a video call, so the conversation loses the natural flow that a conversation should have.
Sam Williamson, CBDiablo
Add a Note
Write a brief note before making a connection. If you want to connect with a professional on LinkedIn, use the ‘add a note’ section to emphasize how you either met the connection before and worked with them and would like to stay in touch. Or, introduce yourself if you have not met or worked together before and encourage them to connect with you to network together. Taking the time to write a brief note makes all the difference in being able to connect with new and existing contacts.
Join Virtual Events
In the midst of this pandemic, there are so many virtual events hosted by all sorts of organizations that make it easier to stay connected. One way to grow your network online is to join groups. Meetup.com, Facebook and LinkedIn all have groups on a wide variety of topics. Branching out further, all sorts of groups are hosting online events now and they don’t necessarily have to be related to your professional pursuits. You never know if your next meaningful connection could be made at a virtual yoga or book club session.
Send People More Business
An easy networking tip is to forward leads to other business owners in your network when it’s easy to do so. If you see someone asking for a specific set of skills on social media or in person but you don’t offer the service yourself, refer that contact to someone in your network who can help them.
Have a Goal for Every Interaction
When you’re reaching out to new people you need to have a specific goal in mind. The person you’re talking to is much more likely to agree to set aside their time if there’s a specific goal in mind for the interaction. Busy professionals seldom give their time to strangers, unless there is a strong connection, to just meet and talk.
Use Technology to Your Advantage
Use a site like Meetup or an email newsletter to stay on top of virtual events and groups in your area. You could also search for the local Chamber of Commerce or Business Association in your area and see what virtual events they’re holding. Second, use a CMS to help you stay in touch with people. I personally use Cloze and love it. It reminds me when I haven’t talked to someone in a while and lets me organize groups of people, set tasks, and save templates of my most common responses to help me reach out faster.
Post With Honesty
LinkedIn is a space where professionals are flocking to, especially in the midst of the pandemic. Making an honest post geared toward professionals in your field about wanting to connect and help each other is a sure way to start an online community. People from all over can join in and share new ideas, struggles and hardships that they are facing. It is a way to build long-term relationships and open your network to a greater audience.