• Deloitte

Creating relationships through digital networking

The art of building a professional network in a digital age

As digital interaction increasingly influences how businesses operate and succeed, making connections in a digital networking has taken on much greater importance.

Building a strong network

A leader’s journey is not one traveled alone. Just as there are critical junctures in a career, there are crucial relationships that help along the way. Whether this help comes in the form of assistance in acquiring new roles, recommendations for leadership positions, or internal associates who provide a needed push or connections with others who can provide business insight, the need for a strong network is paramount.

Networking at its best can be uncomfortable and difficult for some, but its impact can be immeasurable. Research shows networking can lead to more job and business opportunities, along with better performance. Building and strengthening connections, exchanging ideas and broadening knowledge, and nurturing mutually beneficial relationships helps professionals increase their capacity to innovate and improve overall quality of work and job satisfaction. Many successful in their networking endeavors also understand the importance of developing and consistently maintaining these networks long before they need to call upon them.

Build your network before you need it

Successful networkers understand the importance of developing and consistently maintaining relationships long before a specific need arises. While networking is crucial for finding jobs, it also presents prime opportunities to collaborate on important issues, team up to author new research, tap into new markets, or uncover unseen insights. Don’t wait for connections to happen. Be the first to reach out, ask a question, or offer to help others. Make sure you have the right network in place before you need it. Nurture relationships along the way so you feel confident asking for help when the time comes. The act of building rapport over time makes the deed of reaching out less strenuous and opens the door for opportunities that might not have been there by just flying solo.

Networking in changing times

Our evolving business landscape has demonstrated that our world is becoming more global and increasingly digital. Opportunities to develop new relationships in an ever-evolving virtual backdrop is giving way to creative new digital networking approaches. While this may be charting new territory for some, the premise of digital networking is rooted in the foundational elements of traditional practices. By embracing this new atmosphere, leaders can open themselves up to innumerable prospects.

Begin with the end in mind

Approach networking with a mindset of mutual benefit: How can we help each other, and what value can I bring to this relationship? Know your personal value proposition and who you are as a leader, so you are clear about how you can add value and assist others. Strong relationships are a two-way street that requires balance and reciprocity. Build your network with others before you expect anything in return.

Develop your personal digital brand

Often when people search you, your online profiles are the first thing they come across, so establish yourself and be sure to update your information on a regular basis. Conduct a web search of yourself and see where you show up in the results. The better presence you have online and the more strategic you are in building your profiles, the closer to the top of the search results you will likely be. You can attract others and build your online influence through blogging, posting to social media, commenting on posts, and tagging those with whom you wish to connect. Use social listening tools to help you join relevant online communities and stay on top of relevant discussions your audience is talking about. Sharing your views on business and industry topics can help you to increase your influence in the space and engage others in a meaningful way.

Diversify your digital connections

When building your network, don’t just add everyone. Be thoughtful and curate your list of connections based on your long-term goals.

Staying connected and involved in the latest industry information can be enriched though online communities such as LinkedIn, Slack, community forums, or blogs. Getting involved with the conversations and connections through these groups can allow you to make connections with people at different levels both inside and outside your industry. You never know where a connection could lead or an idea could come from, so be sure to diversify your outreach.

More and more organizations are offering their traditional conferences and events in online formats. Opportunities such as these can allow you to connect with others, expand your knowledge base, and gain new business acumen, all from the comfort of your own office. Find elements of each event that resonate with you as a jumping-off point to begin conversations with others to learn and form connections.

Gain introductions through email

While the latest video and technology trends may be enticing, sometimes the simplest forms of connection can generate the most impactful results. Look for mutual connections with future contacts and ask for a simple email connection between you both. That common connection can help generate conversation and form a connection built on the trust of a mutual relation. From there, scheduling a 30-minute video conference can open the door to develop more meaningful, engaging connections with visual body language and facial communication cues.

Use all the technology at your fingertips

Video conferencing, messaging platforms, and social media have created many new opportunities to connect with others on a more personal level. These tools were intentionally developed to bring connection in a disconnected and impersonal environment. Online platforms enable you to connect with others in novel ways that can be very engaging—posting videos, attending live-streaming events, and virtual coffee chats, just for starters.

Determine what method suits your current needs and properly prepare for each situation. With visual recognition memory outpacing the effectiveness of auditory recognition memory alone, video conferencing can help reinforce your personal brand and make a real impact.

Building your professional and personal network still holds to tried-and-true practices, but don’t shy away from using all instruments at your disposal. The online digital revolution will continue to present new and exciting ways to make connections and build relationships. Take advantage of them to strengthen your network—and your career.


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