Networking is extremely important in terms of expanding our connections and forming long-term business relationships. The ability to create connections shifted almost exclusively to online platforms throughout the pandemic. This move drastically decreased our ability to read body language which accounts for more than 70 per cent of how we connect with and perceive others. When posting on social media or sharing articles of interest all we have is words or pictures. We need to be cautious about what we are posting and the impact this could have on others without proper context.
While I always recommend showing up in person, when possible, online platforms give us extensive capabilities to reach potential clients and markets across provinces and countries.
Most of my clients (92 per cent, in fact) have come from networking events and word of mouth; this did not change throughout the pandemic. I shifted my focus to Zoom and studying the psychology of online etiquette. Showing your video during an online meeting, webinar, or course will increase the chances of others interacting and connecting with you; it seems obvious but typing your full name and company name is also integral to being remembered. Utilizing the chat box is also a great way to reconnect with friends and clients and to connect with potential customers.
Saving the chat conversations is a great way to remember who was on the call; after doing this you can connect with key prospects on LinkedIn, which is a brilliant platform for business connections. I always look at LinkedIn as ‘Facebook for business’ but ideally, without the personal opinions and animal photos (even though I really love cats). It was designed to be a professional platform for like-minded business professionals and now has the added benefits of linking job seekers with employers. I utilize it as a great way to connect with others, but I also always go back to my tried-and-true method of meeting in person. I recommend asking for an in-person meeting once that connection is made.
Going back to my comment on professionalism, I think it is imperative that we really think about the impact our message may have on others before pressing that post button. If it involves politics, the pandemic, or any potentially controversial topic, and it does not have any direct relevance to your company or product, be VERY cautious. When sharing an article, always be sure to check the sources and always include why you shared it.
Remember that the internet is forever, even if you have second thoughts and delete a post later. Social media platforms and the problems people can encounter in their professional lives because of what they post are not new to us. There are many, many well-documented cases of people posting on social media and then having severe career consequences.
Think before you react and post or share online. You never know who is receiving that information, and what it can lead to. Private, personal profiles are one thing (and still be careful there too), but public-facing profiles in places like LinkedIn are tied to your professional life, your career and your organization. Think carefully about how you want colleagues, employers, customers and vendors to perceive you online and in the real world. What do you want people to see when they land on your profile or Google your name?
I always think back to the acronym ‘THINK’ which has been around a long time and never loses relevance—it also applies to online or in person networking etiquette.
- T: Is it true?
- H: Is it helpful?
- I: Is it inspiring?
- N: Is it necessary?
- K: Is it kind?
Dolly Parton has been interviewed many times about her political opinions and I appreciate her response to the question in 2019: “I don’t do politics, I have too many fans on both sides of the fence.”
With restrictions lifting and in-person events returning, connecting will now be taking a hybrid approach which is great news for introverts and extroverts alike. Now more than ever, BE KIND and professional in person and online.