5 Things To Do To Advance Your Networking During the Crisis Five easy ways to network right now when you just can't attend another virtual conference.

By John Boitnott

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Reaching out to expand and strengthen your network just isn't the same since the current health crisis changed the rules of business and life. Without in-person conferences and social mixers, we've all been relegated to virtual networking.

You already know you can join online groups and use video conferencing for networking. Now, explore a few other strategies to grow your network both during the health crisis and well into the future.

Related: 7 Ways Technology Is Working to Address a World in Crisis

1. Philanthropy

If this crisis has taught us anything, it's that we are better and stronger when we work together than when we focus solely on gratifying our own needs and wants. Many people have given time, money and more to help those in need during this time, and it's making a difference.

This compassionate assistance is also creating new opportunities to extend your network.

By helping others through charitable organizations, volunteer opportunities or pitching in to help companies in need, you meet new people. In turn, those interactions connect you with learning, business and development opportunities.

Don't forget to add the organizations and individuals you work with during these experiences to your contact list. Also, share these philanthropic experiences on your social media so your existing network can see the positive results.

2. Online courses, webinars and podcasts

While you can register and participate in other organizations' online events, an even stronger choice is to create your own. Doing so lets you put yourself in front of more of your industry peers whom you might have otherwise never met.

Related: How the Crisis is Changing Consumer Behavior, and How Entrepreneurs Can Act on It

For example, you can develop an online course on a thought leadership topic and then share it on a site like Udemy. Because your course can be watched any time, you'll have a continuous stream of people to add to your network once they complete the course.

The same goes for a webinar, online panel discussion or podcast that you might have considered producing but just never found the time. Now is definitely the time to explore that project and expand your audience. It's also a great way to leverage the talent in your current network and sign them up as participants and guests.

Thanks to online tutorials and numerous low-cost and free tools, it's never been easier to ramp up this networking tactic. Subscribers and registrants can then help you keep growing that network.

3. Downloadable reports, whitepapers and other fresh content

Other options that involve creating something of value can help you attract new network contacts. Whether you re-purpose existing content you previously created or you generate new research and studies, leverage that content to deliver something truly useful to those on your contact list.

Promote these items through your social media channels, virtual network and database or CRM platform. Use recent interactions and ongoing discussions to direct the theme for your content both now and in the future.

Related: How to Onboard Employees in the Midst of a Crisis

4. New online communities

Given the changes in how we work and interact, existing industry organizations and companies have had to move online to reach their members and colleagues. If you are a member of some of these trade industries, you may have already received information about joining their virtual discussion groups and events.

You can also search for additional communities via search engines like Google or Bing, as well as through platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook. This will help you discover other opportunities for participation and targeted networking.

Since there are so many online communities out there, you could spend all week just participating. Instead, look for the two or three communities that best fit your needs and where you feel most comfortable contributing.

Also, look for communities without stringent rules about when or how much you must participate. Don't forget to add the online communities to your bookmarks and events to your calendar so you can make the most of your participation.

5. Personalized messages

Don't neglect the opportunity to further develop relationships with your existing network. A little more sincere interaction could well result in new business or expand the reach of your network.

Related: How to Keep Your Team Motivated in the Midst of Uncertainty

Be patient and spend more time when communicating. Try to personalize each email. You don't want your network contact to feel like they are receiving a generic message.

Referencing a past event or project you worked on together shows the intent to reconnect on an authentic level. You can also share a positive story, offer encouraging words, and ask them if there is anything you can do to help.

Keep connecting

Even though it's a tough time for most of us, it's important to keep working on those human connections. It doesn't cost you anything, but it does offer a significant return for the effort you make. Strengthening those bonds during a crisis can only help when better times return.

Related: What You Can Learn From Freelancers Right Now

John Boitnott

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® VIP

Journalist, Digital Media Consultant and Investor

John Boitnott is a longtime digital media consultant and journalist living in San Francisco. He's written for Venturebeat, USA Today and FastCompany.

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