For too many people, social media is about numbers: The more connections you have, the better your network. But it’s really not that simple. Sure, it’s great to have 1,000 LinkedIn connections, but how many of those people do you really know? How many of them are ready to walk into their boss’s office and say, “This is the person you want to hire.”
Networking is about building relationships with people you can call on to help you do your job or advance your career. Social networking works best when you treat it as a part of your overall networking efforts. By itself, social media can be a powerful way to raise your visibility and put your professional expertise on display. However, it’s important to keep in mind its personal aspect, the development of true relationships — the kind that can get you a job.
Remember: The great majority of jobs are found through networking. Some estimates put the number as high as 80 percent. This means that if you’re going to use social media to build relationships, connecting with someone is just the first step.
Here are some tips on using social media as a true networking tool:
Stay in touch with your connections by emailing them regularly to see what’s happening in their lives and share what’s going on in yours. Do this individually, sending notes that let each contact know you’re thinking of them personally. The fact that you took the time to reach out this way will go a long way toward building your credibility.
At the same time, tweet or post regular status updates. Let people know about events you’ll be attending, share your thoughts about industry news, or highlight interesting articles. Doing this will develop your reputation as someone who’s engaged by the business, showcase your insider knowledge, and in general raise your visibility among your network.
Jump Into Discussions
Participate in professional groups on sites like LinkedIn. Asking questions is a good way to get information on topics that interest you, and posting answers or comments gives you another opportunity to show off your expertise. Plus, discussions are seen by people beyond your network, so you’ll attract the attention of new contacts.
Don’t be content with email alone. Set up times to meet your local connections for coffee or lunch. For those in other cities, schedule a 10- or 15-minute phone call to introduce yourself or catch up. When you do that, you become more than a name on the screen — you become a real colleague.
Remember the Basics
Networking’s most fundamental rule is simple: Help other people. By looking for opportunities to do favors, you build relationships on trust and encourage your connections to help you out when the time comes. Be sure you bring this approach to your social networking efforts.
Have you found a job through social networking? Share your experiences in the comments below.
About the Author: Mark Feffer has written, edited and produced hundreds of articles on careers, personal finance and technology. His work has appeared on Dice.com, Entrepreneur.com as well as on other top sites. He is currently writing for JobsinME.com, the top local resource for job seekers, employers and recruiters in Maine.