Build rapport and trust
As with in-person networking, the aim is not to make an immediate sale. Instead, look at it as building a long-term relationship. Use online networking as a way to connect with potential customers by highlighting your expertise and service. How do you feel when someone connects with you online, and then tries to sell you something straight away without knowing anything about you? You don’t want to be the person who sees networking as a way to simply collect names of people and offer your products and services to them immediately.
Add value to your networks
There are many ways to add value when business networking online. Share your knowledge in a way that will benefit members of your network. You could post helpful content on social and professional networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn. You could also share articles individually when you think it’s relevant to one person. Creating your own content, such as an article, checklist or other helpful tool, will bring value to your network members. If you are more ambitious, you can create videos where you share your expertise and updates in your industry.
Follow up with the people you meet
When you meet people during online events or through social networks, it’s important to follow up. This doesn’t mean a sales pitch. Simply touching base to say ‘hello’ and offering any assistance if needed will help you start the relationship on the right foot.
Create the right impression online
For video conferences and networking sessions, such as on Zoom and WebEx, remember that you are on camera. Keep your eyes on the camera when speaking. You might want to look at other participants but this will make you appear distracted as your eyes move around the screen. Also, if there is any background noise and you are not speaking, turn off your microphone to avoid distracting others. Remember to turn your microphone back on when it’s your turn to speak.
In online networking sessions, you often get an opportunity to introduce yourself and tell people what you do. Spend some time to create a compelling and concise answer to ensure the people you’ve just met will want to hear more. These questions will help you develop your elevator pitch for online events:
- What is my service, product, company or cause?
- What problem do I solve or what demand do I meet?
- How am I different?
- Why should people care?
Host an online event
If you have expertise and insights to share, an online event is the perfect way to connect with others and raise your profile. When planning your event, ensure that you give your network members plenty of advanced notice so they can fit it into their schedules. Repetition is important for promoting events, so send out several email invitations as you approach the event date.
When hosting an online event, make sure your technology is working properly. If you want to create a higher quality result, consider using a separate webcam. Although a built-in laptop camera will work, the result will be more impressive if you use a high-quality webcam. Also, if you are presenting slides during your online event, conduct a practice run to make sure everything is working smoothly.
Update your social media profiles
As you connect with more people through online networking, make sure your profiles reflect your current role, services and products. For example, a mortgage broker expanding into business finance, will want to update their profile to reflect the diversification of their business. If you don’t keep your social media profiles up to date, people will not get the full picture of what you have to offer, and you could miss out on opportunities from remote business networking.
Network strategically for the long term
Pursuing online networking only when you need to generate business will bring disappointing results. So if you are beginning your remote networking efforts, keep in mind that it’s a long-term process. Having a long-term view will help you stay engaged and add value to your network, which will eventually pay dividends in the future.