5 Useful Tech Tips to Remember when Networking this 2020
Charles Darwin once said, “It is the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) that those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.”
Though Darwin first said that quote in the 1800s it still holds true in 2020. Darwin’s idea can be applied to the concept of business networking — even if the networking taking place in 2020 is done digitally.
Whether you are an extrovert who cannot wait until the quarantine is over or you are someone who has been #socialdistancing before it was a government requirement, proper networking in 2020 still requires face-to-face interaction to balance our ubiquitous digital communications. The longstanding goal has always been to build trusting, long-term relationships, but how is that done in a world that is 100% digital? To help answer that question, we have defined five tips on how to best utilize technology to network.
#1 Define Networking Goals and What You Have to Offer
Having a clear set of networking goals and an idea of what you can offer your colleagues is important, especially when communicating digitally.
Getting more specific with your goals and service offers will also help you decide which networking medium to use. For example, your goal might be to get attention from local restaurant owners to offer them a trial for a food delivery service. In this case, networking on LinkedIn might be a waste of time as the restaurant audience is largely found on Facebook and Instagram.
#2 Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
During a time where everyone is told to stay indoors, simply smiling at someone on the street or sparking up a conversation with an unknown individual seems daunting. Do not let the current coronavirus climate shrink your comfort zone.
Not being afraid to reach out will ensure you continue to connect with, and grow, your audiences. This includes contacting people you have not heard from in a while, reaching out to new individuals, and attending events (in-person or virtually). Talking to people you might not normally engage with is the practice of the smartest and most well-rounded people. It helps you challenge confirmation biases and keeps your network dynamic and evolving.
Most recently, individuals, businesses, and organizations are hosting virtual networking events: webinars, digital happy hours, online versions of in-person events. Many of these may be required for your job, but if you are invited to something that is just meant to be social — take the time to attend. This level of virtual networking is new to many people; adopt the idea that “practice makes perfect.” Just make sure that you do not go overboard with these interactions. Sending too many messages, pushing your agenda too hard on social media or over email, and digital content bombardment are guaranteed turn-offs.
#3 Use Networking Events to Create Digital Content
Whether you are attending an online happy hour this May, or your industry’s big expo (when it’s rescheduled) next year, use the event as an opportunity to release digital content. Take the example of the virtual happy hour… Make sure to follow the hosting organization on social media, screenshot the group of attendees when they say “Cheers”, and post your own follow-up content reflecting on the event and thanking its organizers.
The content you put out shows your followers that you are staying active while also “shouting-out” the company who hosted the event. People that attended the event will see and interact with your blog, social post, or email campaign. This process validates the event you just attended, creates post-event connections, and inspires future networking. Maybe next time you invite that virtual attendee list to an in-person happy hour to catch-up?
#4 Follow Up!
Though it is the last step in the process, this may be the single, most important tip on this list. After any networking interaction, your final question should be: “What is the best way to follow up with you?”
Your newfound contact might give you their email address, LinkedIn info, phone number, or Twitter handle. Take the contact information they give you, wait a day or two, and reach back out to renew the connection. Even if you have formally exchanged business cards any new contact is going to need a reminder to who you are after a large networking experience.
Keep tabs on who you need to follow-up with, what you had talked about with that person, and update your online networks to reflect your most recent endeavors (e.g. LinkedIn profile update with a photo of you from a recent conference).
#5 Ditch the Sales Pitch
Someone who is really interested in what you do will ask you about it, so focus your energy on creating a connection. Instead of telling people things you want to tell them or think they want to hear or asking them questions just to fill the silence, create some thought-provoking, answer-inspiring questions.
Speak from the heart and with the other people, not your agenda, as your focus. Networking is all about surrounding yourself with people that have a passion for what they do. If someday your new friends end up buying your product or furthering your endeavor — then all the better.