As any entrepreneur or successful business person would agree, networking is an important part of business growth. Not only will it provide the necessary connections you may need to grow your business, but also the equally important social skills needed.
However, since the pandemic hit social interactions in the business environment had all but disappeared, with a new virtual environment taking its place. The COVID-19 grip on society has since eased and now many individuals are back in the office. But virtual workplaces and virtual interactions are here to stay, making the ability to network over zoom calls, social media and forums essential for growth in today's business world.
So how do we stay on top of our networking ability in “the new world”, where virtual communication is prominent? This blog aims to answer this!
The first tip is to plan. After all, if you do not set a time for something, it probably won’t happen. Not only plan and schedule individual online meetings, re-connections, social media posts and/or workshops, but plan for long-term networking success. What I mean by this is to focus on what you desire to get from networking in the future, whether it’d be more referrals to your business or access to a unique B2B market, and then set your selling points to achieve this goal. Through participation and being intentional, you will see your network grow and goals reached.
Re-connect with People
Many of your most valuable connections may be with people who you have already connected with in the past. Re-igniting past relationships can also lead to new ones, growing your networking reach and introducing opportunities with every new connection. You don’t need much to re-connect with people, just send them a message and ask them how they’re doing. Perhaps suggest grabbing some coffee together to catch up.
To further strengthen relationships and increase business or industry knowledge, why not form study groups with peers? This provides everyone attending a chance to not only get to know each other better but also a forum to share ideas, challenges and opportunities for each member to grow and learn from. By including agenda items and sharing topics, you can also encourage high levels of engagement.
Have a Social Media Presence
Social media is one of the most useful free tools out there for you to connect with other like-minded people and vice versa. So why not utilise it? Make sure that your social media (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram) have up to date profile pictures and texts, and remember that being authentic is crucial to get the most out of these platforms.
If deciding what platform is best for you and your networking goals, consider what ones are most popular among your current connections. Of course, LinkedIn will be a dominant tool for business connections and should be essential for anyone looking to network in the “new world”. By putting yourself out there and liking/following like-minded individuals/pages, customer bases, and industry content, you will expose your reach to endless possible connections.
Prepare for Online Interactions
While this tip sounds obvious, it is still very important. First impressions matter and you should prepare yourself for a virtual meeting as you should for an in-person one, especially if it's a first time meeting. Try to show your authentic self before the serious conversation starts as if you are in a real social interaction. A good way to do this and an important tip itself is to always attend video calls early. This shows your dedication, organisation and will often provide the only opportunity to network, as most people can’t disconnect fast enough after the purpose of the call is over.
The premise of this tip is to become someone that others want to turn to (whether it be for business or personal matters). This will secure you in the centre of many people’s networking chains, the ideal position to be in for new connections. Listening and reaching out to offer guidance and support is all that is required.
Taking it one step further, why not host virtual client and prospect events. You would be surprised how many topics suit a zoom call well, and it would provide you with the opportunity to network with the exact audience you are looking for, whilst being the one at the centre of it all.
My last tip is to remain relevant. This refers to your industry's trends (customers, clients, environment etc.) and making it your duty to stay on top of it all. You will gain many more connections through virtual networking efforts if people see you as someone who knows their stuff.
Social media is a great way to show everyone that you know your industry by posting about it and of course through discussions via zoom calls. Additionally, look for forums specific to your industry and engage with the people there, to not only grow your own knowledge but get exposure to people within the industry or interested in it. Lastly, remaining relevant will increase your ability to be helpful to others immensely, further growing the number of people who turn to you for support and your opportunity to form connections.
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