Quarantine and fewer physical interactions don’t necessarily have to mean less networking and social interaction. But how can online networking be done effectively, especially during these emotionally-intensive times of coronavirus?

Thanks to the power of digital and the ability to build public or semi-public profiles within different platforms we can stay connected even if we are apart. Platforms such as Linkedin allow for professional networking to take place. They make it possible to visualize, interact with, and create or activate existing professional networks, and to create connections with new ones unbounded by geographic distanceGreenhow from Michigan State University highlights.

You might be looking forward to connecting one-on-one with someone because you are interested in finding out more about their job or the organization they work at. Maybe you are curious about a project they coordinate or you believe you have a product they would be interested in.

Building digital relationships may look like an easy task but it’s not all one-for-one. Standing out can be hard, especially when reaching out to industry leaders or highly influential people. Whatever the reason why you want to connect, here are 5 tips that can add value to your first interaction when you are networking online.

1 – Don’t Reach Too High And Mind Gatekeepers: Online Networking

Wouldn’t it be great to get in touch with influential directors from large brands you admire? For you, yes. For them, maybe… but presumably not. Would you be able to give these people the amount of value they would give you?

Odds are you would not. But even if you managed to, standing out would be hard as these people have busy days, many priorities, little free time and often don’t manage their agendas. That’s why Jeff Haden from Inc. says it is better to connect with people more on your level because you will most likely to able to help accomplish each one’s goals.

2 – When Networking Online, Show Yourself Before Reaching Out Directly

Before reaching out to the people you are interested in getting acquainted with, explore this person’s profile a little. This will allow you to, on one hand, really understand if it makes sense to approach this person and to confirm your expectations about them.

On the other hand, it also provides an opportunity to become less of a stranger to these people. You can comment and pertinently share your thoughts on some of their content, or even share it. This will help you create some common ground that will be useful once you are introducing your self.

3 – Introducing Yourself When You Are Networking Online

When you are introducing your self to someone and you want to show them why they matter to you there’s a fine line you need to secure. You do not want to either send a standard, one-size-fits-all message that feels too impersonal nor one that makes you look like a stalker.

That’s why finding some common ground beforehand is important. It provides you with a genuine reason to justify your interaction in the first place. “I’ve been keeping up with your work because I’m interested in eco-design“, “I follow your company and your role looks very interesting” or “A post of yours on my feed got my attention” all are valid reasons to justify your approach and to make the other person feel special and appreciated.

Sending a message out of nowhere might trigger a negative (“fly”) response. A “Hi, where can I learn more about carbon credits?” is different from a “Hi, I read your medium post about carbon credits and I’m wondering if you have any suggestions as of where to find more info about the subject?”. That’s why finding and mentioning some particular context that promotes trust is important. Mentioning shared connections you have, or shared education or work history can help break the ice too.

4 – Online Networking: Keep Your First Interaction Short And Sweet

Hard, I know. There are probably a lot of things you want to share and ask and keeping your message short can be challenging. However, think about the person on the other side of the line and your main goal: getting a reply back.

The other person is likely to never have heard about you before. Perhaps your title looks appealing to them, perhaps not. The point is: how many minutes would you spend reading a bunch of paragraphs about someone you don’t know – and whom you may not really be interested in getting to know? Who they are, where they work, what their organization does, clients they work with, what this person works at, their view about a particular issue…

Maybe you would. Maybe you wouldn’t. But your odds of being read increase if you are short and sweet and go straight to the point. Find a balanced way of quickly mixing who you are, what you expect from this person and, if it is the case, how they might benefit from interacting back with you.

5 – Online Networking: Be Thankful No Matter The Outcome

Hopefully, you get a nice reply back. You get this person’s authorization to use their content in some publishing of yours, you get to make them a demo, you schedule an informal skype appointment… But oftentimes, this desired outcome may just not come true.

If you don’t get a response back, embrace it with confidence and don’t take it personally. There are numerous reasons why all you got was silence and wondering why will not lead you anywhere. Instead, focus on other people and other opportunities. Moreover, you never know if someday this seed you have planted doesn’t unexpectedly grow and you get surprised by a late response.

Or maybe you got a reply back but it wasn’t what you expected. Cultivate a healthy relationship, say “thank you” and again – move on. Maybe this person will remember you later on and you never really know what the future holds.

[Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash]