Networking During a Pandemic

The time has come for you to figure out how you are going to enhance your online presence. Maybe you have dabbled here and there—sharing an article, liking a tweet, or posting some thoughts on LinkedIn. But now it’s time to get serious. With in-person networking curtailed by the coronavirus, your online presence is more important than ever.

Maybe you have been reluctant to build an online presence because you don’t like the idea of selling yourself or feeling fake. But that’s the wrong way to look at it. Building your online presence is an opportunity to learn, to help others, and to widen your network and your worldview. 

It’s ok if your motivation is a bit self-serving. Maybe you hope to find new job opportunities, facilitate a career change, or raise your status. If you share your knowledge, experience, and perspective, you can reach goals like these while helping others at the same time.

The key is to follow your interests. If you want to become a thought leader in your industry or field of expertise, then focus on that. You can build content that demonstrates what you know. More importantly, because building your online presence means consistently publishing content over time, you will need to grow and learn in order to produce new material. And you can share all the lessons you learn along the way. What better way to demonstrate your growth than by showing it directly? The same idea holds true if you aim to expand your personal brand into a new area. 

When I was interested in internet marketing, that’s what I blogged about all the time. I was captivated by the early days of social media and the dramatic shifts happening in the marketing landscape. To learn more about all of this, I jumped in and started experimenting with the platforms. Then I wrote about what I learned and shared my perspective. I met a ton of new people in a completely new domain, learned even more, and helped a lot of people along the way. Eventually, that led to new opportunities for me, including two teaching jobs that I thoroughly enjoyed.

One thing you might want to think about is format. If you like writing, you might want to start a blog. If talking is more your thing, you could consider going with a podcast. If you are more of a visual person, then maybe video will work for you. But choosing a format is also another opportunity to learn.

You might choose writing not because you are a great writer, but because you want to improve your writing skills. I can guarantee that writing regularly will help you with that. By the same token, you might want to learn how to become a good interviewer or work on getting more comfortable speaking. Making your own podcast will certainly sharpen those skills. Maybe you’d like to learn more about cameras and editing, lighting and graphics or any of the many elements involved in producing video. Creating some sort of video show would give you exposure to all of that.

No matter which format you choose, view it as an experiment and as a learning process. Earnest Hemingway wrote shitty first drafts and a number of works that didn’t stick the way his big hits did. Scroll all the way down on your favorite podcast to the earliest episodes and you will likely hear a cringey crude version of its current incarnation. The same is true for your favorite YouTube show or vlog. You don’t have to be great to start, but you do have to start if you ever want to get good.

That’s what building your online presence is all about—getting better at whatever you are interested in and sharing your journey with the world. It’s less about sharing expertise than it is about building expertise, including with the modern technologies that make this all possible. By publishing your content online, you will learn more about how social networks work. You might learn the ins and outs of a popular content management system, how to set up themes and work with formats, and how to add features with plugins.

If you get into podcasting, you will learn about audio file formats, distribution systems, recording and editing. Producing video content will help you learn about all the things it takes to make a good video, plus the popular platforms for posting them. These are all great skills to have for whatever the future may bring you. Maybe you can use these skills to help a community organization or professional association that you volunteer for. Perhaps you will apply them to some hobby you enjoy. And these skills just might come into play at your current job or some future position. Imagine if you put together a video for your company or your team after having lots of production experience under your belt. You would be able to produce something high quality pretty quickly, while avoiding common mistakes and teaching others important techniques. That is a value add.

You might be thinking that this sounds like a big commitment of time and energy. And it can be. But you can also chip away at it in small pieces over time. That’s why it’s important to start now and to work on it consistently. Sure, maybe you will have to miss out on a Netflix show or two, give up a lunch hour here or there, and devote some of your weekend time to this. That’s why you should follow your interests and pursue topics you enjoy delving into. As you immerse yourself in this endeavor, get deeper into the topics you explore, and begin to master the different platforms where you will share what you create, you will find rewards in many small successes and, ultimately, some larger payoffs.

By all means, start small. But start now. And continue consistently. Build your online presence bit by bit, expanding how much and how often you post as you learn more and become more comfortable. Soon the early stumbling blocks will fade into memories, the mechanics will become rote, and your ability to connect with others around ideas will grow and grow. Before you know it, you will look back on a body of work and you will be standing in a new place where the future looks brighter than it ever has before.