People may be returning to work but the reality is that many remote practices will stay in place for the foreseeable future, even in a post COVID-19 world. A lot of companies will be working with a hybrid model, with some employees working from home while others are in the office. This means that many of the networking practices that we’re used to are probably going to shift into some sort of hybrid situation as well. It might seem daunting to network virtually but there are a few practices that can make networking in this way not only easier, but actually work in a way that can strengthen your professional relationships. Here's what you can do to build stronger connections when networking virtually:
Utilize Your Social Platforms
And I don't just mean LinkedIn (although you should 100% utilize that platform). Have a Twitter account? Use the search features and join in on industry specific chats to connect with people that might be outside of your typical network. Or does one of your favorite company's have an Instagram account? Join in on one of their Instagram lives, be sure to interact throughout the live and take note of anyone else that seem to be actively engaged as well and connect with them afterwards.
Ask to Meet Up (Virtually) for Coffee or Happy Hour
A common way to connect with someone new is to grab coffee together or to meet up for happy hour. Both of these options aren't always possible in a world where people are still practicing social distancing or if you make a connection who doesn't live nearby. But just because you can't meet up in "real" life doesn't mean you can't chat over a beverage. Instead, ask them if they would be up to chat over coffee or a drink via Zoom!
Bring the Conversation to You: Host a Webinar or Start a Blog
Are you having a hard time finding new people to network with? Consider bringing the conversation to you instead. Host a webinar on a subject that you're an expert in or even consider starting your own blog. You can make your schedule your own, posting as frequently as you wish - even if it's only monthly. Drawing in readers and commenters could open the door to new connections within your industry.
Connect with People Through Various Channels
Once you've found a connection that you've clicked professionally with, it's important to connect with them on more than one channel if possible. If you've connected via LinkedIn, ask to exchange email addresses or if you both have industry Twitter accounts, give each other a follow. The more platforms you're mutually connected on, the easier it will be to stay in touch.
Use video for any and all virtual networking events if you can. Face-to-face interaction is so important when it comes to building relationships. There are many benefits of using video over audio with two of them being: more engagement and better communication. When joining a video call be sure to set your computer (or phone) up in a space that has good lighting and minimal distractions when possible.
Check In with Your Network Quarterly
Don't forget to check in on your existing network of connections every quarter or so. It's important to maintain a relationship over time. The last thing you want to do is reach out to someone after not talking to them for years if you need help with something. Sending a quick note every once in awhile of "Hey, hope you're doing well!" or congratulating your connections on new opportunities or milestones will go a long way.
As you can see, there are so many different ways to go about building and strengthening relationships while networking remotely. Not all of the examples above are going to work for every person and every industry, but you should apply the ones that will work best for you to your networking practices whether you’re utilizing one of these examples or all six of them. Good luck out there!