In these strange times in which we live (hello 2020!), You might be wondering…
How to network on social media?
Is it possible to build and grow a professional network on social media?
Let me tell you…
In the past 4 years, I have built my professional network solely through Instagram (+ some IRL events here and there). I have gained many new friendships through social media and got hired for multiple opportunities because of these relationships.
Plus, social media made moving to a new city like NYC and making friends that much easier.
I wanted to put together a complete guide on how to network on social media and in real life in 2020 (to prep you for after COVID-19). I decided to speak to feminist career coach Cynthia Pong of Embrace Change to find out exactly how!
How to Network 101: The Basics
Let us start by defining what networking isn’t in 2020.
According to Cynthia Pong, we can no longer think of networking as this traditional corporate suit and tie event where everyone is racing to hand out their business cards to everyone they meet.
Nowadays networking can happen within your pre-existing circles and online. It can happen through Instagram stories, DMs or a tweet.
However, that is not to say there aren’t great IRL (in real life) opportunities to connect. I will touch on this later in this post, so keep on reading…
How to network as an introvert
“Networking is talking to people,” says Pong.
Pong who identifies as an introvert herself, explains networking as “the most basic relationship and community building” that we already do when we are making friends in our communities, schools or at work.
When we look at networking that way, it takes away some of the formalities and edge that we feel when approaching new people.
Here is what Pong recommends we practice as we expand our networking skills:
- Put yourself out there…
a little bit each month to talk to new people, more than you feel comfortable doing!
- Be respectful of your own inner compass.
It will be your guide on who you need to talk/not talk to.
- Treat networking as a cost-benefit analysis.
Maybe you do not particularly like this person as a friend but it would be advantageous to network with them or think about who you’d like to be friends with in general.
- Add value to other people.
Offer something if you are asking for something.
The key here is to actually network with people who you can be friends with.
Don’t underestimate the power of your existing circle and of new friends. But don’t forget to offer them something before you ask for favors or expect them to start recommending you for gigs.
How to Network Without Feeling Desperate
This is probably what holds most people back from reaching out to a new person that could potentially unlock many opportunities for them.
You tell yourself over and over again “but I don’t want to seem desperate!”.
And you end up never taking action because of that debilitating fear.
Cynthia Pong suggested a few things that can really help you surpass that fear:
1. Have a pep talk with yourself so you don’t project your own feelings of desperation.
Okay, I will introduce myself to that person and see if we have a good connection. And even if it doesn’t work out with this person, I’m still going to find out what I actually do need from someone else. Or there will be lessons in this for me.
2. Ask your friends if it sounds desperate.
Just like you would do when dating someone new, ask your friends to read over your email or text to see if they can sniff out a desperate tone or if it’s just internal projection.
3. Name it. A negotiation technique.
You can start your message by saying “I know this might sound desperate but…” or “I hope this isn’t sounding really desperate…” as they will come to your defense, explains Pong
4. You can’t fast forward experiences. But you can change your mindset.
You can’t rely on one person to give you everything and you can’t keep feeding your mind that it’s desperate or awkward to reach out.
The more you practice networking, the easier it will be to find your own method of reaching out and asking for help that feels comfortable and authentic to you.
How to Network on Social Media Platforms
I can’t emphasize enough how easy it has become to talk to people (especially big shots in our field) because of these various social media platforms.
Not every platform will do the same thing for you. You have to pick the right platform for your needs and business.
My preferred platform is Instagram because it is very interactive and as a blogger/digital creator it is easy for me to find others like me that I can connect with.
If you work in tech fields, politics or science, Twitter might be a great place for you to share your opinions, be heard and interact with people you otherwise have no access to in real life.
LinkedIn, is a growing platform according to Pong who believes it will continue to be an important platform for networking, so she recommends getting comfortable with it now.
How to Network on Instagram
Let’s start with my favorite networking platform: Instagram. (you can follow me here, btw)
Here is what I have done to build and expand my network on Instagram:
- Authentically engage with other like-minded people/accounts.
I used hashtags to find these people or through accounts that I already love and follow.
- Build an ongoing relationship by showing consistent support on their content
- Provide value to them through reposting, suggestions or engagement
- Finally ask them for that phone call, collab or coffee date.
Learn exactly how you can do this by downloading my step-by-step guide on networking on Instagram.
How to Network on LinkedIn to Expand Your Network and Land Jobs
“Everyone on there [LinkedIn] is professionally minded and they are looking to hire people” explains Pong.
People are on there to network, so here is how you can do it:
- Check if the recruiter or person you want to connect with has been active on LinkedIn before sending a Connect request. Otherwise, you might be pending for a while!
- If they have been active (you can see posts in their activity section), then send a Connect and follow them by going to the 3 dots next to their name.
- Then follow our Instagram networking strategy mentioned above to build a relationship.
- It’s a numbers game! The more Connects you send out each week, the higher your chances are of hearing back.
- Don’t wait until you need a job ASAP, to talk to people on LinkedIn. Build your network when you are not looking for jobs.
How to Network in Real Life
(Prep for post the Coronavirus)
Virtual networking will never replace the human to human real-life connection, it will simply help you break into other people’s worlds faster than ever before.
How to Ask Someone to “Pick Their Brain”
You have done everything we talked about to connect with a few new people on social media, now how do you actually meet them in person?
- Send an email or DM and be very specific about what is it that you want from them. Is it a meeting? Is it a phone call? Is it a collaboration? Don’t confuse people.
- Make it as easy as possible for them to decide to meet up with you.
Give them a timeframe to meet up and don’t leave it up to them to decide when to meet you because they are busy and might never remember or have the time to meet.
- Read up on their last posts, accomplishment, bios…etc so that you are prepared to talk and build a long-lasting connection with them.
- Show deep gratitude and understanding.
Let them know that you know how busy they are but how appreciative you are of their time before they even decide to accept your invitation.
How Can You Find Networking Events in Your City?
You can look for networking, career, or development based Instagram accounts and go to their websites or search their feed for those IRL events. I love @bosswomancollective for career development events around the US.
Alternatively, you can utilize hashtags to search for events in your city. For example #nycevents
And let’s not forget about Eventbrite. I find many great industry-specific networking events in NYC on there.
How to Start a Conversation at The End of Events?
Some conversation starter that Pong suggests are:
“Is it your first time at one of these events?”
“Did you also have a hard time finding this place?”
If you are approaching a speaker on the panel, you can approach them by introducing yourself and mentioning what you resonated with and liked about their story. Don’t just fangirl them, relate to them!
Then ask open-ended questions like a how, what or a when question, to get them to talk about themselves.
Reminder: people LOVE talking about themselves!
Pong’s Pro Tip: Repeat the last 1-3 operative words they say to get them to continue talking.
Example: Them: The part I enjoyed the most was working at Google. You: working at Google?!
Do You Need Business Cards in 2020?
Pong and I both agree that you do not necessarily need to have business cards now as most people toss them out anyway!
It is best to get other people’s contact info so you then are in control of reaching out to them instead of waiting for them, hoping they kept your card, to then reach out to you.
I hope these networking tips help you unlock new friendships and opportunities in 2020 and beyond!
Be sure to download my free guide on Instagram networking so you can master this skill now.
Lastly, check out Cynthia’s blog to learn more techniques here. She also provides career coaching for women that you can sign up for here and posts very useful tips on her Instagram account.
If you’re an entrepreneur ready to bring your big brand vision to life, the Social Media Branding Package may be just what you need. This is a one-stop shop service for building a cohesive, stand-out brand AND content strategy that work hand in hand.
If you want to find your authentic brand strategy, check out this brand strategy quiz I created to help you understand how to show up in your business in alignment with your unique energy, personality & Human Design.