Over the past number of years, I’ve seen and felt the value in networking online and in-person networking. There’s nothing quite like meeting new people, striking up a conversation and if you’re based in Ireland, most likely finding a mutual connection. To borrow the words from this viral Ted talk, “every person knows someone that someone else should know.”
Of course, we all know physically meeting people won’t be an option until the vaccine is rolled out, but it’s not all bad news. Thanks to Zoom and social media we have more options than ever before to connect virtually, to help each other and to work smarter, not harder.
Take for example LinkedIn. In December 2020 LinkedIn had over 2 million usersin Ireland, accounting for 47.8% of the entire population! That’s a lot of potential for connecting. If you’re keen to reach even a tiny portion of these users in 2021 I’ve gathered 5 of my top tips for building relationships and networking online.
These are all very doable, whether you’re a social media user already or not, a junior employee or a c-suite executive, an introvert, or an extrovert. Overall, the main thing to remember is to always aim to connect on a real level. “You can’t fake authenticity!” – Mark Schaefer
If you don’t have a strong online presence, my first bit of advice would be to figure out what you are looking to achieve, create a plan (this could be as simple as posting every Tuesday or reconnecting with an old acquaintance weekly) and stick to it!
In the words of renowned author and Organisational Behaviour specialist Herminia Ibarra "networking is a lot like nutrition and fitness: we know what to do, the hard part is making it a top priority."
My 5 online networking tips to help you get started
1. Use social media channels to connect and be open to new platforms
Find the platform that works for you and what networks your connections are on. For example, I find Twitter and LinkedIn very useful. If you already have a profile take today as an opportunity to make sure it’s up to date and complete.
Follow people, connect with them, share content, share your thoughts, share value and build out your presence. All of this will help build your online presence and your personal brand.
2. Join online groups & communities
Most people don’t actually mix at networking events. Instead they stick to their own connections or chat to whoever they arrived with. It can be nerve wracking to approach someone you don’t know, but networking online can make things a bit easier.
One great way to do this is to join relevant groups on social media. I’m a member of many LinkedIn Groups and over the past 9 months I’ve found higher traction and engagement (likes, comments and conversations) than before.
We haven’t been able to meet up for coffees or lunches, so people are now looking to replicate these interactions online. Find groups that are relevant to you and make sure you play an active role. Comment on posts, start conversations and contribute value, this will all help you build traction.
3. Say yes to online events
Once you start joining groups and making connections you’ll start getting invited to online events. Say yes to relevant events and turn your camera on when you’re attending – this will help others make a visual connection and people will start to recognise you.
Connect with other people who attended and send a quick DM (direct message) with your own thoughts or a piece of content you think they’ll find interesting. This will help you build connections and share value. Once they respond, why not suggest a virtual coffee to further develop the connection?
Send a note to the leader of the webinar to tell them about what you found useful too. This is also a great time to share some content they might find interesting. Overall keep interactions soft, the aim is to build relationships not to make a direct sell.
4. Use the network you already have
Nurture the connections you already have, this could be family, friends, people you met travelling, co-workers, former colleagues etc. Ireland is a small country and quite often you are just two degrees of separation from your ideal connection.
Lean into opportunities to leverage your colleague’s connections and ask for introductions where possible. Small thing like this will all help you to work smarter not harder. Remember, help others and they’ll help you too!
5. Use your alumni community on LinkedIn
A great, often untapped, resource is your alumni network. If you went to university or have studied over the past number of years reach out and connect to people you knew during this time but may have lost touch with.
This is a nice gentle way to build your network with likeminded people who are more likely to be interested in the same professionals topics as you.
Overall, when networking online this year remember to be authentic, know what you want to achieve and help others too.
Join platforms and groups, share your expertise and experiences, re connect with old colleagues or alumni, share a piece of content weekly, invite connections to event you think they’ll find interesting, learn from mistakes, and adjust as you go.
Whatever you do, keep at it and trust me you’ll see the benefits!