Now that face-to-face meetings, physical events, and conferences are suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are far fewer personal opportunities to meet others and expand your professional network.
Thanks to the technology – video conferencing in particular – marketers have of course been able to stay in touch with colleagues and customers without having to physically meet. However, there is no doubt that digital delays and distortions affect our ability to read nonverbal and social cues.
This is not that big of a problem with contacts already made, but it is problematic for people who want to expand their professional network outside of immediate connections.
While it is entirely possible to build a strong bond without being in the same room as the other person, we need to learn new skills to achieve good professional network results while using online alternatives. The first port of call for most is LinkedIn, but there are a growing number of other digital opportunities that can be just as effective for connecting with like-minded people, sharing knowledge, and demonstrating your skills and experience.
The pros and cons of LinkedIn
LinkedIn is the largest professional networking site in the world, but it’s not always the best place to make meaningful professional connections. According to a recent survey, many LinkedIn experts say that few of their connections are actually useful.
LinkedIn has evolved since its debut in 2002. Similar to other social media websites, LinkedIn’s algorithms now determine what users see. This often results in a feed dominated by sponsored content, humble tags, and posts from the same little connection bubble.
There are still tactics that can help you network successfully on LinkedIn. The hashtags feature is a great way to see what people are talking about and a great way to join discussions. Tagging contacts selectively and carefully on posts and articles can be a great way to create new connections. Engaging with people on content that you or she wrote about or shared their thoughts can also be a great conversation starter.
After all, it is crucial to keep your profile current and up to date. Don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations and recommendations on your skills to improve your credentials.
However, LinkedIn is just a professional networking area. There are many other ways to build a professional brand and connect with others without physical meetings.
Online profiles and portfolio sites
It’s easy to forget that a prospect can just paste your name on a search engine and see what happens before they decide to start a discussion with you. There is a big difference between the way we present ourselves professionally and how we interact with our close friends on the internet.
Many of us could spend a few precious minutes doing a personal brand reputation audit. Don’t let contacts come across something that could negatively affect their first impression of you. Google your name and remove or restrict access to anything you wouldn’t share in a professional setting. Make sure Personal Accounts are set to Private and refer people to professional accounts in your About Me or Bio sections instead.
You may have signed up and profiled many platforms and tools in one working capacity, but you haven’t thought about managing them. Be consistent across websites – use the same or similar wording, topics, hashtags, and image – to create a strong professional brand.
If you’re looking to make a real impact, a portfolio site like Muck Rack for content marketers, Behance for designers and creatives, or about.me for marketers gives you a single space to pull together all of the projects you’ve worked on on. If you’ve contributed to industry websites or spoken at events, include these links to showcase your skills and expertise in each field.
Groups, meetups and virtual events
Until March 2020, meetups, events and conferences offered many opportunities to build professional networks. Since then, video conferencing platforms like Zoom, collaboration tools like Slack, and consumer messaging apps like WhatsApp have grown exponentially as professionals look for new ways to stay connected.
Video conferencing platforms are great for keeping in touch with teams and clients by making sure you don’t lose the personal connection you get by seeing each other. Virtual event organizers are still facing the challenges that come with the shift to all online users, especially when it comes to meeting the expectations of those who regularly attend live events. Smaller, more intimate meetings and events only by invitation, such as virtual roundtables, however, offer the opportunity to initiate discussions with valuable contacts in your industry.
Even breakfast and lunch meetings have been replaced by digital alternatives. Some companies offer online grocery delivery as an incentive to attend. And if you’re looking for something a little more informal, there are plenty of meetups or post-work Om Nomi among the formal and informal member groups where you can share the drink of your choice via semi-professional video chat.
If you’re not interested in video conferencing options, professional networking with private messaging groups is a growing trend while physical meetups remain difficult. While these groups can be difficult to join, it’s worth keeping an eye out for invitations and connecting with those who are already members to see if they can introduce you. And if you can’t find one, reach out to contacts and influencers to start your own group.
Forums, communities, and Q&A sites
Forums, communities, and Q&A sites are great places to share knowledge and get advice. They also provide a way to network in more meaningful ways, as members don’t have to shout out loud or use engagement bait to hit an algorithmic feed.
Being an active member of community forums over time builds trust. They are perfect environments to build relationships with. Those who help others build their profiles are often also rewarded in part by the website the content is on, increasing professional praise and credentials.
If you work in search engine optimization (SEO) you probably know the Moz Q&A forum. It’s a perfect example of a community that rewards you for being helpful. Paid search marketers can follow #PPCchat on Twitter to join the conversation. If you are a Google Analytics professional, helping others in the help community is a fantastic way to showcase your expertise.
Many communities have measures in place to prevent spam. They may only allow members who have a certain level of expertise, trust, or influence to start a conversation, post comments, or link to external sources. Others will be moderated and will delete posts or impose a ban if the posted content is found to be overly promotional or otherwise inappropriate. Another way to ensure the integrity of communities is to set them up by invitation only. A verification process is set up to verify the applicant’s credentials.
As you strive to join more exclusive communities, invest the time and effort in making regular contributions. Give to get. Lurkers are rarely loved.
Unleash the niche
If you’re still not sure where to start networking online, one of the easiest ways is professional, trade, and membership organizations. Many have both national opportunities and local groups that have gone online in some way.
Every industry has had different experiences during the pandemic. For this reason, it can be of great benefit to find niche networking groups for a specific sector or challenge. These can be groups focused on diversity or best practices in your industry. Groups for a specific seniority, e.g. B. Marketing directors or marketers working in FTSE 100 companies; or even agency owners.
Regardless of whether you want to network by industry, seniority, or specialization, it’s always beneficial to be with like-minded people who “get” you and have great camaraderie with.
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It’s unlikely we will be able to meet in person for much longer, but networking with key contacts and building your personal brand in the digital world can be just as effective, if done right, and can lay a solid foundation for our digital connections in real life Fulfill life.
In the meantime, although networking spaces are changing, one important truth remains: like friendship, a professional relationship requires constant nurturing and more “giving” than “receiving”. It may reveal some of your weaknesses, but it also gives you the many rewards that strong personal bonds offer.
And as with any relationship, the more effort you put in, the more you will benefit from it.