5 Virtual Networking Tips to Help You Make New Connections
Let’s be honest: not everyone is naturally comfortable with networking. To make matters even more complicated, there are now many different forms of networking, from in-person mixers and industry association meetings to social media, online forums, and even networking chats.
Even if you’re a pro at in-person networking, you may still struggle with virtual networking. In this article, we share tips on how you can grow your professional network online.
1. If You’re Joining a Chat Conversation, Be Proactive
Are you trying out chat networking? You may feel unsure about how to handle this situation, especially if you’ve never joined a chat before. First, be proactive and don’t be afraid to introduce yourself and state your purpose. Since people can’t see you behind your computer screen, you’ll need to make yourself known and be specific in your goals for the networking event.
Be sure you’re using new technology in order to clearly articulate yourself. In particular, run the latest version of your chat software — and test your computer’s microphone and video before the virtual networking session. You may want to have a checklist of additional technical details, such as your IP address and network interface, in case you need to ask for support. If you’re joining a chat while in transit, make sure your data plan can cover your connection — or, if you’re at home using a physical network, make sure it’s functioning properly. You want to control as many of these variables as possible, which will allow you to shine.
2. Complete Your Social Media Profiles
You never know how someone may find you online. Are all your social media profiles (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn) complete and consistent? Do they inspire a favorable first impression?
For example, here are a few tips to optimize your LinkedIn profile to attract recruiters:
- Complete all fields, including samples of your work.
- Use a professional photo (see this list of free photo editing tools if you’re tight on funds).
- Optimize your headline with keywords that are relevant to your desired job function or industry.
- Select a vanity URL that is simple (and doesn’t include a string of numbers).
- Craft a thoughtful, comprehensive, and action-oriented summary.
If you’re not comfortable with social media, you may want to consider hiring a digital branding consultant to help you with your personal brand and point out ways that you can improve your digital presence.
3. Share Your Knowledge
In general, one of the best ways to make new professional connections is to offer something of value, whether that’s your knowledge, experience, or your own professional network. The same applies to digital networking. If you’re a skilled writer with something valuable to share, consider writing blog posts or submitting articles to industry publications. If you enjoy making graphics, put together an infographic that displays research in an easy-to-digest format. Find a way to leverage your specific talents and then be generous.
4. Join Facebook Groups Specific to Your IndustryImage Source]
Not only will joining these groups help you stay up-to-date with industry news and insights, but it will also connect you to other people within your specific industry or niche. The more you participate in these groups, the more you’ll start to recognize the names and faces. Then, you’ll have conversation starters, so one day you can message or email those people – or even have an icebreaker if you happen to run into one of them in real life, like at an internal industry event.
5. Remember That Virtual Networking Shouldn’t Completely Replace In-Person Networking
While virtual networking can be very useful, especially when you want to meet people in new geographical areas, you should remember that virtual networking should never completely replace more traditional networking. Virtual machines can ease and enhance the process; however, there’s a depth of connection when you build relationships in the physical world that can’t be replicated online.
When possible, you should suggest meeting people in person. If you’re traveling to a new city for a conference or a business meeting, make a list of all the virtual contacts you have in the city – and then do your best to set up coffee meetings with each person.
It’s Your Turn!
Level up your professional network by incorporating virtual networking. If you’re beginning to sense that conversations are slipping through the cracks, you can incorporate a lightweight personal CRM tool like FollowUp to be sure you’re staying up to speed with your new connections. Let us know how it’s going in the contacts field below!