Peter Pham has been calling his contacts lately.
He misses what’s the best part of attending conferences for him – working the room. So in the middle of a pandemic, he’s keeping touch the old-fashioned way. By reaching out on the phone.
“I randomly dial people,” says Pham, the co-founder of tech incubator Science Inc., who looks to networking to find the next great company to invest in and to attract investors for the companies he works with. “I’m taking more of an effort to say, 'Hi' and catch up.” Without conferences, he can’t randomly run into people and do just that.
This year alone, major tech conferences like the Mobile World Congress, Facebook and Google developer meetings, the Code conference and the National Association of Broadcasters meetings were either postponed or canceled. Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference, which normally meets in the first week of June, shifted to a digital-only format and will be seen online on June 22.
With employees working at home and the need to find a new job, get ahead in the old one and just stay in touch and top of mind with contacts still there, what are people to do?
We have some ideas for you.
Jeremiah Owyang, an analyst with Kaleido Insights, believes it is actually easier to network digitally than in-person because you get wider access to so many more people.
At a conference, "you'll shake hands, ask for a business card, and hope to connect later online," he says. "Online, you establish the connection immediately."
To network, he recommends finding out when the next public business meeting or happy hour is presented online and request attendance. That will get you in closer to raise your hand and get heard. It will also put you into contact with other like-minded individuals who can become potential contacts.
How do you find them? Follow the people you're interested and odds are, they'll mention the meeting in their posts. Additionally, many are listed on Facebook and other social platforms.
Do your research
Rebecca Leder, a manager at Salesforce and author of an upcoming book on networking called "The Knock Method," says networkers should scour LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter profiles and Google the subject as well before reaching out.
"You have a lot of tools at your fingertips to know about someone," she says. "You can also find out about mutual contacts and interests, which is an ice breaker."
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Work your social network
It’s simple logic. Who isn’t on Twitter? Who doesn’t want to hear back from people after they post? Engage with them, suggests Raj Nijjer, a vice-president with e-commerce platform Yotpo.
“Twitter is the best-kept secret in networking,” he says. Most people think of LinkedIn first, he says, but on Twitter, beyond the political fighting, “people are more themselves and it’s a great place to meet them,” provided it’s in areas of mutual interest, which for Nijjer is marketing.
How to reach people who seem out of reach? You’re not going to get to Tesla chief Elon Musk or Apple CEO Tim Cook, but down the line, others who work at the company, if they’re posting regularly, are probably willing to engage,” says Nijjer. “Otherwise they’re speaking in a vacuum.”
What about LinkedIn?
Leder prefers LinkedIn. “But it depends on the industry,” she says. “Marketing is more vocal on Twitter, but finance might be better for LinkedIn.”
For mastering LinkedIn, she suggests having an updated profile with a current description, a photo “that looks inviting,” and putting out posts often. Like Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn also lets you throw out your thoughts, offer links to articles, show your latest YouTube video or photograph.
The beauty of LinkedIn, says Owyang, is not just the connection, but it shows the world who you're connected to as well, which can boost your profile.
Jay Grammond, a Princeton, Minnesota-based photographer, suggests going even further and getting involved in specialty groups on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. "Find groups that focus on your area of interest/expertise and engage in positive conversations with the people in those groups," he says. "Share your knowledge, and learn from others. Over time, you will likely see that networks will develop.
Get to blogging
Both Leder and Owyang are big believers in blogging as a sales tool.
"I post content that attracts people," says Owyang. "I don't want to chase them. A unique video, thoughtful analysis, something that we can discuss."
He has multiple websites, but he always posts to Medium because the website, which is popular with tech insiders, will let you republish your blog post directly there. And because the site is popular, the Medium link carries more weight with Google or SEO, he says, surfacing it for more people online.
Follow USA TODAY's Jefferson Graham (@jeffersongraham) on Twitter and LinkedIn