In the last year and a half, we saw a dramatic uptick in screen time, leading to new terms such as “Zoom fatigue” to be thrown around on a daily basis, in reference to just how much time was spent staring into one’s computer for meetings, family happy hours, and friend catch-ups. Now that re-openings are happening across the United States, and in-person meetings and events are resuming, we’re left with the question of how virtual networking will play into the future. Will the “Zoom fatigue” continue – causing many to ditch their laptops for as many hours as possible during the day – or have we learned and adapted to the many benefits of virtual networking and remote employment?

With a heightening reliance on technology and its accompanying emphasis on globalization, it’s more than likely that virtual networking will continue to see growth. As we look at how the future of work, life, and networking will change in the coming months and years, the following benefits of virtual networking remain promising in the scope of a hybrid model: in-person and virtual moving forward.

1. Global Connection

Whereas typically, one’s ability to network and connect was dependent upon proximity, the number of social media tools and resources created or further developed during the pandemic has spurred global connection in a new and fascinating way. With nowhere to go for social interaction in the height of quarantine measures, social media usage went up dramatically. Digital Commerce 360 reported a 72% increase in social media consumption and a 43% increase in posting during the pandemic. While these high numbers are sure to dissipate as the world reopens, it illuminated a way of connecting with the greater world, spanning physical distances.

This form of connection wasn’t just about keeping up with friends and family, either. The popularity of apps like TikTok, which promote content from strangers to strangers depending on the video’s performance, the ramifications of global connection has never been more exciting. At any given time, you can find a new co-founder, friend, romantic interest, or hire online – from any corner of the globe. Many new products are capitalizing upon this trend, such as the Laska Group, which uses unique match algorithms to “accelerate the global adoption of real time communication in the online space in order to connect more people around the world in more engaging and meaningful ways.”  It was recently acquired by the Huafang Group, which is one of the biggest live stream entertainment businesses in China. Through live video communications, they’re making it easier than ever for digital consumers to make new friends globally in real-time.

2. Wider Audience Reach

Not only does virtual networking expand the potential for virtual connection with new friends, colleagues, and otherwise, but it also provides for wider audience reach. For example, when event organizers had to change their events to virtual because of the pandemic, they found more opportunity arose. For one, most speakers were considered (within budget), because traveling to speak was no longer a concern. Joining in to give a talk to an audience became as easy as clicking a Zoom link. Then, the wider audience reach was a factor, as well. Those who didn’t want to pay the extra fees to travel to an in-person event were able to tune in virtually, expanding the audience potential.

This also factored into event marketing. For example, if a writers convention that is hosted in Minneapolis was to become remote, it could now include writers from as far away as Europe or Asia within the audience. And, many found that taking their talents to social media instead of on physical stages – whether that was motivational speaking, comedy, singing, or another form of art – led to an increase in eyeballs, especially on these viral platforms like TikTok and Instagram reels. Even though the world may be returning to in-person events, this capacity to reach hundreds of thousands or even millions of viewers from the comfort of your home (with the right content) will continue to be quite popular.

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3. Remote Work Abilities

Because companies were forced to adjust to remote working, they learned how to do so quickly – and found plenty of benefits to this form of work. For one, employee happiness and satisfaction. It’s been estimated that 22% more people who work remotely say they’re happy with their job as compared to those who work in the office full-time. With big tech companies such as Twitter and Basecamp declaring that they’ll be remote forever, virtual networking will continue to be prevalent, such as with virtual happy hours and other work events. It’s also likely that other tech giants, such as Amazon, will follow in these footsteps and offer the potential for remote work to their employees.

Less time in the office means more time for one’s own interests and virtual networking capacities. And, since human connection is a forefront need for so many, individuals will seek out individual networking opportunities, from Zoom Rooms with others who share their hobbies and interests, to remote classes from around the world. Technology has progressed enough to offer this level of opportunity and interaction.

So, if you’re ready to put video meetings aside, do it for a little while – but not for long. It’s nearly certain that the emergence of more apps, tools, and resources geared towards virtual networking will ramp up in the near future. There’s too much to lose without them.

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