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Virtual Networking During COVID and Beyond

You don’t have to be a business owner or marketing professional to benefit from social media.

I landed on virtual networking in June 2020 after it became apparent that all my favorite ways of meeting prospective clients – in-person networking events, coffee meetups, drinks after work and lunch outings – were gone and not returning any time soon.

Virtual networking on LinkedIn helped me still feel productive while navigating the challenges of doing business during a pandemic. I created new relationships, cultivated existing ones, and picked up clients along the way. It’s a tool I’ll continue to use as the country gradually reopens.

It’s a tool you can use, too, even if you aren’t trying to attract clients. LinkedIn is a good place to make connections if you need an insider to give you a heads up about that job opening at your dream company. LinkedIn connections may help your child land that first job after graduating college. Maybe you just want to connect with others in your profession. Regardless of your virtual networking goals, here are some best practices to consider:

Think of virtual networking as a long game

We do business with people we know, like and trust. It’s likely to take longer to reach the “know, like, trust” stage via social media than when networking in person. That’s OK. You may need that person as a client today, but will you need them any less tomorrow? Next month? Next year? Don’t rush the relationship. Let it build organically.

Virtual NetworkingAuthenticity > Automation

Don’t do on social media what you wouldn’t do in person. Few things turn my eyes into coin slots faster than impersonal, automated messages from strangers.

You would never approach a stranger at an in-person networking event and blurt out, “Buy my stuff!” But people do it all the time on social media and expect a positive result.

I know tools that help you filter “mortgage loan officers within 10 miles of me” so you can send a mass message sound like a quick way to reach hundreds of people in one click. But how many thousands of people must you contact to get a few good leads? How many mortgage loan officers blocked you in the process?

I have found that reaching out individually to existing connections has led to more meaningful conversations. That leads to better relationships. I believe those relationships pave the way to eventually converting some of those connections to clients. You cannot automate authenticity, so stop trying.

Connect with a message

When you find someone on LinkedIn with whom you’d like to connect, include a message with that request that explains WHY. It’s an opportunity to introduce yourself and it helps the recipient understand that there’s a human behind the request.

Do you have a friend who already knows the person with whom you’d like to connect? Request a virtual introduction.

Find ways to help

We often only think about what’s in it for us when we use LinkedIn. We need more business, and we look at our connections in terms of who’s most likely to give it to us. It’s time to flip that. Ask yourself how you might be helpful to your connections.

Last year when I learned that 28,000 Disney employees had been laid off, I thought about how challenging job hunting must be when so many professionals are competing for the same pool of job openings. Prior to coming to Allen & Company, I worked in journalism and public relations. I still have connections in those fields, so I reached out to former Disney cast members who had worked in marketing/PR/content development and asked how I could assist in their job search. I reviewed resumes. I made introductions. I shared links to job postings, several of which led to interviews and job offers. It felt great to be helpful.

And you know what? A couple of those people became clients.

Virtual NetworkingDig the well before you’re thirsty

This is one of my favorite sayings from podcaster Jordan Harbinger. Don’t wait until you need something from someone before you reach out to them. It’s just gross – for you and them.

Friends tend to be more helpful than strangers, so put in the work now to cultivate those friendships. Then when the time comes that you need to ask a favor, you’ll feel less icky because you’re asking a friend.

Connect with me

Are you on LinkedIn? I’d love to connect. Follow me here.

May 2021

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