Networking online – the alternative to face-to-face meetings
Networking online may become the ‘new normal'. For many business owners being an active member of a networking group is an integral part of the marketing mix. It’s a way to build strong relationships and to meet new clients, suppliers, and strategic partners and you learn something new at every meeting. Sometimes these relationships turn into friendships and business ventures. The undoubted longevity and worldwide growth of networking organisations, such as BNI, are testament to the success of the face–to–face networking format which brings people together from diverse industry sectors.
Networking has already moved online
However, in the past two months, with most people working from home, networking has moved online, using platforms such as Zoom for keeping the membership communicating. I have attended several online networking meetings and have found them quite challenging. Managing an online meeting with 20 or so people on a screen is a challenge. I don’t know about you, but I find them quite tiring and my concentration wanes after about an hour however much I try to stay focused.
Social media is booming
Facebook’s recent results show use is significantly up with nearly 3 billion people using at least one of Facebook’s apps (Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, or WhatsApp) each month, an 11 percent increase year over year and the highest it’s ever been. Facebook alone has 2.6 billion monthly active users, an increase of 10 percent year over year.
With business professionals unable to meet in person, LinkedIn is a busy place. Invitations and posting have soared over the past two months and will continue to be the most effective way to network online.
Online platforms diversify
We’ve seen Meetup allow online meetings to be promoted and LinkedIn has introduced ‘online’ as an option in its Event function for both personal profiles and companies with an option to include live streaming links. AirBnB had launched online experiences for teachers of all manner of arts and craft, exercise classes and language learning.
With likelihood that social distancing will be around for many months, the ‘new normal’ is expected to include both online networking, conferences and training programmes as an alternative to filling up meeting rooms or conference centres.
How will you network in the future?
I asked members of my Facebook group when they will return to networking and the answers were diverse. There will need to be a major shift in confidence for people to return in large numbers.
If business owners and marketers can achieve the same result by keeping safe and using LinkedIn and social media, Zoom and the phone then they’ll not only stay safe but save money time and money.
Online communication skills, both written and verbal, will be highly prized in the post-Covid era.
Do you have a different view? Let me know how you see the world of networking developing in the coming months.
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