Written by Higson

Virtual networking: how to successfully build and engage your network

10th May, 2020   •   3 min

“Networking is not about just connecting people. It’s about connecting people with people, people with ideas, and people with opportunities.” — Michele Jennae

Now that we are relying on technology more than ever to communicate with other people, it is especially important to think about how we can grow our networks digitally.

It might seem unappealing to think about ‘networking’ from behind a screen when we are traditionally used to making connections and building rapport in person. However, it’s important to remember that many have built huge networks online.

For example, PewPieDie, a YouTube gamer and comedian who has built a following of 105 million and a net-worth of $30 million. Or Deliciously Ella, who’s vegan food blog went from a personal project in her kitchen, to an instagram following of 1.7 million, to her snacks now being available in coffee shops and supermarkets around the country.

Indeed, virtual networking can have extremely powerful results. We have the opportunity to connect with likeminded people, from all over the world, with no travel time or guilt over those additional carbon emissions.

So how can we do it? Here are four effective approaches to build your virtual network.

1. Increase your LinkedIn activity

In a similar way to other social platforms, LinkedIn usage has surged since we started working remotely. With engagement rising by as much as 55%, this is the perfect time to engage our networks and connect with some of the 575 million users.

Everyone knows how powerful a positive first impression can be, and these first impressions are often being made via our LinkedIn profiles. So we want to make sure our profiles are showing us in the best light. Simple changes can have a huge impact:

  • Is your profile up-to-date, engaging and shows you as an expert?
  • Have you shared posts weekly since the start of the year?
  • Are your posts a mixture of personal and work-based?
  • Have you regularly shared other quality content?
  • Have you re-shared posts from the rest of the team?
  • Have you got upwards of 500 followers?
  • Have you commented on and liked other posts recently?
  • Have you received any recommendations or endorsements?

Posting regular valuable content is also a brilliant way to give off a proactive impression as well as reengaging those already in your network.

Investing in this now will allow us to continue to reap the benefits well into the future.

2. Single people out after webinars

Webinars, as well as a way to increase knowledge, are also a fantastic opportunity to grow our networks.

Take the initiative to join webinars your organisation is putting on or search for external ones – Eventbrite and LinkedIn are rich with events connecting people from all over the world, as keen as you are to build their professional network’s.

If it isn’t valuable, then leave. If it is, then really focus on it. Take time to listen to other people’s contributions and from this, single out people of interest and follow up with them afterwards to make the most of your time invested. Good practice is aiming to follow up with two people after each event.

3. Make a great impression over video

Video calls can be socially difficult since it’s much harder to read body language over video and the time lag means we can misinterpret what is being said. So it’s especially important to have a few strategies in mind to improve social flow and make a lasting impression:

  • Do your research beforehand
  • Turn your video on
  • Look into the camera when you’re speaking to help build rapport
  • Resist the temptation to check your emails at the same time

Following these simple steps can help us build rapport and make these virtual interactions as smooth and valuable as possible.

4. Book in virtual coffees

Planning a virtual coffee over video is a surprisingly effective way to have a meeting with a connection, be it an established or new one.

Since we can’t meet up in a public coffee shop anymore, we can translate this idea into our virtual catch ups and plan to take a coffee or tea along to a video call.

Since there is less interruption and general bustle than in a cafe, often the conversations are more valuable and use up less time than a physical coffee catch up.

I have learnt a lot more about our clients from virtual coffee catch ups. Talking about the change of location and background photos have opened up new avenues of conversation and have helped build rapport.

If we are serious about building our networks, we have to be proactive about it. Block out time in your diary, commit to it every week and make this a new habit. If you would like any further help and advice on how to build your network then the Higson team would love to help, so please get in touch.