In my last post, I talked about how personal brands built online are the new "reputation", and the best ways to go about building a personal brand that attracts attention, references, and opportunities.
This week I want to talk about something that can benefit both casual users and business owners: using social media for professional networking.
Social media encompasses a growing number of online networks, each appealing to a different kind of audience. Facebook appeals to a different audience than Twitter, which is different from LinkedIn, which is different from Reddit, which is different from YouTube, and so on.
From group chats (Facebook groups, Twitter chats, subReddits, LinkedIn groups), to visual storytelling (Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, even Pinterest), social media platforms focus on creating different avenues between business owners/content creators and consumers, which can be used to benefit both parties in different ways.
So how do you find the right platform for you? And how do you successfully network once you get there? Good news: that’s what this post is all about. Let’s get started!
To find the right network for you/your business, there are several important questions you need to consider:
- Where does your audience “live”?
- What platform would allow you to best communicate your/your business’ story/value?
- What platforms do you feel most comfortable using?
- Which platforms best align with your personal/business brand values?
It’s important that you don’t spread yourself thin online. As with anything in business, it is better to focus on doing a few things well, as opposed to doing many things “just okay”.
With so many platforms available to use today, it is best to focus on ones where you can comfortably and effectively communicate with your audience. By considering these questions, you can eliminate platforms that don’t fit what you’re looking for, so you can focus on the ones that do.
Once you find the right platforms for you, start playing around and sharing content.
I advise an 80/20 content rule on pretty much any social media platform. 80% of the content you share should be other people’s content that relates to your own. The other 20% is your unique content.
“Why would I share anyone else’s content?” you might ask. It’s an excellent question.
Think about it this way: if you were at a professional networking event standing with a group of other people talking only about yourself and not letting anyone get a word in edgewise, you’d wind up alone pretty quick, right? Nobody wants to listen to someone who only talks about themselves. But if you were engaging in a healthy dialogue, adding your accomplishments where they’re merited, and providing value for others, you’d be surrounded by people.
The same goes for online networking. By sharing other people’s content, you create an open dialogue with other business owners/content creators, and create a bigger wealth of information and value. The more value you provide, the more likely people are to want to engage (and continue to engage) with you online.
In my opinion, this is the fun part! This is where you can learn more about what other people are doing differently, which can not only help you but others too. Why not share exciting (or thought-provoking) information like that?
Keep that 80/20 rule in mind and get sharing!
This is where the real networking part comes in. You’re sharing content, but now you have to go out there and get new people to read it. This is where you join Facebook Groups, Twitter chats, Pinterest Group Boards, LinkedIn groups, whatever floats your boat and start talking to people.
Read other people’s posts and content and leave comments. A “great post!” comment is a good start, but give them something more. Dig deep. Why do you like what they have to say? What do you agree with? What do you disagree with? Tell them. If you really like someone’s post, share it. Tell your audience why you like it so much or, if you disagree, why you don’t like it (but respectfully—trolling and flaming are not professional and just plain rude).
If you’re in group conversations, celebrate successes. Answer questions if you know the answer (and if you’re not sure, follow the thread to see what others say). Don’t be afraid to admit that you might not know something and ask questions yourself. Start conversations about current industry events.
By doing all of the above, you generate attention, find people with similar interest, and get people interested in your work (and your value). This is how you make new business buddies, create partnerships, and even find work.
Don’t be afraid of not knowing what you’re doing. Just jump right in and start talking. You’ll be amazed at all the different people you can meet.
This is simultaneously the easiest and hardest part of professional networking.
Cultivating connections is like being in a relationship: you can’t expect your connections to do all the work for you. So friend or follow your connections. Check out their content. Follow-up.
I spend at least an hour each day networking online, some people spend even more than that. A recommended amount is at least 15 minutes a day. You can do it while you’re waiting in line at the coffee shop, in the car waiting to pick up your kids. Whatever fits your schedule. But find a way to sneak it in at least during the Monday to Friday work week.
Connections are currency, and the more you have, the more likely you are to get what you want out of your online presence.
Professional networking is such a big topic and varies so much between platforms that I wanted to cover the biggest (and most important points) in this post.
Eventually, I’ll crack down and write more specific posts about each platform. But in an effort to share other people’s content (wink wink, 80/20 rule, nudge nudge), here are some more specific posts about professional networking on different social media platforms:
- "How To: Network on Social Media" by ByGabriella
- "How To Promote Your Business on Social Media" by Rekita Nicole
- "27 Ways to Find Clients on Social Media" by Nesha Woolery
- Screw Facebook Pages. It’s Time for Facebook Groups! by ByRosanna
- Stop Lurking in Facebook Groups: Here’s How It’s Hurting Your Business by Think Creative Collective
- 9 Facebook Groups for Entrepreneurs & Bloggers (Plus a New TNC Group) by Melyssa Griffin
- Newbies! How to Get the Most Out of Twitter Chats by HeartLoveAlways
- Twitter Chats for Creativepreneurs by Kayla Hollatz
- Shout Out to Blogger Babes! 16 Twitter Chats to Find Your Creative Tribe by Ambitious
- How to Use Group Pinterest Boards to Gain Blog Exposure by Jessica Slaughter
- How to Find and Join Group Pinterest Boards by FreeBorboleta
- 11 Great Pinterest Group Boards for Bloggers by The White Corner Creative
Have you made any business buddies/partnerships/new connections using social media? Let me know in the comments!