Admittedly, this is a foreign question to many. However, with so many people not working in offices now, it’s an important one.
Networking, virtually or not, is important. Grand View Research estimates that the worldwide virtual networking market is valued at over 32 billion dollars in 2022! And for good reason, it works. It helps create connections that are necessary for your professional career. No matter what you do, or how long you’re at a company or in a position, it’s important.
Because of these two things, I decided to reach out to friends and colleagues to get an idea of how they network virtually. I asked them a series of questions, all related to networking while remote. They have all been working remotely for several years, so I was thrilled to get their virtual networking advice!
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Remote Work Veterans
Tanner founded Ranksey Digital Marketing in 2018 while he was still attending college at The University of Utah. Ranksey specializes in search engine marketing, serving both local businesses and national brands. ranksey.com
Andy-Lee Fry is a British freelance writer based in Germany. His skills have spanned various media, including SEO blog content, journalism for national news outlets, and animation screenwriting. studiosquidink.com
Emilia Korczynska is Head of Marketing at Userpilot. She’s a content marketer whose passion for SaaS products led her to look for the best way to optimize her users’ product experience in-app, while also creating content to educate the SaaS world about the power of PLG. userpilot.com
Become an Active Participant of Online Networking Groups
This may seem like a no-brainer, but there are plenty of us that enjoy our solitude and have a hard time being engaged with others online. Even so, it’s much harder to standout and maybe get that promotion when there’s no more watercooler, in-person lunches, 1-to-1s in the office. This is just one of many reasons why being engaged with networking groups can benefit you tenfold.
Great for a work pick-me-up
I’m part of a few Slack communities, currently it serves mostly as an inspiration/distraction. I go there mostly when I need a break from my work or a pick-me-up but I don’t want to completely switch from work-mode to leisure-mode. -MJ
Beneficial for a solopreneur
I am part of several Slack groups, Facebook groups, and Reddit communities. These groups have proven to be very beneficial throughout my years of working from home as a solopreneur. Getting the opportunity to network with others in your industry remotely is really amazing and has led to building some really strong relationships. -Tanner
I’m a member of a couple of LinkedIn networking groups. The experiences are largely positive, but as with so many of these things the quality depends on the willingness of all members to meaningfully engage. The ones that work best are those where the members are genuinely committed to ensuring everyone succeeds. -Andy-Lee
Pooling of ideas and opinions
I mostly benefit from Facebook groups. I typically get answers to questions, recommendations for tools, help with hiring new employees, collect survey responses and quotes for articles. -Emilia
Plan Virtual Activities with Friends and Coworkers
Whether you’re nerding out on an Age of Empires campaign, watching a movie together, or playing a board game online, there are plenty of virtual activities that can be done with others to help network and grow relationships. I’ve done all of those actually, and can genuinely say that it was a ton of fun, and helped me learn more about everyone I was with virtually.
Leave room for genuine small talk
I’ve played video games with coworkers (which was fun and quite bonding, but it wasn’t a company but rather a team initiative). I’ve joined virtual parties (aka have your own drink by the computer), which I didn’t find very helpful/good – the limitations of doing large online gatherings are quite obvious: there’s one leading person speaking at the time and no organic small talks can happen, there is only so much you can read from zoom’s camera facial expressions. It feels very forced and artificial, while video games thrive online and are a great way to bond with folks. -MJ
Great way to engage
We do monthly team building activities on Zoom and it’s a great way to engage the team with each other. However, the bigger the team gets, it gets harder and harder to brainstorm ideas. Overall, it’s a great experience and all remote teams should be doing this. -Tanner
You can appreciate the person underneath
I have taken part in some virtual games with coworkers on several occasions. This is usually most fun and effective when everyone sheds their work roles and we get to know and appreciate the people underneath. -Andy-Lee
Don’t make it awkward
Online yoga on Zoom. I’m not a fan of yoga anyway, but this seemed just extra awkward. -Emilia
Build Trust and Give Help (to get help)
There are so many benefits when it comes to networking virtually. It can be easy to think that it doesn’t matter, or isn’t as impactful as in-person, but nothing could be further from the truth. Most entrepreneurs I know have colleagues and friends that they have had for years, yet have never met in person.
But trust is only one benefit. Building business, landing a new job, keeping lines of communication open, new customers, sharing knowledge reciprocally with virtual events, etc. Whichever way you cut it, networking virtually can be hugely helpful if you put the work in. Here are some of the biggest benefits that our group mentioned:
Building business via trustworthy referrals
The biggest benefit I see is you put a face to the name. It’s easier to trust someone once you know they are a real person. I was referred and I did the referrals for some folks specifically based on the fact that I’ve established some genuine connection with someone online. -MJ
I have been able to build strong enough relationships through virtual networking to convert some of those relationships into paying clients. -Tanner
Finding unseen opportunities
Ultimately, the best financial benefit from virtual networking is identifying work opportunities that would not come (easily) from other forms of searching. -Andy-Lee
Growing a company
Recommendation of your product/services (word-of-mouth), helping find good employees etc. -Emilia
How Do You Network Virtually
All of us are a bit different when it comes to networking virtually. Introverts may like to sit back and watch the party unfold, while extroverts might enjoy leading an entire 20-person Zoom happy hour. There’s no wrong way to do it, as long as you are doing it.
1-to-1s (where I reach out to specific people I want to chat with) and video-games with my team. -MJ
Podcasts for the win
I started a podcast where I interview someone new for each episode. In my opinion, this is the most effective way to network virtually. I’m also very active in online communities and LinkedIn. -Tanner
Regular catchups with connections
I usually network virtually in regular catchups with people currently in my circle. The best new networking connections I find are based on recommendations from friends and colleagues, rather than utilizing online groups. I suspect this is because people I have already forged relationships with have (conscious or unconscious) insights into who could make for positive potential new connections. -Andy-Lee
Mostly through chatting on LinkedIn. -Emilia
I’ve been working remotely in one capacity or another for almost 15 years, but I still found some nuggets of wisdom in these virtual networking tips. I especially like MJ’s observation about how virtual ‘parties’ don’t often allow for the small talk on the side. That’s great insight and something that hadn’t really dawned on me before.
One common theme I noticed with everyone’s answers is that networking virtually is very doable. I’ve noticed that many people who feel otherwise fall into two categories typically: (1) they aren’t engaged with their work/coworkers, or (2) they are new to working remotely. Given that over 35 million people have gotten jobs specifically from LinkedIn, it goes without saying that regardless of how you choose to network, you need to network.
Don’t fall into this line of thinking. Make an effort to build new relationships virtually and network with a purpose. Whether that purpose is to build your network virtually, land a new remote position, or simply to make current working relationships stronger, it can be done.
Jared has worked remotely for 15 years in various marketing capacities, and has managed hundreds of marketing campaigns along the way. He has held freelance, agency, and in-house positions for companies large and small.