How to Network Virtually
From the best freelancing platforms to tips for improving your LinkedIn profile, two success coaches share their advice.
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If you aren't already using online platforms to make new professional and social connections, now's the time to start. "Virtual networking is not only possible, but in the rapidly changing world it is absolutely necessary," says holistic success coach Awilda Rivera. "Networking is all about building authentic relationships and you can absolutely do that online." In addition to bypassing awkward introductions or business card exchanges, Rivera says virtual networking has several advantages over in-person interactions. "Instead of looking for a needle in a haystack at a face-to-face networking event, you can reach out directly to individuals who you know are in alignment with what you're seeking to develop," she explains. "You can network at any time of day on a multitude of platforms with people all over the world—from the comfort of wherever you are."
Curious about how you can network virtually to increase your contact list? We asked Rivera and executive career coach Jane Cranston for their advice, and here's what they had to share.
Improve your LinkedIn profile.
If you're looking to expand your professional network, Rivera says establishing a presence on LinkedIn is a great place to start. "Your LinkedIn profile gives you an opportunity to showcase your credentials, share helpful information in a business context, and connect with individuals who are there solely to make new contacts," she explains. "Make sure you fill out your profile completely by listing all of your past work experience, skills, and education, and frequently share interesting articles to add to your credibility."
Social media matters.
Rivera says to never underestimate the networking power of social media platforms, particularly Instagram. "Instagram is a great networking tool to expand your community especially if you are looking to connect with people who may be in the same stage of their career, transition, or life as you," she says. "I have personally generated a ton of professional opportunities from reaching out to people on Instagram via an initial direct message, and a follow up email."
If you aren't using an online videoconferencing platform to communicate with professionals in your network, Cranston says you're doing it wrong. "Professional meetings, conferences, and other forms of interaction have all turned to delivering information through video and teleconferencing platforms like Zoom," she says. In order to up your Zoom or FaceTime game, she suggests staging your space to create a sophisticated background for your video calls. "It helps you convey the right image to your colleagues," she explains.
Try a freelancing platform.
According to Rivera, online freelance markets, such as Fiverr and Upwork, are great spots to build your professional network while potentially scoring some work. "If you're an entrepreneur who provides a service, these websites are a godsend," she says. "They are replete with thousands of people all over the world who are looking to connect and share information about the services they offer. You can literally build a team, expand your personal network or service professionals, or just be a connector."
To truly be successful at virtual networking, Rivera says it's key to be deliberate about who you connect with online. "Don't just go out and start indiscriminately following, friending, or connecting with a million random people just because you want to get your numbers up," she says. "You should be able to explain why you are targeting every single person you are reaching out to virtually."