Image of social networking by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay
For the past few months, many have been wondering how to grow and nurture professional networks when as a society, we no longer have the luxury of in-person meetups, mixers, or other events for the foreseeable future. The power of face-to-face conversation and conversations cannot be underestimated. However, there are some simple steps to take to ensure you don’t miss out on crucial networking and relationship-building experiences.

First things first: do some digital spring cleaning if you need to. Make sure your LinkedIn profile, portfolio, website, or blog, is in excellent shape and up to date so people know the best place to contact you, understand your current situation and view your latest work.

Top tip: use Resume Worded to scan your resume and LinkedIn profile, to get hyper-targeted feedback and recommendations for improvement.

Create a list of key thought leaders from various channels

Less time out of the house and less time spent traveling and commuting can mean more time for reflection and study. Use this time to dive into industry-relevant reports you diligently downloaded “to read later”, as well as discovering new, useful resources.

For other marketers, I recommend signing up for newsletters from gold-standard industry thought leaders such as Product Marketing Alliance, Hubspot, and Marketo, as well as other wider industry resources such as Morning Brew - who recently launched a Marketing Brew! - and Crunchbase. Use these resources to discover and curate thought leaders who you admire professionally, or follow companies of interest.

Of course, you can also directly search for leaders in your chosen field. Think aspirationally - if your long term goal is to become a CMO, search for lists of the most influential CMOs across industries who you can follow.

Follow all thought leaders you discover on LinkedIn and other social media channels you have a presence on.

Top tip: most reports and whitepapers tend to have short Q&As with relevant thought leaders - these are a goldmine to dive into!
Excerpt from the State of Product Marketing 2020, by the Product Marketing Alliance

Personalize your LinkedIn invitations

Most professionals, especially those in Marketing, are delighted to connect with other experts in the field on LinkedIn. However, most people tend to not appreciate out of the blue connection requests that lack any context, especially if the connection is already tenuous at best. Jaded professionals have come to expect random sales pitches, job asks, or even requests for customer support at all times.

So, how can you boost your chances of someone you wish to add to your network accepting your connection request? Gentle flattery is great, but it looks completely disingenuous if it’s obvious you don’t know why you’re flattering them! Show you’ve taken the time to actually read their work, or review their achievements. Naturally, you should also tailor your invitation based on how you came across them. Here’s a good example of a LinkedIn connection request to send to a peer:

Hi, [name],

As a fellow product marketer in [industry], I was inspired by the recent post you shared on [Slack channel, forum, LinkedIn] about [relevant topic]. I would love to connect with you.

Best wishes,

[You]

That’s it!

Establish your value in networking channels

Reposted content can swiftly become dull if nothing thoughtful has been added to it. If you’re sharing an interesting article, pull out a particular quote or angle that appeals to you and comment on it, or ask a relevant follow up question. Moreover, don’t be afraid to share an insight or spark a discussion without linking to an external article.

Make sure you follow up with any engagement on your post and keep the conversation going, and tag relevant people who might also find the content or discussion interesting. The same goes for posts from those you find influential - don’t just “like” their post, comment on it! Tag relevant people who might also find the content or discussion interesting.

This is a crucial investment of time to showcase yourself as a credible voice in your industry and disciple, and is most importantly, a long-term investment. There are no quick fixes for building authority and credibility!

Top tip: Spend 20-30 minutes a week - i.e. 5 minutes a day - scanning for interesting threads to comment and share insights on. LinkedIn’s News tab is the perfect place to start.
LinkedIn News tab

Don’t overdo the webinars!

It can be tempting to sign up for every webinar that lands in your inbox, or you come across online. I certainly made this error in the early days of the pandemic - with no more scheduled in-person events, I figured I’d have all the time in the world to tune in to webinars, right? Wrong. Most webinars are simply not designed or delivered in a way to engage an online audience for a long period of time.

First of all, do your research. Is the webinar hosted by speakers you really admire and want to learn from? Is the topic juicy enough to hold your interest for at least 20 minutes? Are there ample opportunities for audience interaction and discussion?

Moreover, be respectful of your own time, as it’s easy to bite off more than you can chew. For many people, working from home due to the pandemic has only increased their working hours - and not to mention their stress and anxiety levels - giving them less time than they thought they had. A good rule of thumb is to hone in on no more than 1 webinar per week that interests you, and of course, be sure to check out on-demand content when you are in the right headspace to digest it!

Top tip: webinars are another vital avenue to discover and learn from thought leaders.

With these tips, you can continue to build and nurture your professional network, no matter how long in-person connections and events are postponed for.