No matter what stage you're at in your career, networking should always be part of your overall strategy. You should always be on the lookout for new people and connections to make especially when you're at a conference or meet up. You never know where your next business lead will come from, or who will give you a positive referral. However, chances are you won't have the time to attend every major event or conference out there and will have to make better use of your time.
This is where social media comes into play. It's always good to be thinking one step ahead and while you should always interact with people, regardless of their status or position, you should approach it with a general strategy to ensure you get the most out of it.
While networking can be done on any platform, the two that are most suited to it would be Twitter and LinkedIn, Twitter because it removes the barriers between two people communicating while LinkedIn is obviously focused towards professional networking.
Focus On Yourself
Going back to our post on personal branding, how you portray yourself to the outside world is important. If you come across as sloppy, then you're only giving people reasons to not pay attention to you. Don't give them that chance by doing a few simple things like ensuring your profile photo is professional and clear, your bio and about sections are filled out, and all relevant sections are filled out, so anyone viewing your profile can understand where you're coming from.
Be A Real Person
Yes, you should make sure that the content you post shows off your expertise, but you shouldn't forget that you're a person first and just seeing someone retweeting or posting articles with no opinion or feedback isn't going to make people want to follow you. Think of it this way: look at the five people you love following and look at what they post. Is it all links, do they post opinions, comments, images, videos or do they just post links? Chances are the reasons you follow them is because they post interesting comments, whether it's about their area of expertise or more general subjects. That's what you should aim for.
It's good to have a mixture of professional and personal tweets so that your personality comes across as well, and if you're lucky, the two could end up intersecting from time to time. In the case of posting, try to tweet or update regularly so that people know you're online and will see their message if they decide to reply to you.
The one major benefit of social media is that you can usually bypass the secretaries and staff of any company and communicate directly with the managers and CEOs. There's nothing stopping you from replying to their tweet or messaging them directly, but think about the context. If it's a conversation between two people who aren't following you, you may need to weigh up whether they will appreciate you jumping in. However, if it's something like a question being put forward or a query, then jump right in.
Build Up Familiarity
The reason why we fill out our profiles is because the more information someone has about you, the more comfortable they will feel when they're interacting with you. They know who you are, what you do and what your motives and goals are. Building up a friendship through social media is what you should be aiming for since the more friendly someone is towards you, the more likely they will think of you when an opportunity or lead appears.
Building up a friendship takes time so don't expect any immediate returns. Instead, build it up and when an opportunity arises, then you can ask for their help.
Twitter Specific Tips
Be Smart About Who You Follow
We're not saying you shouldn't follow your friends or people in your other areas of interest like sports or comedy, but be careful not to fall into the trap of following too many people as you will struggle to keep up with their updates. If you use the main app or site to access Twitter regularly, it might be best to keep your follower count no greater than 500.
If you decide to follow more than that, it might be better to break this group down into lists. Not only are they smaller and more manageable, but apps like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite allow you to view multiple streams on desktop, meaning it's easier to spot any updates or conversations you should get involved in.
A great way of getting to know people and building connections is to have an idea of what events or conferences are happening in and around your areas. If there's something on, you're guaranteed that there will be a corresponding hashtag to mark the event. The scale of the event means you will have to play it by ear but see who's talking, what's being discussed and join in. If you're attending, that's even better as if a Twitter chat goes well, you could turn it into a face-to-face meeting.
LinkedIn Specific Tips
See Who's Viewing Your Profile
One of the main features that LinkedIn has over other social media sites is that you're notified whenever someone views your profile. Even if you have the basic version, this is still a useful tool to have since you never know who will take an interest in you. If you feel it's someone worth getting to know, why not reach out to them either through LinkedIn, or a different social media channel. For the latter, some people have their Twitter account connected to their profile, otherwise you will need to do some research first.
Join Relevant Groups
A great way to find other people within your area of expertise is to browse through the many groups on the site. Groups are a great way to discuss career-related issues and topics relevant to your profession. It's also a brilliant way of showing off your knowledge and expertise by helping out people. If you become a regular contributor and your answers are well-received, then you will be listed as one of the top influencers within the group, meaning more exposure and potentially more connections.
Make sure you go for groups relating to your niche since you will have an easier time getting noticed. If you're unsure about which ones to join, certain groups are open, allowing you to view discussions and members before you decide to join.
- AllTwitter lists seven ways that you can network more efficiently on, you guessed it, Twitter.
- Social Media Examiner offers some advice on how best to grow your LinkedIn network.
- For those looking for a more comprehensive guide, Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, gives a detailed look at how to build a stronger professional network. Definitely one worth bookmarking if you haven't already.
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