With the coronavirus changing all personal and professional social exchanges, virtual networking is more important than ever. We share a few tips on how to make connections on LinkedIn.
Way back in January, I set a New Years’ resolution to expand my business network, something that has always been a challenge for me, given:
- I work from home and spend the vast majority of my day only seeing my cats
- I’m a classic introvert who prefers yoga pants and hot tea to business suits and cocktail hours
Nevertheless, I set a goal of connecting with one new person on LinkedIn each day this year and using those new connections to grow real business relationships.
Then COVID-19 happened. Overnight, my goal of meeting new people on LinkedIn took on whole new importance. Instead of just being a personal hack to overcome my introverted tendencies, virtual networking became a business necessity.
Tips for Virtual Networking
If you find yourself working remotely now, and you’re wondering how to create and nurture relationships in our new virtual world, here are my favorite tips and personal examples to give you a jump start on virtual networking.
1. Regularly comment on LinkedIn posts written by your first-degree connections.
If someone other than the author makes an interesting comment on the post, respond to them. Then send them a connection request with a brief note.
“I liked your comment about AI on our mutual connection, Jane Doe’s post. I am also passionate about this subject. What do you feel is the biggest thing companies aren’t considering regarding AI?”
2. Start an email conversation with anyone who comments on your posts.
Acknowledge your appreciation for their comment by hitting the like button and replying to them in the thread. Then, shift over to email and send them an email to continue the conversation.
“Glad you enjoyed my post on IoT. It is such a rapidly growing field with numerous industrial applications. Are you doing anything interesting in the space right now?”
3. Review who looked at your profile, and send a connection request to the intriguing ones.
It may feel a bit creepy at first to do this, but it’s worth it to move past feeling weird. Most of the time, if someone looks at your profile, they want to chat. Don’t be afraid to take the first step to initiate a conversation.
“Hi, John! I see that you are a journalist covering the emerging tech space. So many interesting things happening in this area – if you ever need a source, or just to bounce ideas, feel free to reach out. If I’m not the right person to respond to your question, I can probably connect you to someone who is.”
4. Accept all unsolicited connection requests.
I know some people keep their guard up with whom they connect with and never accept unsolicited requests. But, when it comes to virtual networking, the more, the merrier! Unsolicited requests can lead to engaging in far-reaching
conversations on a variety of topics. I’ve participated in LinkedIn conversations ranging from financial markets in Egypt to venture capital in Youngstown. You never where a random request might take you.
“Thanks for pro-actively connecting with me. I see you are a researcher in the Natural Language Processing space. What are the most interesting advancements you are seeing in this field right now?”
5. Follow hashtags to find interesting people in your domain.
For instance, I follow #quantumcomputing, and LinkedIn serves up relevant articles from thought leaders in the space. When you read something you like, make sure you leave both a comment and a question for the author. This is a great way to drum up a conversation with an industry leader you may not have had an opportunity to connect with otherwise.
“Great article on the realistic timeline for quantum’s rollout to the commercial sector. Which industries do you think will adopt quantum quicker than others?”
So far, my quest for “daily LinkedIn befriending” has yielded many meaningful
conversations and connections. Even when we eventually get back to business as usual, I plan to continue to pursue virtual connections to complement in-person networking mindfully.
If you are new to virtual networking, it might take some practice to feel comfortable implementing these tips. However, just like in-person events, the more you do it, the easier working the (virtual) room will feel. Keep growing your business relationships while respecting the need for social distancing– it’ll pay off in the long run.