10 Social Networking Tips to Get the Most out of Today's Powerful Connecting Tools
9/21/2012 12:48:32 PM
By Sandy Jones-Kaminski, Author of I'm at a Networking Event--Now What???
Is social networking taking over your life? Are you braver online than you would be in person? Are you an “open networker” versus a genuine connector? I've used social networking tools since back in '97 when they were called message boards, so today I'm sharing a few of my tips for making the most out your time on today's powerful connecting tools like LinkedIn.
Social Networking Tip #1
Make a practice of regularly scanning the status updates of your network (wherever you’re connected to them) in order to keep an eye out for opportunities, expressions of interest or stated needs where you might be able to offer help. I note things like:
* Referrals needed
* Request to help spread the word or re-post things
* Subcontractor requests, etc.
Responding to these requests is great way to practice pay-it-forward style networking and is something I see reciprocated more often than I ever expected. I allocate about 10-15 minutes each day to complete this worthwhile task.
Social Networking Tip #2
Don’t wait for folks to initiate a request to be introduced to your other contacts. Review your own contact lists regularly looking for introductions of potential value to your key connections.
One good way is to offer to introduce them to potential clients or partners is via LinkedIn. Many people use LinkedIn’s functionality to do this so people can see and learn more about the other party and their company or business. Some people, however, find it’s easier just to email both parties when they know for certain that it’ll be a welcome introduction and then suggest they make the connection on their own. CAUTION: We all know when it may not be a welcome introduction, and in those cases, be sure to contact people individually to get "instructions from the tower" as to how to proceed.
Social Networking Tip #3
LinkedIn is a great tool for doing follow up after meeting someone at an event, over coffee or when you’ve exchanged business cards somewhere randomly. People often send LinkedIn invites as a follow up or simply to add people to their network. They then use it to keep in touch and up-to-date with what is happening with the person they took some time to get to know.
If you decide to use LinkedIn for this purpose as well, make sure that you are more than occasionally updating your own promotions, or publishing articles and are also checking your network’s promotions, events, links, blogs, announcements, articles or whatever else they have shared there.
Try to interact with others when it’s relevant and sincere, and use it as a way to send support via a comment on their article or link-share, a message of congrats on a well-shared article, resources, news or other info you think they might truly find useful.
Social Networking Tip #4
If you can’t find a social networking group on LinkedIn that matches your needs, just create one of your own! It’s a fairly easy process and one where most of the work is actually done before you even create the group.
One of the first things you need to do is describe the group’s mission or purpose, your goals for the group, and then consider deciding on a code of conduct as well. As an example, for my Bella Domain Networking group on LinkedIn one of my “rules” is: Be nice or leave. You might also want to include things like what your policy will be if members post things that aren’t relevant to the group, start contacting members with direct solicitations or are just way “off topic” in general.
When you’re ready to create and promote the group get the word out to your list of members and/or connections and then ask them if they’ll help spread the word as well. As an example, check out this non-profit group for the San Francisco Professional Career Network (SFPCN):
Social Networking Tip #5
When I worked on-site in a business and market development role for a client back in 2008 I had 2 monitors on my desk. The first had Outlook and a browser open with tabs for Salesforce, Gmail, and whatever else I was focused on or researching at the time. And, the other monitor had a browser open to LinkedIn, and this was the case all day, every day.
I used LinkedIn to prepare for every conference or cold call I had or made, and just as often I used it to look up someone that had called me. I saved time and acquired knowledge by doing this, and since time is money and knowledge is power, I highly recommend using LinkedIn to research prospective clients, potential vendor partners, recruiters, company executives or even the people that might be sitting in on your next client pitch meeting.
More often than not, you can get the names of most of these folks in advance because the person that has invited you wants the meeting to be as successful as possible for all parties involved, so they’ll usually send that info along if you ask for it. Sometimes, if the person setting the meeting or call is truly invested in you or your company’s solution, they will just offer this info up in advance, but other times they wait for YOU to ASK, and if you don’t, it will become a little black mark next to your name or the company you represent. Seriously.
Doing this type of research (homework!) gives you an edge and enables you to find common ground with an individual or even potential areas of similar interest or for future collaborations. And, yes, I even use LinkedIn and similar sites to research new Twitter followers (@sandyjk).
Social Networking Tip #6
Don’t let social networking take over your life. Stay productive. Some people become so involved in their online presence that they forget how to connect with people in person and often let their other real-life relationships and responsibilities slide. Once you have profiles created, and an initial presence established, try to spend no more than about one hour a day total on your social networking activities. If you’re not careful when you go to a social networking site, you can become easily distracted. And, if focusing your social networking time sounds like it might be difficult for you then you probably need to take a closer look at how you’re spending ALL of your time.
Social Networking Tip #7
Remember that phone calls and in-person visits are still an important part of doing business. It recently took four Twitter direct messages with a contact to determine where and when to meet for coffee. If she had just called me, the decision would have been made in only a few seconds.
Social Networking Tip #8
I believe most of us all know this by now, but it’s worth repeating; think before you post. Things you put online can and often will come back to haunt you. Any pictures you share, comments you post or updates you write are public. Even if your account has privacy settings activated, your information is never completely secure. It’s best to assume that everything you put on a social networking site is permanent. Even if you can delete your account, anyone on the Internet can easily print photos or text or save images and videos to a computer. When in doubt, don’t.
Social Networking Tip #9
Stop being snarky, even if you think the person can take it. The other people reading their updates or posts might draw some conclusions about you that you’d rather they didn’t. I’ve heard of people not getting job referrals because of someone’s impression of them via a few snarky comments they made on the posts of a mutual contact. Besides, if you are questioning whether your post is appropriate or might irritate someone, ask yourself, would you like it if your prospective clients or employers saw something similar written by one of your so-called friends? If the answer is "no," then do not post it.
Social Networking Tip #10
Stop obsessing about quantity over quality when it comes to friends, followers, connections, etc. Be selective about who you accept as a friend on any social network. Did you know that identity thieves have been known to create fake profiles in order to get information from you? Get in the habit of checking new people out via Social Mention, Google or Twitter searches, or even via huge databases like LinkedIn to see if an unknown person appears legit or not. When it doubt, don’t accept.
My advice is to focus the majority of your time on further developing the connections to the people you already know and let them help you grow your social networks by sharing your engaging content and insights with the people they know. That way, you’ll at least have a 1 or 2-degree-away-connection to the new people joining your social networking communities.
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About the Author
Sandy Jones-Kaminski is the author of "I'm at a Networking Event--Now What???" which was ranked #1 on the 2010 Inc.com Holiday Gift Guide Wish List and has been a VP of Networking for a major national professional development association. Since 1998, she's been a executive in the human capital resources and services industry and currently shares her hard-earned insights on effective networking and personal branding via webinars, panels, keynotes, one-on-one consulting, her blog and workshops. Sandy has written numerous articles for WomenEntrepreneur and The Salary Reporter on www.PayScale.com and has been featured on Fox Business News, NWJobs, Work Goes Strong, Bankrate.com, You're Hired! and My Global Career. Learn more via her website at www.belladomain.com.
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