Published April 9, 2020
How Can I Still Network During Coronavirus Lock-Down?
The United Kingdom was put into lockdown on 23rd March in an escalated response against the spread of the COVID-19. Across the country, businesses have been forced to create arrangements for employees to work remotely from home. It seems likely we will remain in lockdown for the foreseeable future.
As a result, b2b networking events such as exhibitions, conferences and corporate roundtables are all either cancelled or postponed. Meaning, enthusiastic networkers may be finding it challenging to discover alternative methods to learn, connect and build relationships with like-minded business professionals.
As a result, I wanted to provide three alternatives to help business executives network during this troubling time;
1. Exploiting Social Media and Being Social
It’s called Social Media, so be social! For this blog, I have decided to focus on two of the most popular social media platforms for business-to-business networking: LinkedIn and Twitter.
Today there are 675 million members on the platform across 200 countries and 30 million companies represented too. That’s an infinite number of networking opportunities. Filter your search to find relevant people or companies based on name, location, industry and so much more.
Introduce yourself and connect with users. Recipients can familiarise themselves with you instantly (so don’t forget to create a great profile). It allows you to see their profile, posts and interactions to begin understanding how you may network with them.
Similar to emailing a prospect, use LinkedIn to communicate directly to business professionals. Only, it’s more personal and much easier. If you’re already connected, you messaged is much warmer. If you’re not, LinkedIn inMail service still allows you to reach those seemingly out of reach.
Do you like discussions? Join LinkedIn Groups! They are a great way to network with like-minded peers. Find a group in your industry/sector/function and engage in debates and conversations about relevant topics, trends and challenges.
Look for new opportunities with LinkedIn. If your reason for networking is to find a new job. Having a LinkedIn profile is not only great for your CV, but it’s also a simple platform to locate relevant vacancies. Follow organisations and set-up vacancy alerts to ensure you are always immediately notified.
Unlike LinkedIn, Twitter is not primarily a business social network. It’s traditionally a public forum that has amassed a total of 1.3 billion accounts. Making it a very effective platform to network with relevant strangers.
Build your network and follow relevant people online. Similar to connecting on LinkedIn, control the information you digest every day. Follow companies or people relevant to your networking goals. Should they follow you back, it opens the opportunity to privately message them, kicking off the interaction.
Search for users with specific criteria. Twitter allows you to search for users based on location, job title, company and other information on their profile. Swiftly find specific individuals who are relevant prospects. Once you’ve found them, you can start learning about them.
Spark conversations and engage with anyone. Search through hashtag threads and find user discussions and have your say. This can be an effective way of meeting relevant people, networking and learning.
Utilise and create Twitter lists containing users you are most keen to network with. Organise the prospects you wish to privately keep tabs on and ensure you don’t miss out interacting with them. Twitter lists allow you to separate important users from your busier general feed.
2. Pursuing Prospects at Virtual Events
Certainly the most recent type of networking on my list. This is a direct alternative to networking events whilst we are on lockdown. Virtual Events are a digital platform for professionals to share knowledge, market their products and develop business relationships. In most cases, they are the closest thing to meeting in-person. There are three main types of virtual events;
Webinars have become more prominent recently despite being accessible for many years. Depending on your networking goals, you may want to either host or join a webinar. If you’re networking for leads, you must host the webinar. Your organisation is able to help potentially educate clients and prospects about your products/services. If you’re networking to learn and find solutions, it would be valuable for you to join a webinar and learn about their solutions.
Listen to or present useful thought-provoking content and partake in Q&A sessions following the session. It can be a useful tool for building relationships because you can put a face to a name. In most cases, they are free to attend. However, there are some cases where there’s a charge.
Virtual Conferences have become the synonymous alternative to in-person conferences. In most cases, they follow a similar format to physical conferences. Following a live agenda that includes workshops, networking sessions, Q&A sessions, one-to-one business meetings and more.
If you’re looking for a networking experience similar to your usual physical conference experience, Virtual Conferences can fulfil your needs. Your networking goals will always dictate the experience you have. It will control what side of the table you sit at and whether or not you will host the sessions. Either way, you are guaranteed to fulfil your need for networking.
Virtual Roundtables often require attendees to have video conferencing software. They have become the natural replacement to in-person corporate roundtable dinners. These events allow attendees who are unable to travel to network face-to-face with like-minded peers in an intimate environment.
Virtual Roundtables offer you an efficient way to network and learn with senior decision-makers. If you’re looking to learn and solve challenges, it’s valuable for you to join the discussion. If you are networking for leads, it’s in your interest to host the discussion. This provides you with the opportunity to tailor the experience according to what benefits your organisation. Unlike Virtual Conferences, Virtual Roundtables have a small group of attendees to ensure intimate peer-to-peer discussions take place.
3. Learning the Art of Cold Emailing
We all have some experience with cold emailing. Whether or not we already do it or we receive it. And, despite it being the coldest networking approach, it still creates very powerful networking results.
If you’re able to find the means of collecting email address from business professionals, you are halfway there to making the interaction. However, to create an effective email message, you should do these important things;
- Tailor the message to the recipient; to make a real difference in their crowded inbox, you must make an impression. Personalise the message to the recipient, ensure they’re aware of the work you’ve put into understanding them. A great place to start is their social media accounts.
- Validate yourself; unlike with social media, your profile is not attached, so recipients can’t find out more about you before responding. Make sure you show yourself to be credible and trustworthy, it could be worth mentioning your job title and the company you work for.
- Relieve your audiences pain or give them something they want; similar to tailoring your message. Do your research and direct your message to solve something or benefit the recipient. If you can help them in some way, you’ll more likely grab their attention.
- Keep it short, easy and actionable; safeguard your message from being overwhelming. For some, if an email is too long it becomes unattractive to read and therefore easily ignored. Keep it short and concise, ensuring the key points are addressed.
- Don’t use a template; there’s nothing more frustrating for users to read what appears to be a template. If you’re messaging someone, you can almost guarantee that there are others too. Make your email unique and you will stand out amongst their crowded inbox.