Keys to Hacking Virtual Networking

Learning Rebels Hacking Virtual Networking

Let’s face it – networking is a PAIN in the best of times, and when it comes to virtual networking – it can be even more painful. Some may even say it’s “icky” and don’t like the feeling of self-promotion.

Yet, some people have more talent to make it work than others. What are their secrets? What are the “hacks” they have discovered to make virtual networking more palatable?

Generally, the reason we look to networking is to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. This involves becoming part of a group with which you resonate and believe can support your “networking purpose” because we all know the benefits of building connections.

The good news is that joining a network is literally only a few clicks away. The bad news is that just as with networking in person, there is some effort required to keep the virtual connections alive.

What kind of virtual network group should you join?

This is a big question. There are SO many groups out there, covering a variety of niches, from personal interest items such as crocheting or grilling to professional interest topics like Project Managers to Accountants. No stone is left unturned. For this post, I’m going to focus on networking on LinkedIn and how to find and sustain a network connection.

The first step is to find a LinkedIn group you can connect with, both professionally and philosophically. I’m not going to join a learning technologies group that is focused on LMS building because it’s not my thang. It’s not part of my business solutions. So, this group would not be of benefit to me, nor would my contributions benefit them. Being part of a group is a give-and-take relationship.

So, what kinds of groups did I find?

Find LinkedIn Groups
Enter your search criteria and hit the “more” drop-down to find groups

11,703 different groups dedicated to Training and Development

814 groups dedicated to Neuroscience

634 groups for Creative Writing

392 groups supporting Instructional Design

314 groups hosting Emotional Intelligence

Which group is right for you?

Okay, you’ve found the type of group that is interesting to you. Out of the 11,700 T&D groups, how do you know which one is right for you? Most importantly, do you know your “why”? Why are you searching for a group? What are you hoping to achieve? What do you see as the main benefit?

Are you:

  • Looking to upskill?
  • Meet new people?
  • Find a new gig?
  • Test out new ideas?
  • Looking keep your curiosity at a peak?
  • Want to improve your creative outputs?

Keep in mind:  Groups that may be the most valuable to you are those related to your job role, your location, and shared values. If you can find a group that hits this trifecta, you’re most likely going to get the most value for your time. For example, I found a Chicago-based “Training and Development Group,” and it’s probably worth checking out.

When searching, enter your criteria plus the location desired.

You’re in a group, now what?

We all know the conventional tips, but they bear repeating. If you keep the following three steps in mind, you will conquer LinkedIn groups. Not only LinkedIn groups but any other professional virtual networking space you are a part of, be they a Facebook Group, a formal Network, a casual enterprise network, etc.

But before you tackle these steps, be sure to download this handy, dandy virtual networking checklist

Step 1: Engage

Garbage in, garbage out. You cannot join a group and wait for people to notice you. You HAVE to jump in. I know it’s scary. It’s like being the first person to talk at a cocktail party. Eventually, someone has to speak up, and it might as well be you. Share your story and your why. Here are some tips to help you engage:

  • Find a post of interest and contribute or acknowledge.
  • Find a post that is a question. If you have some insight or a resource to share, do so.
  • Don’t just “like” a post. Respond! Either share insight, ask for clarification or applaud their thought. People who give, get.
  • If you see someone from a similar industry/location, say hello.

Keep in mind – People are a part of this group for the same reasons you are. They like what they do, they are looking for help, or looking to talk to people outside of their organization. You are not alone in your quest to find a special group of people.

Step 2: Post/Share

This is beyond engagement. You are starting the conversation! Be brave! You may think you have nothing to share, but trust me, your voice has value. There is a person out there who needs your tip, advice, or story to make their day better.

  • Post a question
  • Share a resource
  • Share a best practice or tip
  • Ask for a best practice or tip
  • Acknowledge people who respond to your posts. Say “Thank you”!

Keep in mind – Know the goals of the group. Are they critical thinkers looking for debate? Are they newbies looking for advice and guidance? Do they have guidelines as to the different types of resources that can be posted? Be sure to read “About this group” for guidance.

Step 3: Connect

If you notice a person who is in the same location or posts something that is of greater interest to you, or perhaps shares the same values, reach out and connect. When you ask for the connection, keep in mind the 3 P’s:

Personal: Who you are, and where you know them – Hi Bob, this is Shannon from the Chicago Training and Development Group.

Purpose: Why a connection would be of benefit – I read your post about “Why T&D has a role in diversity initiatives.” I found it hugely relevant to the work I’m doing as part of XYZ company in downtown Chicago, and I was hoping we could connect.

Process: Propose next steps – I had some questions about your third point in the article. Would you mind having a deeper discussion?

Keep in mind – As being a part of a Linkedin group, you can message people directly. I recommend reaching out and connecting first to be sure they are open to a direct conversation. There is A LOT of spamming going around, and you don’t want the recipient to think you are trying to sell them something when all you are looking for is a new connection to share deeper discussions.

Bonus Step: Schedule your Activities

As I stated in the opening of this post, some people are better at this whole virtual networking thing than others. The difference? They make a plan to network. I can go DAYS without thinking about connecting with my network peeps. This is a BAD thing. We get bogged down in work, we stress about projects, and we get buried in email or Zoom calls. These are excuses, and not necessarily good ones. You have to hold yourself accountable for reaching out, or else you lose touch.

Mark your calendars: Set up a recurring meeting to check in with your favorite groups or social accounts.

Ask Alexa or Google to remind you: Ask Google to remind you at 4:30 pm each day to check your LinkedIn or Facebook group. If you are a part of multiple groups, set a reminder to reach out to one group a day.

Use Feedly to curate articles of interest. You can send articles to Feedly that would be of value to your instructional design group, then when Alexa reminds you to check LinkedIn you have something to share. You’ll feel more confident about checking in if you are armed with a reason to be there.

To wrap this up:

Here is my main point, it’s all up to you. You cannot depend on people to drag you into conversations. You must take ownership of your virtual networking techniques and connections. It really is about nurturing. How you interact, how much time you spend in your group, and how you choose to discover information is what adds value. Networks die because of neglect, don’t send yours to an early grave.

Shannon Tipton

Shannon Tipton

As Owner of Learning Rebels, Shannon Tipton is a skilled learning strategist, content developer and International speaker. Shannon has over 20 years of leadership experience developing successful learning strategies and infrastructures for training departments within organizations in North America, Europe and Korea.

Shannon works with people and organizations to develop learning solutions that brings actual business results. Recognized as bringing real-world expertise into the learning field, Shannon integrates technologies and social learning tools to strengthen workplace alignment, enhance collaboration and increase learning connectivity.

As author of “Disruptive Learning” Shannon frequently speaking at conferences across North America and Europe and ranks as one of the top 100 L&D influencers on Twitter (@stipton).

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