Creating a genuine human connection is still a cornerstone in business, no matter how many technological innovations come forth. During the COVID-19 pandemic, creating these connections has become more difficult for entrepreneurs and executives across industries. Pre-coronavirus, many would say that networking consisted of going to events, shaking hands, grabbing drinks (coffee and those a bit stronger), and the like.
Now with many lockdowns still in effect, events being cancelled or pushed to 2021, and an added sense of caution, networking has become almost non-existent. Or, has it? Networking can happen from your home; it just takes a bit of creativity to think outside of the box.
Text everyone in your phone.
If there is one thing that I learned from Gary Vaynerchuk, chairman of media and communications holding company VaynerX and CEO of VaynerMedia, it’s the power of texting. Gary will consistently tell people to text everyone in their phone and not to skip anyone. This is the case if an entrepreneur is looking for a new hire, new business, or anything else on their mind.
In fact, this tactic worked for celebrity stand-in and actor Steffen Dziczek. During a phone interview with him recently, Steffen revealed to me that while up late on the couch in his underwear, he was able to land a stand-in role for “Top Gun: Maverick” to support Miles Teller and Jon Hamm. Start texting now.
Comment on more social media posts.
On social media, it’s important to take the time to write comments on the posts of those you want to connect with. When you include a comment, do so in a way that commands a response. Too many people will comment with a short response or a few cryptic emojis.
To make the most of online networking, take the time to write a little longer post, with either a question or a non-argumentative, thought-provoking statement. For instance, instead of posting three fire emojis to something that you think is a great idea, expand that into a congratulatory statement and include a question. “Congrats on all of your success! How’d you make that happen?” goes a lot further.
Similarly, if people comment on your posts, reply every time, or as often as you can. Entrepreneurs need to build a rapport with their audience, and these interactions are a networking must. If it’s a longer response, take it to the direct messages.
Fully embrace LinkedIn.
LinkedIn should be a main source of networking for everyone in business. Improving your LinkedIn profile and making sure you have a strong stable of connections is first, and once you’re there, it’s time to stay in contact with these individuals.
LinkedIn alerts its users on work anniversaries, new jobs, birthdays, and the like, so start simple and send a message to those connections. Similar to the texting strategy, don’t pick and choose who you send messages to. Message everyone. You have to remember that you are connected to them for a reason.
While writing my first book for entrepreneurs and business executives, for instance, I have taken the approach to LinkedIn messaging to gain interviews, and it has proved quite successful thus far.
Schedule virtual happy hours.
Virtual happy hours started out strong at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, and these continue to be a trend in my house. Virtual happy hours are great for connecting with old friends and clients as well as remote team building with coworkers, the local community, and everyone in between. Zoom and Microsoft Teams have proved useful for bigger gatherings. To keep it more intimate, using an app like Houseparty and even FaceTime for a closer, one-on-one experience, provides a face-to-face interaction from a safe distance.
If unsure where to start, a few ideas for hosting a themed virtual happy hour include hosting a book club, creating a game night, sharing cocktail recipes, trivia, virtual yoga, remote learning, show and tell, and many more. No matter whether the virtual happy hour is themed or not, this is a great chance to build or strengthen these vital human connections.
Start a podcast.
If you’re asking why this is in an article on networking, you’re asking the wrong question. You should be asking where to start. Anchor.fm seems to be the easiest place, but what’s most important is what listeners, business connections, and friends will get from listening to you.
With a lack of in-person connections, you may find yourself having less conversations. Podcasts are a great way to control your message and share knowledge with intended target audiences. By doing so, the discovery of your message and business will increase, credibility and trust in your industry will rise, and you will have fresh content to share with your following to keep them interested and active.
There are many more ways that networking can occur from home. It just takes creativity to think on the angles and not take everything for face value.
Don McLean is a senior manager of global marketing and communications for MMS Holdings and TrialAssure in Canton Township. Connect with Don at www.linkedin.com/in/donaldfmclean.