The impact of technology developed over the last ten years has been revolutionary. The introduction of the smartphone means people are walking around with a very powerful computer in tow, a device instrumental in creating the global society in which we live. As a result, social networking has ballooned and along with it the number of people in our networks that we will never meet face-to-face. The question is how can we best build professional relationships in the face of virtual networking?
To start, it’s important to remember that networking is not a one-size fits all endeavor and this applies to virtual networking. You need to network in ways that are productive for you. Networking is important despite your age or stage in your career. Opening up your network allows you to tap into opportunities that you won’t know about otherwise.
Top tips on how to best develop and utilize a virtual network:
- Clean-up your digital presence - Before you start to increase your virtual networking activity, be sure your profiles are clean, error-free and present you and your accomplishments professionally. Remember the “Grandma rule”, if you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see it, then don’t post it.
- Be proactive - Follow 5-10 professional contacts you don’t know well, yet. Take note of what platforms that use most often. Look for appropriate opportunities to share their tweets with your followers or answer a question they posted to Linkedin. Take it easy with this process, once every few weeks is great. A stronger network tie won’t happen overnight.
- Provide value - Take the time out to locate valuable information and share it with a loose connection. Share a pertinent news article or video clip from the local news, something to resonate with their business or service...it could be something they would never see if not for you.
- Build a personal brand and draw people to you - Start by sharing an article and commenting on it. Don’t be afraid to utilize technology to write and post an article to LinkedIn. When you are seen as a leader, you will see an increase in the number of people that reach out to you.
- Use virtual networking as an addition to, not a replacement for personal interaction - Yes it is difficult to have a cup of coffee with your contact in the UK, but you can schedule a call or a video conference to discuss industry news. Think about planning your travel to include time for a meeting with a colleague you’ve never met. Give them advance notice and see if you can get on their schedule for coffee. If you are headed to an industry conference, the organizers might supply an attendee list, cross check it with your contacts and make arrangements ahead of time.
To sum up this list - “If there’s a will, there’s a way.” Take time to think about how technology can complement as well as enhance your virtual networking skills and don’t let geography hold you back.