Career & Jobs

Digital Personal Branding Is Replacing The Business Lunch. Here’s What’s On The New Networking Menu.

If you’re a consultant, lawyer, accountant or other customer-centric professional, your role changed significantly during the pandemic. A big part of your job is building relationships with clients and prospects. And a good chunk of your day was spent working alongside your clients. In some cases, you were even embedded into your client’s team.

Since many customer-facing folks are energized by the human connection, building relationships was easier and more fulfilling in the pre-Covid world. Shaking hands and business lunches were part of the norm. But in March 2020, all that changed. The relationship building activities that yielded you success and satisfaction became verboten and everything moved online at the flip of a switch—making the real, virtual. And it’s likely that even when the pandemic is behind us, digital relationship building will remain a big part of how you achieve your goals. To be successful, then, you need to master digital personal branding so you can continue to build and nurture relationships and reach your goals. Here’s how.

Manage Your Digital First Impression

Prospects will check you out online before they meet you in a Zoom room. And they’ll look to Google to learn more about you once you’ve met, too. Their first (or second) impression will be your Google results and likely your LinkedIn profile. In fact, your LinkedIn About will be the most read version of your bio. So focus your attention there. Make sure it sits at the intersection of credibility and likability. It’s harder to build an emotional connection in the virtual world—that was part of the rationale behind those leisurely client lunches—so don’t skip on sharing what makes you human. And here’s an important tip: When you’re writing your About, apply the most effort to the first two or three lines. That’s all a reader sees when they’re checking out your profile, so make it intriguing or provocative to get readers to click “see more.”

Connect With Clients

Spend some time getting all your clients connected to you via your social media accounts. This will give you another way of staying in touch with them. Take a trip down memory lane and add virtual connections for all the human relationships you have. Then, with your virtual contacts up-to-date, get in the habit of adding your clients and prospects to your social media accounts right after you meet them. With all your real-world contacts connected to you online, it will be easy to stay in their purview.

Connect Your Connections

While you’re spending time making sure your connections are up-to-date, think about who in your network would benefit from knowing others in your network. One of the most valuable things you can do for your network is to link them with mutually beneficial people and resources. Life is who you know. Add value to others by helping them “know” people. Be proactive by hosting a virtual networking event. It’s a great way to give value to your community.

Share Valuable Content

Social media can make it easier to stay top-of-mind with clients and prospects by simplifying the process of being visible. When you’re perusing various sites and you come across some new developments that would be helpful to someone in your network, take the extra time to show your contact that you were thinking of them. If it’s relevant and useful, unsolicited content shows your clients that you know what’s important to them and you’re committed to supporting them. Never share just for the sake of being visible. Make sure the answer to this question is yes, before hitting “share”: Will this be valuable to my target audience?

Follow Your Client Companies

Social media makes it easy to stay on top of what’s happening with your clients. When you follow their LinkedIn company page and official Twitter channel, you gain insights into what’s happening throughout your client’s organization. This helps you deepen your knowledge and provides valuable fodder for conversations. When you engage in their content, liking their post about their new diversity and inclusion initiatives, for example, you’re showing that you’re connected and engaged.

Be A Digital Brand Steward

One way to share valuable content with your community is to curate content that your company or firm publishes. When you commit to being a brand ambassador, several great things happen. You:

  • become more aware of what’s happening in your company, outside your function or division, because you’ve made a commitment to engaging with what your company is posting.
  • demonstrate your loyalty to your company.
  • make the content (which your organization’s communications team worked hard on) much more valuable. Company content shared by employees has more credibility and social impact than when shared by the company’s official communications channel. 
  • get your company in front of clients and prospects. The content you share becomes visible to your clients—keeping them more connected with you and your company.

Use Rich Media

The most important thing you can do to simulate those visceral real-world connections is to use the form of communication that most closely resembles being there in-person—video. Email and texting are not very connective or compelling. Sending video progress reports, thank you messages and other expressions of gratitude will be more heartfelt and stand out from the sea of communications that use the 26 letters of the alphabet. Video is a powerful tool for building relationships and connecting with people on a deeper level. In fact, soon, you’ll be able to add a video introduction to your LinkedIn profile so people can get a better impression of who you are and why they should care.

In the post-Covid age, digital is replacing dining out and other face-to-face, friendship-building experiences we used to enjoy with our clients. If you’re a customer-focused professional, work on your digital personal brand to make sure the bits-and-bytes you is as compelling and engaged as the flesh-and-bones you.

William Arruda is a public speaker, trainer and co-creator of BrandBoost – a video-based personal branding talent development experience.

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