Social media has made connecting with people far and wide immensely easier. Where old-school professional networking depended on gracious favors, cold calls, and press-the-flesh networking events, social media sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook for Business (and their professional network Branch Out) have put potential employers and prospects just a click away.
But in the oft-quoted words of Voltaire (and Spiderman), with great power comes great responsibility.
Successful social networking still demands professionalism, but with social media in the mix it also requires a heightened sense of self-awareness and value.
Here are just a few tips to help pave your social networking success.
Know the platforms.
Each social media site has its own culture. LinkedIn, for example, is more like a business conference to Twitter’s free-for-all house party where any kind of conversation goes. And within that culture is a muddled brew of friends, high school acquaintances, college buddies, past and present business colleagues, and future bosses and prospects.
It’s important to respect the social boundaries of each social media site, understand the kind of relationship you have with each person in your network, and handle your own persona with deft professionalism. Friends on Facebook may not appreciate endless job pleas and marketing pitches—and current and potential bosses may frown on your boozy party pics.
And when in doubt—say, when you trying out Google+ for the first time—take the time to listen before you post.
TRY THIS: 18 entrepreneur-friendly networking sites
Define your personal brand.
The social media space is an open, connected, and transparent world—and It’s a gleaming opportunity for you to carve out your niche and define the value you can add to a future employer, client, or customer.
Put effort and care into protecting your reputation and building your personal brand—the experience you share with you fans and followers. Set your own boundaries, create a consistent identity across all your social networks—and share then your passion with the world.
TRY THIS: Discover and create your personal brand
Set your goals.
Let’s say it together: social media can be a time suck, if you let it. You tell yourself you’re just going to make one comment in a LinkedIn Group and the next thing you know you’ve gobbled up an afternoon trading social capital on Empire Avenue.
Enter your social networking with purpose and intent, just as you would any networking event. Know who you want to meet. Know who influences them. Know where those conversations are happening—whether in the social media trifecta or other entrepreneur-friendly networking sites.
And, most importantly, know what value you can add to the dialogue—because building value builds your visibility.
TRY THIS: Expand your network with LinkedIn Company Search
Network with networkers.
You’ve been there. You’re at a networking function, trapped in a conversation with guy who’s more interested in talking about his epic awesomeness than in building a mutually beneficial professional relationship.
It’s not so easy to spot him across a crowded room—but in social media networks, it is easy to see who’s in it just for the sale and who’s there to engage and connect. Follow and connect with those who demonstrate they understand the networking power of social media, and you’ll have a better shot at widening your own professional circle.
TRY THIS: 5 tools to build a targeted Twitter following
Say “thank you.”
When someone does something nice for you—retweets one of your Twitter messages, comments on your blog post, introduces you to a connection on LinkedIn—show your gratitude and reciprocate their generosity. Thank them personally—either through the media of choice or with a personal email—and then look for ways that you can give back—by sharing a targeted article, introducing them to one of your connections, or adding a comment on their blog post.
The key word in social media here is “social”—not media. It’s not about how many marketing messages you can pump out over numerous social platforms. It’s about how you can grow your visibility by adding value for those in your network.
Be human, be authentic, and be generous.
How do you use social media to expand your professional network? What are your go-to tools and tips?
Content contributed by Kate Hodel, MOSourceLink,
MOSourceLink is a proud affiliate of U.S.SourceLink, America’s largest resource network for entrepreneurs