Your Guide to Effectively Using Social Media for Professional Networking

Your Guide to Effectively Using Social Media for Professional Networking Professional networking used to mean requesting a friend to submit your application letter to their HR dept and hoping for the best. If you’re a bit more aggressive, you might be able to cold call your way to the big boss and get an interview. But now, thanks to the many new developments in social media, numerous professional connections are made and taken advantage of with just a click of a mouse.

As with everything that has a lot of potential, making use of social media in networking professionally can be done right with amazing results, or wrong with disastrous outcomes. You can master the art of networking and advance your professional status to the level you’ve always wanted, or you can get things all wrong you won’t be able to get a job interview in the next couple of years.

Here are some tips to guide you in the right direction when dealing with social media as a way of advancing your professional contacts.


Get to Know the Platforms

It always pays to know everything you can about a method before charging in. Social media is no exception. Before trying to leverage the connections you make, you need to first take a step back and analyze if you’re using the right platform for your purpose. With connections to close friends, acquaintances, former colleagues, and people you’ve met only once created on social media, there can sometimes be confusion when getting connected.

Know the platforms. LinkedIn, for instance, focuses more on professional connections while Facebook might be for more personal interaction. Take note of this before you start using social media to further your professional connections. Some people use Facebook only to interact with close friends, so it might not be a good idea to send a Facebook friend request to a professional acquaintance. In the same way, close friends you haven’t worked with before might think it a bit forward of you if you start requesting for a LinkedIn recommendation.

Personalize

Generic requests are usually viewed with suspicion. What does this person want to connect with me for? Don’t underestimate a person’s ability to see how sincere your request or messages are. Make sure that all communication you have with anyone on any social media platform is sincere and tailored for that specific person only. Start automating your messages and you risk losing valuable professional connections.
If the connection is new, prepare a nice explanation of why you want this connection with this certain individual. Research. Let them know what drives you to be a part of their network. Anything work-related that you have in common should be mentioned.

If it’s an old connection, make sure the other person knows you appreciate being affiliated with them. Ask for advice and other relevant questions. Make sure the way you compose your questions reflects the respect you have for that person’s time and guidance. Same thing goes for LinkedIn recommendations.  

Be Specific

Professionals seldom have the luxury of time. If you need to ask for advice, make sure you get straight to the point. Don’t beat around the bush with questions like, “Do you have any advice for me? I’m getting into a field similar to yours.”

Questions like this are hard to provide helpful answers to. Be specific with your questions. Are you asking for time, a reference letter, an introduction to another professional, specific knowledge about a company, or just want someone to look over your résumé? 

Meet Offline

Your Guide to Effectively Using Social Media for Professional Networking

Meeting someone offline strengthens the online connections you’ve made. One face to face conversation can sometimes do more than a hundred emails. Go out for coffee or a lunch meeting, or if your locations hinder this, go on Skype.

A helpful thing to remember, though, before taking things offline is to make sure the other party feels comfortable with it. Some can sometimes communicate better through emails.

Show Appreciation

Saying thank you is something a lot of people do not think is important. Opinions can sometimes be created out of the smallest of things. If someone answers a question you posed, or gave you some advice on a subject you were interested in, or even a simple RT deserves a thank you. Make sure you show appreciation to the smallest things, so when you ask for a bigger favor, people won’t hesitate to help you.

And always find ways to give back. A thank you is great, but if you can provide a favor to someone who gave you one, that gives more to your reputation.

 

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