Posted on: April 20, 2021
In the middle of a pandemic, it is more difficult than ever to network with others. Trust me — I’m a “connector” at heart, and the COVID-19 crisis has made it extremely challenging to navigate my web of personal and professional contacts. It has taken a psychological toll, and I’m not alone.
Offices are closed. Cafes are empty. Happy hours are in the rearview mirror, except for on Zoom. While the internet has opened up a whole new world of communicating and connecting (which I’m grateful for), it is still incomparable to the value of face-to-face networking. Fostering interpersonal connections enables job seekers to find work, employees to thrive and small businesses to grow into something more.
Without that networking, word-of-mouth marketing becomes harder and harder. And client referrals are one of the most important moneymakers for many small business owners. In my line of work, a recommendation is everything.
Alas, we’ll just have to make do. Networking today means creating and cultivating an online footprint, if not a physical one. If you do not keep up with people you meet in business, they could easily forget you. Without putting in the work, we are all easily forgettable.
Establishing an online footprint can help you avoid being forgotten. Now more than ever, “keeping up” means hosting Zoom calls or sending LinkedIn messages. It means being easily findable in Google search results, which convey a sense of legitimacy. People who pop up in Google searches tend to be perceived as more reputable. I certainly think that way.
This also matters in a practical sense. If you’re not findable, people will not be able to contact you when they need what you have to offer. But beyond that, “findability” shows that you are relevant and worth contacting in the first place. It shows that your business can help solve people’s problems.
These days of social distancing are the perfect time to reach back out to people from the past. Remember that business leader from the chamber of commerce meeting before the pandemic? Who exchanged business cards with you, but you never followed up?
Now is the time to reach out. Contact that person via email or on social media. There is nothing to lose, and perhaps everything to gain.
It’s also the perfect time to post content on LinkedIn and other social channels, which is likely to prompt organic responses and lead to spontaneous networking. Position yourself as a credible expert on a topic, and make your opinion known. Let others know that you’re a thought leader in your given field. Then, they will trust you enough to reach out when they have a problem for you to solve.
Another idea is to write an opinion column in your local newspaper. This is a surefire way to engage with people in your surrounding community. And who knows, you may create a valuable contact.
Again, there is nothing to lose. There is no risk in being “out there.” That is how business has always been done, and it is still conducted that way during a pandemic. The modes of communication have changed, but the fundamental rules of networking have not.
Be unforgettable. Be memorable. If your competitor has a larger online footprint, you could pay the price. If that person is following up with prospects or sending them holiday gifts, you will likely take a back seat.
So much noise and clutter exist in the world, especially these days. Cut through the clutter by putting yourself out there.
Don’t let others forget you. Be memorable.
This article originally appeared on the Forbes Agency Council CommunityVoice in December 2020.