What Every Business Needs to Know Right now about Virtual Networking

Why do you need to network virtually?

People still want to connect, and virtual networking gives us the opportunity to connect and continue to build relationships. Webinars have replaced seminars. Zoom meetings have replaced networking events. And phone calls have replaced coffee meetings. We all miss the in-person networking, but there’s no sense complaining about it. We must really embrace what we have. And we’ve got to play the hand that we’ve been dealt. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint. This is going to take some time, but don’t complain about where we are with this virtual networking stuff. Embrace it and figure out how to work it in with what you do.

When it comes to virtual networking, I like to combine a business development aspect, networking aspect, and an educational aspect into an event. Those are the events that I prefer. I’ve actually got a couple of my own that I’ve launched since the pandemic, and they seem to be pretty popular, but it really needs to include those three elements.

How can you leverage social media to help with your virtual networking?

I say don’t social distance from social networking and social media. You need to be active on social media, and if you have a B2B business, LinkedIn is the best platform where you really need to be active.

Don’t be what we call a lurker. A lurker is someone who goes on LinkedIn and reads stuff and might click like here or there, but that’s not really being engaged. You really need to share your own relevant content. You need to add comments to people when they post stuff that’s meaningful to you. Share content that’s meaningful to you and to your network. So, don’t be a lurker – get involved.

Social media is fine. You know people buy from people that they know, like, and trust. And by using social media, you can get to the know and the like part. But to get the trust, you really need to go deeper. And after you connect on social media via, let’s say, LinkedIn, for example, then it’s time to maybe schedule a phone call or a Zoom meeting, and really start building the trust and try to cultivate the relationship. You can’t just do that with these quick interactions on social media. So, use it to accomplish the know and the like, and then and then trust is achieved after cultivating the relationship. And remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint. 

There are lots of people who are so eager right now to jump onto social media, especially LinkedIn. They know people are doing business on LinkedIn, and instead of that marathon, they’re thinking of it as a sprint. They jump in immediately with, “Can I get on the phone with you? This is what I offer.” Don’t forget that part that you naturally have in a face-to-face interaction, where you say hello and introduce yourself and get to know the person. Build the relationship.

What should you do when attending a virtual event?

It’s very much like in-person networking. So, the first thing you do is arrive early and meet the host and the presenter. Get to know them. Get familiarized yourself with them and get there before everybody else.

Understand who the audience is going to be. Think about if this is a membership organization or Chamber of Commerce. Think about who is going to be in that audience and be ready to introduce yourself in a meaningful way to the audience.

Again, don’t be a lurker, be an active participant and provide some meaningful commentary. Go in with a story. Ask people you know how they’re doing during the pandemic but share a good story.

Connect with the attendees on LinkedIn with a personal message after you’ve met them. And then maybe invite them for a phone call or video chat.

Focus on them when you go to these events. Focus on them – not on you. Be interested, not interesting. Be curious, ask questions, and then, when they say tell me about you, then they’ve given you permission to tell you all about yourself and your business.

Most importantly, remember to follow up. Otherwise, you are wasting your time. So, follow up with the people you meet. Don’t go in expecting to meet 30 people. Go in expecting to walk away with three good potential follow-ups. That’s my magic number.

Using this process to participate in virtual networking events allows you to institute some best practices. Remember that the technology makes it different, but so much of it is the same as in-person events. 

3 Action Steps

1. Use virtual networking as an opportunity to connect and build relationships.

2. People do business with people they know, like, and trust. Proper use of social media can accomplish the know and like. Trust is achieved after cultivating the relationship.

3. Arrive early to virtual networking events. Get to know your host and make meaningful commentary with the focus being on getting to learn about people – and be sure to follow-up and stay in touch.

Connect with Jim Ries at https://www.linkedin.com/in/jries/ JRiesoffitkurman.com or call at

410-733-6133

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