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The New Normal: Virtual Networking Offers New Advantages

Thursday night sixty affiliate industry professionals, some veterans of many social events and some new to the industry, gathered on Zoom in an effort to replace what has been missing for almost a year: informally connecting with colleagues.

Networking on Zoom will never replace meeting someone in person. However, over the past year we’ve all adapted, and found value in places we did not expect. In the past a networking event was limited to a city and a place.

Last night participants crossed five time zones and an ocean.

In the past a limiting factor was time at the event and the ability to introduce yourself. Last night everyone’s name was displayed and connections could easily be made in real time on Slack. One-on-one, in person conversation cannot be replaced for forming genuine bonds. However, the virtual happy hours have become ways to connect in ways that were not always possible. In post-event conversations, participants noted three advantages of virtual networking:

  • No limitation on location (although west coast participants noted that a 1:30pm PST Happy Hour changed the trajectory of their day).

  • The venue forces more substantive conversations. In person happy hours are difficult are often limited to one on one or small conversations. Virtual forced a large group to address big issues.

  • The ability to create a connection can be as easy as reaching out on slack immediately after the event - even if you did not chat during the event. ​

The speculation is virtual events will continue post covid, and in person events will take on a different form and purpose. Regardless, it was agreed that when the timing is right, everyone is looking forward to meeting in person.

During the event, sixty professionals split into five breakout rooms moderated by industry veterans. The breakout rooms focused on different topics and participants were placed in rooms in an effort to connect people from different parts of the industry. Each group had a mission to describe what 2025 looked like for their topic. Despite the efforts to create distinct topics and groups, a clear theme emerged: the need for cross channel efforts.

Michelle Morgan of Acceleration Partners moderated a group that specifically focussed on channel conflict, concluding that “PR & Brand efforts are crossing over” and that in 2025 there may not be specific channel budgets. But for now, plenty of internal conflict exists and constituents battle for budget. Those who can manage this conflict today, will emerge as tomorrow's leaders.

Wade Tonkin of Fanatics led a discussion on new publisher discovery and his group noted that “content is now a necessary part of every performance program,” concluding that having cross-over skills between content creation and performance will be necessary for the 2025 marketer.

James Revell moderated a group on incremental growth - the ongoing effort to prove that ones ad dollars drive new revenue. In the past the discussion has revolved around proving the efforts of the channel, this discussion concluded that in 2025 measurement of top-line e-commerce performance will not be pigeon holed into a channel and day-to-day marketing jobs will involve far more cross-channel conversations. The most important skill of an affiliate manager in the near future will be the “grit” to work across the organization and the understanding of other channels.

Diversifying performance spend was the focus of Partnerize’s Jessica Henig’s group. “Mass media are getting active and a key element of performance” concluded Jessica’s group. In 2025 audio, TV budgets will be regular part of performance spend and likely controlled by a single group.

Summing up the conversation was Alison Chew of MealFinds and her group on attribution. Despite being a different topic, Alison’s group hit on the same themes: in 2025 a broader array of media will influence the sale of a product and advertisers will need to compensate these partners accordingly.

The next Martech Record Networking event will be held in April. If you are interested in attending sign up below. If you are interested in moderating please fill out this form.

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