Social media platforms and networking go hand in hand. Therefore, it’s no real surprise that we are doing far fewer face-to-face meet-and greet events now than ever before, with so many more digital and virtual options at our disposal.
With clients and customers dotted all over the globe, logging on to our social platform of choice isn’t just easier, it’s more cost-effective and environmentally friendly too. This means bringing social media closer to the core of your business activities and deploying it in new ways, can help you work more efficiently and boost the green credentials of your business at the same time.
As digital technology and the breadth of features available on sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram develop at breakneck pace, using social media to network is increasingly possible. Here are six smart ways that you can harness the power of social media and grow your connections without leaving your desk:
Seek out high-level networkers using social media demographic info
Seeking out high-level contacts that have plenty of good quality connections themselves is a great first step to widening your circle – social media makes this easy as you can use the wealth of demographic detail contained within a typical profile to really hone in on finding the most relevant people. Therefore, finding the right connections, and then tapping into their connections, is an excellent way to open up pools of potential new leads or customers.
Too many people worry about the fact that they’ve never spoken to someone before when starting to network online. It’s all too common to shy away from sending a friendly InMail or request to connect. To help you overcome this fear, it can help to think of social media network in the same way you would a traditional event. Have you ever attended an in-person networking event where you can say that you know 100% of the attendees you’ll be speaking to? Probably not. Transfer this mentality to social networking, and don’t be afraid to start a conversation with a potentially very valuable, high-level networker.
High-level networkers usually have in excess of 500 connections. You don’t have to restrict your connection requests to those who operate in your industry either. Look for high-level connections in adjacent areas. These people won’t be in direct competition with you so there is a greater chance of developing a mutually beneficial relationship.
Overhaul your LinkedIn profile
LinkedIn is the natural choice for networking given its status as the social network for professionals. As such, it’s important that your profile is set up correctly and clearly presents your areas of expertise.
Check that your profile image is current and professional and then double check that your pertinent job info has all been inputted. A quick recap of your most recent posts is also helpful. If you haven’t posted in a while, now would be the perfect time to share a link or two for your most recent articles or any pieces of press coverage you’ve received. It’s also advisable to put a plan in place to share pieces of news and update regularly – your profile gives people a sense of who you are and what your skills are, so make sure this is showcased with frequent, well-thought out updates and a fully completed profile.
Join in the discussion
Discussions on a range of industry-related topics are nothing new when it comes to networking or social media. A browse through your social network of choice will uncover discussions which serve even the most niche of sectors.
LinkedIn Groups are particularly useful for those wanting to network as they attract likeminded people with interest and expertise in that group’s focus area. These are all connections that could be valuable to you. Identify two or three groups that are closely tied to your areas of professional interest and join. Don’t be tempted to join dozens of groups in the first flush of enthusiasm as you’ll find it impossible to then be present and active on each. Too many groups can quickly become overwhelming and mean that you are far less likely to make the most of these virtual idea-sharing spaces.
Once you have chosen a group, check in regularly. Like and comment on posts where you can, sharing useful information and opinion. Instead of being self-promotional, let people recognize your value by the contributions you are making. That way, you’ll be viewed as helpful and knowledgeable, instead of being seen as “salesy.”
Set up your own group
If your search for online discussion or industry groups for your sector is leaving you feeling a little underwhelmed, why not take the bull by the horns and set up your own?
Social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook are purpose-built for this type of virtual gathering and thought sharing, so if there is a particular challenge, topic or subject that you feel needs greater exploration and doesn’t currently exist, then you can bet that others are thinking the same!
Before you start setting up groups left, right and center, make sure that any social media profiles that you have that will be directly connected to your group are up to date and complete.
One of the cornerstones of growing a professional network is referrals and recommendations. The same is true of networking on social media.
With many social media platforms having a designated function that allows for recommendations, reviews and referrals, it makes perfect networking sense to reach out to those that you’ve had dealings with in the past and leave them feedback or endorse their skill set. You’ll find that many will reciprocate, which helps to broaden your appeal and further underline your expertise.
Consider what you post
Even when you aren’t wearing your networking hat and logging on specifically to grow your professional connections, it’s important that you’re thoughtful and methodical about what you share on your profile. Ensure that the material you share is professional, useful, topical and relevant.
To encourage conversation and discussion, ask for others’ opinions and thoughts. For example, if you found a news item about a new marketing tactic and wanted to post to your profile, you could ask if any of your connections have tried it and what their experiences are. If you’ve found an industry event or conference, you could share that and ask if anyone is going or what previous events have been like.
Don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations too in your posts, as this is a great way to get introduced to a wider network and tap into the connections of your connections.
Do you think LinkedIn is the best social media for networking?
I think it depends on the type of networking that you’re looking to do, and what your field is. But, I would recommend that all professionals should have a LinkedIn profile, even if they’re not really active on social media.