How To Do Professional Networking In The New (Ab)Normal
Professional networking has changed profoundly over the past few months. This guide has everything you need to network remotely to meet new people and find new clients.
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Long before Covid-19, I bought my business cards barely a month into running my freelance business.
It turned out to be an unnecessary purchase, because I rarely network in person.
Plus, with the pandemic shifting in-person networking events online, it doesn’t look like I’ll need them anytime soon.
Suffice to say, professional networking has changed considerably.
Need a hand to build a business network in the new (ab)normal? Want to explore new social networks to find new clients? This guide has everything you need.
Before we dive into these seven channels, we’ll briefly discuss the advantages of remote networking over in-person networking.
Okay, let’s go!
3 Major Benefits Of Professional Networking Remotely
Networking remotely may not have the human touch you find in a face-to-face meetup, but the convenience and accessibility make up for it. Let’s dig deeper into why it’s the a to building strong professional relationships.
1. Save Time
With travel time out of the picture, you no longer have to spend hours getting to networking events.
Brianna Parks, an elopement photographer, enjoys remote networking for this specific reason:
“Instead of arranging and traveling to an in-person meeting that takes an hour, I’m able to connect with them in under 30 minutes. It allows me to be much more productive.”
More time, more productivity.
What’s not to like?
2. Access More Opportunities
Big professional networking events are known for their jam-packed agendas.
The best part? These conferences expose you to a fascinating range of topics and people in one large venue.
The worst part? There are three sessions you want to attend (and associated people you want to meet) in the same time slot. Which means there are only so many people you can network with.
If you’ve attended these big events, you know what that’s like.
Picture it: You speed-walk from one exhibition hall to another at the opposite end and wander in late — which is outrageous because you’re one of the earliest attendees in the first place!
Whereas for remote networking, everything’s online. Finished a session? Bored and discovered a workshop isn’t working out for you? Just click the invite link to the next one, and you’re automatically in.
3. Create A Better Impression
There’s nothing more nerve-racking than a surprise meeting with a prospect in person and finding yourself tongue-tied.
An introvert’s nightmare, I’ll say.
Sure, you could excuse yourself for a minute and sneakily research the prospect on your phone and come up with relevant talking points, but that’s way too stressful.
With online networking, you get to prepare everything beforehand.
Got an email from a prospect? Do a quick search on Google and read up on their background. Write your email and share how their goals tie with your services.
Colin Palfrey, CMO at Majesty Coffee, often networks on LinkedIn and Facebook groups. Thanks to the information he finds on Google, he’s able to offer personalized advice confidently:
“I prefer online networking because I know what the person is like before initiating contact.”
7 Places To Professionally Network Remotely (With Pro Tips From Expert Networkers)
I reached out to entrepreneurs and business owners for their best networking tips. I’ve categorized them into seven networking channels and added examples to show you how it’s done. Let’s find out which works best for you and your business.
It’s hard to imagine what our lives looked like before email.
We use it to share project updates, congratulate a work buddy’s promotion, offer career advice to a junior co-worker, and so much more.
Updates, advice, and congratulations aside, we also use email to reach out to people we want to work with.
One surefire way to get these new contacts to respond? Show what’s in it for them.
We’ve heard of this advice dozens of times, but you’d be surprised how often people ignore it.
Take this cold email I just received from a digital marketer. Right away, you can tell he sends this email to every writer on the planet:
Dude didn’t even address me by my name. D:
Never mind the buzzwords (e.g., “dynamic”) and awkward phrases (e.g., “satisfying my needs of having a content writer in place”).
Had he mentioned what’s in it for me — even just a simple one-liner — I would have replied.
I applaud the sender’s ambition, but the entire email screams generic and spammy, so in the trash it goes. I’m crossing my fingers he doesn’t follow up.
Want to write better cold emails and impress your recipients? Here are three articles to take you from newbie to pro:
- Sumo’s Million-Dollar Cold Email Templates (Plus Cold Email Tips)
- 34 Cold Email Subject Lines to Hack Your Outreach Game (Templates + Open Rates)
- The 11 Best Tools for Email Outreach in 2020
This might ruffle your feathers: I used to think that Twitter is a waste of time.
Mindless tweets. Overblown issues that shouldn’t have been trending in the first place. Who has the energy for that?
It turns out there’s more to Twitter. When used correctly, it can be a powerful platform to attract clients.
Last September, when I tweeted that I was available for projects, a prospect reached out within minutes.
Not too shabby, considering I have only 430+ followers.
My theory on why it worked: Folks in the B2B SaaS space retweeted and liked my tweet, which increased the number of targeted views.
Pro Tip: Be selective. Connect with users in your professional circle (e.g., if you’re a writer, you want to connect with editors, content strategists, and marketers).
Keep an eye out for these titles in the bio, or input relevant hashtags to pinpoint your search. Here’s what I got when I searched people for editor and marketing in their bios:
For maximum results, participate in Twitter chats and Twitter lists. These two places are loaded with countless opportunities to connect with people in your field.
Here’s how Adrienne Barnes, a B2B SaaS content marketer, connects with fellow writers in her content lead Twitter list:
Start and continue conversations. Retweet and share their work. Celebrate their achievements. Share your experiences.
It sounds too simple, but doing all these goes a long way to connect with prospects and attract new work. This professional networking advice doesn’t only work on Twitter; it works everywhere else, too.
You can also use Twitter to pitch influencers. This is a great alternative to emailing if these influencers are active on Twitter.
Note how Benji Hyam, co-founder of Grow And Convert, framed his question and tagged Rand Fishkin.
It’s no surprise Rand said yes. Benji’s question came across as thoughtful, and it encouraged a meaningful conversation.
Hands down, Twitter is becoming one of my favorite social networking tools. If you haven’t explored it, I urge you to try it.
Users who use LinkedIn only for a job search are missing out.
This professional networking platform is a fantastic source of business opportunities.
Much like Twitter and Facebook, LinkedIn allows you to build your professional and personal network.
You can do this in several ways: Send a personalized request to new contacts who work in similar verticals or industries, comment on your connections’ posts and articles, write them recommendations, etc.
If you don’t have any contacts who match your target clients, here’s how you can get started on LinkedIn.
In the search bar, type a keyword (e.g., If you’re a freelance CRO specialist, you might go with “conversion rate optimization” or “CRO”).
Next, click Content.
You’ll see dozens of CRO-related posts in the search results.
To find the right posts, use the filters. Select your criteria under the Date Posted and Author Industries tabs and hit enter.
Note: I selected Past 24 hours and Computer Software.
Three posts showed up:
Not bad for a first try!
If I want to target other industries, I might change my search terms or adjust the filters.
As you scroll through these posts, focus on those created by target clients (Tip: Look at their job titles). Drop a thoughtful comment to start a conversation.
Carve out 30 minutes to do this every day. I guarantee you’ll connect with a few prospects and score new projects down the road.
I did this repeatedly in my first year of business, and it boosted my profile views. Today, I receive about 3-5 project inquiries a month from LinkedIn alone.
Of course, commenting on prospects’ posts is just one part of the equation.
If you want your LinkedIn profile to work as a powerful lead generation and sales machine, check out our guide to writing powerful LinkedIn messages.
A podcast is so much more than having your show and attracting sponsorships from brands you admire.
It’s also an effective way to network with your dream clients.
Logit Co-founder Visnja Zeljeznjak invites potential clients on her video podcast show.
Source: Eduza Show
Merging podcasts with networking works because you get to build a deeper relationship with your target clients.
Plus, the benefits are three-fold.
Not only do you gain an opportunity to understand the ins-and-outs of these target clients’ businesses, but you also get to showcase your expertise and build an audience along the way.
Visnja’s approach of using podcasts to attract new work does wonders for her business:
“Two months ago, I started from zero with nothing but an idea. Now I’m slowly building my audience and receiving pitches from guests who want to come to my show. My new service already has YouTube subscribers, email subscribers, and LinkedIn and Facebook followers. I’ve also built solid relationships with high-quality people.”
Want to learn how to start an iTunes Top-40 podcast? Check out these articles and launch your podcast today:
- How Noah Kagan Launched A Successful Podcast
- The Ultimate Podcast Starter Kit
- Podcast Starter Guide: 10 Podcast Tips to Build a Successful Show
Alternatively, pitch yourself as a guest on someone else’s podcast!
5. Community Groups
The internet abounds with incredible (and often, free) community groups.
Do a quick search on Google, and you’ll see listicles recommending communities on channels such as Slack, Reddit, and Facebook.
Whether you’re passionate about professional development, self-improvement, or volunteering, you’ll find at least one active group packed with members in your industry.
Eyal Ronen, Co-founder and Director at Sensemakers, picks Facebook Groups as his favorite professional networking channel:
“I posted a question and asked for a book recommendation for a specific business problem I needed to solve. Within hours, I got several solid recommendations.”
Eyal’s post on the Facebook group eventually got the attention of an entrepreneur who went through a similar problem a few years ago. They connected and shared their experiences to learn from each other.
Now that’s what I call the power of networking.
6. Zoom And Slack
Our work may have shifted online, but that doesn’t mean we need to work in solitude.
If you miss mingling with networkers or your co-workers in person, it’s time to meet them on video hosting platforms like Zoom and Skype. Want to have real-time conversations while working on projects? You can’t go wrong with Slack.
Damian Birkel, Founder and Executive Director of Professionals In Transition, invites his professional network to what he calls “Zoom for lunch”:
“We eat lunch on the call and connect as you would do in any other networking lunch. It’s worked like a charm.”
Melissa Packham, a brand and marketing strategist at A Brand Is Not A Logo, has been remote coworking with Digital Nomad Girls well before the pandemic. She builds relationships with fellow entrepreneurs in their daily virtual coworking sessions via Zoom:
“We gather on Zoom for a coworking session structured around the Pomodoro method and chat about our work and discuss challenges and opportunities. It’s a great way to build remote relationships with entrepreneurs from all over the world.”
By the way, Zoom and Skype aren’t the only online meeting tools in the market! If you want to find the best tool for your needs, read our Zoom alternatives guide.
7. Online Events
Attend events in casual wear? Who knew we’d come to a day like this?
Now that events have moved virtually, we can participate in discussions or host a webinar in our sweatpants without anyone knowing.
But don’t let the informal dress code and virtual context of these events fool you. Just because it’s online doesn’t mean you can be lax about it!
You still need to do your prep work, especially if you’re attending these online events with specific goals in mind (e.g., hire a new partner, get funding).
George Pitchkhadze, CMO at Thrive Cuisine, and his team prepared presentation slides before attending their virtual event. And it paid off.
They walked away with not only their first serious investor, but also a vegan chef, content writer, and three influencers for their business:
“Many people are very eager to network right now. My advice is, figure out the exact kind of people you’re looking for… and prepare an elevator pitch, a small slide deck, and some canned FAQ answers. This will make it very easy to connect with people. In my experience, most third parties are excited to see someone so well-prepared for online networking.”
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You can invite an unlimited number of viewers, create customized landing pages to attract leads, deliver winning presentations using Vidthere’s “video in video” and whiteboard modes, and so much more.
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10X Widen Your Business Network And Amp Up Your Professional Life
Networking opportunities are everywhere these days.
Pop over to LinkedIn, Twitter, or the other networking sites featured here, and you’ll see your new job or dream client is only a few interactions away.
I hope this guide has made professional networking a little bit easier.
With the tips and real-life examples provided here, I’m positive you’ll make new connections, attract new work, and network confidently in the new (ab)normal.