Love it or hate it, networking is one of the most valuable skills you can have across all stages of your business and career. Social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Google +, as well as the plethora of industry forums or blogs that are on the web have added a whole new level of ‘desktop’ networking opportunities for small business owners. But how do you network effectively and efficiently using social media?
Here are 5 tips to help you nail social media networking
1. Have a strategy
Like most things in business, networking should be approached strategically, and this holds true for social media networking. A social media networking strategy, like all strategies, will save you valuable time and resources by keeping you focussed on what you want to achieve. So, start by pinpointing exactly what it is you want to achieve from networking via social media – big picture, such as industry contacts, business partners or customers, then use this to identify where these audiences are hanging out.
2. Tidy up your profile
Think like a brand and keep your social media profiles professional, consistent and recognisable. Use your proper name or business as your identifier and attach a tidy head shot of yourself or your logo. Use consistent language to describe yourself across all social media profiles, and where relevant use industry specific hashtags to increase your searchability. If you include a link back to a website in your profile, make sure the link works and the page you are taking them to is in order.
3. Be present & participate
Once you have narrowed down where you should be, don’t just be a lurker. Sitting back and watching the action without actively participating means no one will know you are there and this defies the whole point of using social media to boost your networking.
Thankfully, there are many ways you can be present and participate, including:
- Searching for relevant industry pages or profiles and following them
- Finding and adding industry people to your circles or joining Google + communities and ask questions
- Joining LinkedIn groups or following influencers, commenting on blogs or group discussions
- Posting comments on blogs or answering people’s questions in relevant forums
Every action you take will increase your profile and get your name out there, which in fairness, is the whole point.
4. Reach out to people
Apart from the fact you can do all your social media networking in your pyjamas one of the biggest advantages is that it isn’t as confronting if you get ignored. Reaching out to industry peers, influencers or people you admire is so much easier on social media than in a room full of strangers with a soggy canape in you hand, so don’t hesitate in sending out a request to connect, following or liking their profiles and inviting them to follow or like back. If you have your profile in order and they can see the relevance in being connected to you (same industry, same alumni or a connection in common) it’s highly likely they will accept the invitation.
5. Take it offline
Once you have built up a profile and relationships through your social media networking activities, chances are you will find networking in the flesh so much easier – and more rewarding. Use your social media network to find out who will be attending industry events happening in your neck of the woods, or if they know anyone who is, and use this as your ‘in’ to connect in person. I have had many conversations at industry events with people I initially knew only through social media and having this ‘social’ history meant there was no ice to break as we knew a little bit about each other to make the conversation easier to start.
Fundamentally networking, just like social media is all about building relationships. Using social media as a networking tool will not only boost your network, far beyond locally run networking events will, it will also enhance your networking skills by helping you hone your ‘elevator pitch’, improve your confidence and expose you to industry issues you may never have had the chance to be aware of.