There may be some folks within your professional networks whom you have never actually met. Yet in terms of online networking, they are far from being total strangers. How is this possible?
Especially in the case of remote workers, online networking often takes on a fully virtual or hybridized virtual/face-to-face approach. Maybe you’ve found other faculty members to collaborate on an academic paper; perhaps you’ve sought out a mentor in your field who works across the globe. It isn’t hard to imagine in this connected era that many (if not the majority) of our human interactions are now facilitated by technology.
Nurturing relationships that are limited to asynchronous interaction or, at best, infrequent video chats, requires a combination of patience, diligence, and consideration. How do different time zones come into play? Which avenues are most effective for interacting with your new connections? And how can you add value to those around you, whether they’re LinkedIn connections or Twitter followers?
We’ve already talked about how to make new connections from a distance. Here’s how to keep those online networking connections fresh as time goes on:
1. Reach out with a resource.
This low-key approach isn’t intended to make you look like a know-it-all; rather, it should be done casually without any hint of obligation.
Maybe they’ve mentioned that they’re studying a new language and you’ve learned that the app DuoLingo just started offering it. Perhaps you’ve found a relevant article or blog post worth sharing. Send it along with a personalized note.
Reaching out on occasion makes you more memorable, and might strike up a conversation.
2. Ask for advice.
One of the simplest (and yes, most flattering) ways to connect with someone is to ask them for guidance.
You might be in the middle of something that could benefit from their expertise; be careful, however, to only ask others for advice that will require a small investment in terms of time and attention. This isn’t a time to request a thorough review of your site code or project timeline.
Be specific and appreciative. If it works out well, let them know.
3. Share an opportunity.
Given that your network may not overlap those of your connections, it’s possible that you’ll catch wind of some opportunities before others. This might involve a new position, a recently vacated job, a consulting engagement, or a company searching for fresh leadership.
If a recent development sounds like it’d be of interest or a potentially great match for your contact, consider sharing it in a carefully crafted message. Even if they pass, they’ll know you thought of them.
4. Make a reference.
Personal branding expert Dorie Clark shared an ingenious suggestion in her recent Harvard Business Review article on virtual networking: if you mention someone in your next blog post, it might pop up in their Google Alerts, effectively putting you on their radar.
On social media, tagging an industry guru or noted thought leader might do the same, but keep in mind that the lower the lift to do it, the less weight an effort carries.
5. Offer to help.
A great way to maintain a strong network starts with thinking about what might be helpful to others.
Perhaps they’ve joined a nonprofit board and your skill set in fundraising or marketing would help them move the needle on a major donor campaign. Don’t wait to be asked; lend a hand and see where it may lead.