Wednesday, May 9, 2012

How To Use Social Media To Professionally Network

With the explosion of social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIN, MySPACE and Twitter in the past decade the way we communicate with each other  has changed dramatically.  Although these sites first became popular for personal use, it didn’t take long for them to find their way into the professional world.

Networking has long been one of the most effective tools in business. Social media has eliminated the limits of geography and even the need to “know the right people” by connecting users through shared interests and professional fields. Thanks to social media, it is now much easier to connect with potential employers and customers, as well as peers in your industry, whom you have never met before. Websites like LinkedIN are even specifically designed for professionals, with tools that allow users to post resumes and peer recommendations, or search for a person by company.
However, the world of social media can be complicated and confusing, with so many sites to choose from. Here are a few tips that will help you start using social media to network professionally.
Make It Personal

Any time you send a Facebook message or a LinkedIn connection request, you should try to personalize it for the person you’re sending it to. If you were introduced through a mutual friend, you may want to mention that friend’s name to reinforce your connection. Even if you’re sending a message to someone you already know well, you should be specific about how valuable that person is to you by showing sincere interest in his or her life. If you’re trying to connect with someone you’ve never met before, such as a potential employer, prove that you’ve done your research by mentioning their professional background and anything career-related that you have in common.
Find Out the Person’s Preferred Communication Channel
If you want to contact someone you have never communicated with before, do some research. Find the person’s preferred communication channel. If they have a website, check out their contact page and see if they encourage people to contact them in a particular way, and follow their suggestion. 
It also helps to discover what level of participation they have on various social networks (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube) to see which places may be best to engage them. When is the last time they posted on Twitter or Facebook? Do they respond to the @replies they receive on Twitter or comments on a Facebook page? Get a sense of their preferred means of communication, and make contact where they are.
Keep It Short
This cannot be emphasized enough, and it is probably the toughest challenge. In the age of social media, we may be able to get the attention of more people, but we get it for a much shorter amount of time. One of the biggest mistakes people make is sending long e-mails or social media messages explaining all the reasons they want to connect. The probability is that the recipient will never get passed the first paragraph and you’ve lost your opportunity to engage them.
Brevity is built right into Twitter, making it a great platform for making a first connection. However, if you use other channels, keep it simple. If there are 700 words you eventually want to get across, include only 50 in the first contact. Let the person choose if he or she would like more. You can fill in the rest later. Say It Upfront
This may seem like common sense, but don’t wait for the last line of your message to say that you want to meet for lunch, or ask your contact if he’d like to speak at an event. Put it right up front.
Connect Offline

Although social networking is great for establishing and managing connections, face-to-face interaction is still the best way to strengthen a relationship. Body language, tone of voice, and shared experiences can add meaning to a conversation. Of course, social media can be useful for arranging such meetings. If geography keeps you from meeting someone in person, Skype is a great alternative.
Be Flexible

Just as many people have a preferred mode of contact, many professionals may have a certain social media platform that they prefer to use. Respect these preferences by contacting them through their preferred networking source. It’s also good to keep in mind that each platform has a different set of social rules – for example, while LinkedIn is strictly business, Twitter is where casual opinions and professional content can often mix. Keep this in mind as you navigate the various social networking sites — it may not be a good idea to add a professional acquaintance on Facebook if you don’t want them to see all of your personal content.
Stay Professional

It’s a common mistake to forget that anything posted on the internet could possibly be viewed by anyone around the world. Therefore, it is extremely important to effectively manage privacy settings on social networking sites, so that only those whom you trust view information.

Say “Thank You”

Just as handwritten thank-you notes are deeply appreciated but rarely written these days, few people think of sending a thank-you message on a social networking site, yet it usually means a great deal to the recipient. Whenever someone does something nice for you online, such as offering advice or connecting you with one of their colleagues, you should express your gratitude. If you do this, it’s more likely that they’ll help you again in the future

To sum up social media allows us to discover, connect, and engage with new people of interest. While most people are open to new connections and receiving messages from people they don’t know, there is a fine line between reaching out and “spamming.” The challenge is to make a connection clearly and effectively without wasting people’s time.

1 comment:

  1. This post is really helpful for people who in need of information about social media.

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