What Are the Benefits of Virtual Networking?
Networking is the process of building connections with people within the business world. Most of the networking in the past has been done face-to-face, with social networking websites like LinkedIn gaining popularity in recent years. Face-to-face networking could include group meetings at breakfast, lunch or after work drinks, speed networking sessions or just making the most of meeting someone at a seminar or event.
People often mistake networking for an opportunity to talk at another person for a few minutes and sell their product or service, but really it is a chance to build relationships that benefit more than just the two people speaking.
The benefits of good networking go further than making a new contact. When done correctly it should give you insights into how businesses are doing, the problems they face and new discoveries that might help you and your colleagues. Through the stories new connections will tell you, you will learn different ways of working or about useful organisations.
The wider the circle of connections you build, the more likely you are to find opportunities for you to help others with your expertise and skills, and benefit from theirs in return. With networking, variety truly is the spice of life and it should be thought of as a long-term investment rather than a quick sell.
Virtual networking is simply conducting networking through internet-based activities instead such as:
- Making connections and having conversation through LinkedIn.
- Joining dedicated networking website communities that are industry or topic specific.
- Joining a networking group on LinkedIn.
- Attending live events virtually through webinars or video calls and following up with the speakers or attendees.
- Following someone on their social platforms and listening/reading/watching their media content then engaging with them about it.
- Joining WhatsApp networking collectives.
- Inviting a few people to a private Q&A or start a Conversation Club.
If you are someone who regularly conducts face-to-face networking, then you might be feeling disconnected or struggling to get the contacts you need to run your business and help others. If you haven’t tried doing any virtual networking, then now is the perfect time to do it. Many live events are being brought online for participants and some video conferencing software have the ability to provide separate face-to-face ‘rooms’ for small groups to network, as well as a central ‘room’ for everyone involved to hear one central speaker.
Even if you haven’t been directly networking, the chances are you’ve been using video calling a lot more and the thought of spending even more time doing it might sound unappealing. However the benefits of staying in touch with the local community are still the same as before and if you think you have “Zoom fatigue” you can read our blog on how to reduce it here.
Virtual networking has evolved incredibly quickly since the Coronavirus forced many of to start working from home. It’s no longer about making sales but about making real, human connections that mutually add value. You are more likely to make meaningful, long-term partnerships with people if you follow these guidelines:
- Don’t be pushy, only contact them if you have value to add.
- Make valuable contributions in the community your targets are in, don’t just focus on them.
- Be in it for the long-term.
- Don’t point out the flaws in their business or tell them they need you.
- Showcase your actual expertise to build trust.
- Use their expertise, ask them for advice and information – you might learn something.
- Keep on top of your professional social pages, don’t let them get out of date and update the features and skills regularly.
- Send people you know genuine happy birthday and work anniversary congratulations on LinkedIn but don’t use the automatic greetings, personalise it and be authentic and sincere.
- Help people for free because you’re knowledgeable and a nice person, not because you want their business.
- Ask for recommendations from your clients – aim for a new one each month.
- Keep in contact with your past users, don’t ignore them until you need something.
And lastly, if you are looking at this list and thinking “oh jeez I miss the good old ‘shove a business card in their hand and talk at them’ way” then keep improving your skills. Do some LinkedIn tutorials, video calling confidence workshops and ask someone you know who is good at this, for help. You never know, you might make some meaningful connections with people who are in the same boat as you.