Online or virtual networking is a lot like networking in person, it requires time and dedication for it to be successful. As we operate in the shut-in economy, with working-from-home as the new norm, 24 Seven’s talent recruitment team wanted to share the best practices for virtual networking so you can continue to make connections while staying inside.
Start with a List
When was the last time you sat down and thought about who you know, who you’d like to know, or who you’d like to know better? Start by making a list of people – former colleagues, university alumni, friends of friends, who you’d like to include in your virtual networking strategy. Some of these people will be easy for you to reach and connect with, others might take a bit more time. Notate the industry each one works in and whether or not you have their contact information. To keep track of everyone on your list, a simple spreadsheet or google doc will help you stay organized and not lose track of people.
Social Media is Your Friend
Now that you have your list, it’s time to hit social media. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not enough to add a few new connections on LinkedIn or friends on Facebook and call it a day. Developing meaningful relationships that could potentially help you in your career will take time. Start with the list you made earlier and do your research to determine which platform you’ll use to reach out. Once you’ve made connections start a conversation, either checking in or sharing a piece of relevant industry news. If you don’t feel comfortable reaching out right away, see if the person has made a post recently that you can like or comment on. The idea is to stay in front of people and then take the opportunity to start a conversation when it feels right. When it comes to LinkedIn, the platform gives you the opportunity to have a public or private profile. For the purposes of networking our talent recruitment team recommends public, this allows you to be searchable and people can see when you look at their profiles. If you’ll be using Facebook and Instagram to grow your professional network, audit your profiles to make sure they’re appropriate and network ready.
Time to Put on Your Writer’s Hat
If you have some downtime and are looking to make more connections in your industry or field, 24 Seven recommends publishing some of your own content. Choose a topic, whether you want to focus on a recent trend or new piece of technology and come up with your spin. Once you have something ready to go that is authentic and adds value (and has been proofread), you can publish it to LinkedIn or your blog if you have one. From here you can share your article to social media or email it to the connections on your list from earlier. Everyone is looking for information and content especially right now, by creating your own thought leadership you’ll provide value and a unique point of view. Sharing your opinion will help people get to know you better and feel more connected.
Another way to grow your network online is by joining groups. LinkedIn, Facebook and Meetup have thousands of groups focused on a wide array of topics. Once you’re in, it’s time to join the conversation. Whether you share an article you read or the one you wrote, or comment on someone else’s content, you’ll want to engage and make your presence known. Groups are also great way to stay up on industry news and gain a new perspective. The 24 Seven talent recruitment team highly recommends joining groups that interest you and have the potential to further your career.
Better Yourself and be a Better Connection
A great way to keep yourself motivated while you build your network online is to attend an industry webinar. Attending a webinar will add to your knowledge base and skillset as well as elevate your personal brand. Our creative recruitment team also recommends signing up for webinars to learn what trends are emerging in your industry and potentially make new connections in your field. If you attend a really interesting webinar, follow up with a thank you message to the host or consider crafting a recap based on what you learned and sharing it in your networking efforts. These extra steps go a long way in setting you apart as a candidate and a professional contact in your field.
Make a Zoom Date
Now that you have a number of new connections and have started some meaningful conversations, it’s time to ask for a date. We have become big fans of the “Zoom coffee date” at 24 Seven. Virtual meetings, coffee dates, happy hours etc. are great ways to stay in touch with people and develop deeper connections. Busy professionals are likely going to have more free time now given the current quarantine restrictions, so it’s the perfect time to ask. If you have the option, video meetings tend to feel more personal than a phone call so our talent recruitment team recommends going that route.
Offer to be a Mentor
As you’re developing new connections to help you grow professionally, feel confident in doing the same for others. Offer to mentor someone behind you in school or in a more junior position at work. Providing guidance to others will not only feel good, but will also help you process everything you know about your role/industry and may lead you to think of ideas and trends in new ways. Additionally, it’s a great way to improve your leadership skills, which is necessary in every industry and field. Plus you never know who your mentee can introduce you to!
Long Game Strategy
The goal with networking online is to develop relationships that will last, with the hope that one day you may meet in person. Keep these new connections warm by continuing the conversation on email, via phone or by virtual coffee date. Networking takes time, so don’t expect it to happen overnight.
Virtual networking takes practice. By incorporating some of these steps into your weekly routine, you’ll make meaningful connections that could turn into long-lasting relationships. If you’re looking for a new role, check out our creative and digital marketing jobs here.