Networking in 2021: A Distanced Dilemma
While many PR and marketing professionals love to hate the forced pleasantries involved with networking events, the reality is that in-person networking is one of the most important aspects of growing one’s career and business. In addition to making new connections, networking allows us to practice our public speaking and presentation skills, test our best elevator pitches, and see which messages resonate best with our target audiences. While the pandemic put the kibosh on in-person events for the foreseeable future, there is still hope for networking in 2021.
Here are three ways to make new connections this year.
With everyone stuck at home, more professionals are turning to social media as a primary channel for engaging in important industry conversations. Marketers focused on connecting with others in the fintech and B2B spaces can take advantage of several options for making professional connections online on LinkedIn and Twitter.
LinkedIn should be the number one platform used by B2B and fintech marketers. Groups such as “Banking & Fintech Connect” and “FinTech 20/20” are free to join and share ideas with like-minded professionals; and with over 100K members in each group, the chances of meeting your perfect professional match are incredibly high. In addition, the ability to follow specific hashtags on LinkedIn ensures that your feed will remain perfectly curated for your interests and expose you to content from new influencers in your space to connect with.
On Twitter, 500 million tweets are sent each day – 6,000 tweets each second! If you’re a marketer and aren’t yet a part of #marketingtwitter, stop reading this blog right now, get in on the conversation, and come back to us for more tips. In addition to following content from top marketing and fintech influencers, Twitter’s notification features allow you to set alerts for the influencers and companies you want to prioritize relationships with by clicking on the bell icon next to the follow button. By doing so, you can respond and engage in real-time – increasing your chances of a response and therefore increasing your opportunity to build a genuine connection.
Now while social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter are certainly platforms marketers should be using, they are also becoming the bare minimum – and in these Covid times, networking requires an extra step of creativity. A third platform rising in popularity for networking in 2021 is Bumble – yes, Bumble the dating app. In 2017, Bumble added a business networking feature that allows people to create a second profile specifically for connecting with other professionals in their area regardless of gender or expression preferences. The app’s functionality is the same as its dating platform which allows users to read a personal bio, understand what type of connection someone is looking for (mentorship, investors, general networking, etc.), and swipe right on people they want to engage with in conversation. These conversations can take place directly within the app and result in a coffee meeting with your newest business partner.
In-person trade shows and conferences may be on hold for networking in 2021, but the emergence of virtual events presents a unique opportunity to connect with speakers and attendees that would otherwise not be possible. For example, Fintech Talents North America is one virtual event that encourages attendees to connect with its speakers and steering committee on LinkedIn. This eliminates the need to fight for time and pass out business cards in a crowded room that would likely get lost in the shuffle at an in-person event.
The simplest way to build connections at these virtual events is to listen in to the various speakers, take quality notes on key takeaways from their talk and send a genuine follow-up email or LinkedIn message.
Below is a template to get started:
I saw your recent talk at (EVENT) on (DATE) and what you said about (INSERT TOPIC) resonated with me because (INSERT YOUR PERSONAL CONNECTION).
I work with (COMPANY NAME) as the company’s (TITLE) and would love to connect via video chat to discuss (TOPIC). (INSERT A SENTENCE OR TWO ABOUT WHY YOU WOULD BE A PERFECT PROFESSIONAL MATCH FOR THEM).
How do either (POSSIBLE TIME) or (POSSIBLE TIME) work for you?
Lastly, networking in 2021 is unique because of the way it forces many of us to take a step back and away from the busy shuffle of travel plans, happy hours, forced smiles, and card collection. A wise rapper named Drake once uttered the words “no new friends,” and this year presents the perfect opportunity to reach back out to old connections from conferences past and schedule the virtual coffee you never got around to doing in person.
A challenge for marketers: dig into that drawer of disorganized business cards and take the time to organize them in a Rolodex. Every two weeks pick three contacts to reach out to with zero expectations. Break the ice by sending a recent news article relative to their industry and expertise and ask what their take is on the subject. There is a strong likelihood that a percentage of those conversations will result in a video chat or phone conversation to reconnect and discuss the latest happenings in both of your businesses and lead to organic growth this year.