Some reading this will see effective social networking as a critical part of their job search strategy. Others will want to generate more business leads, form partnerships or attract new hires. Your reasons are not that critical, because the fundamentals of effective social networking are the same.
Below are the 8 steps I'd say you need to be following for effective networking with social media to become a reality in your professional life. How many are you doing already? Be honest with yourself - most reading this will identify at least a couple of areas for improvement. It's doing these extra things that will make effective social networking become second nature to you. Good luck!
Before the dawn of social media, effective networking involved trudging along to events, conferences, gatherings - anywhere you stood a good chance of meeting new people who were relevant to add to your network. The most successful networkers were never satisfied! There were always more people they could aspire to meet; always new fruitful connections to be made.
We're fortunate that social media has given us a means of building relationships that isn't reliant on dragging yourself from meeting to meeting. A lot of the work can be done without ever leaving your desk! But just as with old style networking, effective social networking means always be looking for opportunities to strike up new relationships. So set yourself a weekly target for how many new relationships you'd like to spark each week - and then stick to it!
The number one rule for effective social networking is to find ways to help other people and to share content / insights that will enrich their lives. This makes people tune in to what you have to say. A constant stream of self promotion has the polar opposite effect - and is the mark of someone wanting a quick win from social networking; someone not prepared to put in the investment needed to reap the rewards. Don't be that person!
Another big mistake you see people making is not prioritising their networking efforts until they've reached the point where they desperately need help from their network. Kicking off a relationship with a request for help is rarely a strategy that pays off. So at the point where you need help from your network, you want to already have grown that network so that it's sizeable enough to be of use to you.
Trying to grow your network when you need help usually carries a whiff of desperation to it - amongst jobseekers I've certainly seen this to be the case. If you're anxious to secure a job pronto, you can't invest months building up new relationships, you invariably end up leaning on people earlier in the relationship than you should. This is why starting your networking ahead of when you need help is essential.
If you're someone who is always sharing insights, someone who gives willingly of their knowledge and advice, someone who shares articles that have been carefully selected to be relevant to others - if that's you, you'll be the person whose social media activity will be watched more attentively than most. You'll have captivated your audience, people will be eager to see what they're going to learn from you next. You're at the other end of the spectrum to someone whose messages are always being filtered out because they're invariably self-serving or salesy.
One of the most effective networking approaches I've seen is to raise the awareness of other people's work or to share their social media posts. If - out of the blue - you help them reach a wider audience with their messages, they are likely to want to reciprocate and help you back; usually sooner rather than later too.
Of course the most powerful actions you can take are those that help people in your network to win work, forge business partnerships or secure employment. These are developments in their lives that really move the needle - so if you've played a part in making those things come about then you've been a master of effective networking. Not every favour will be returned, but you can bet that if you've helped numerous people in this way most will be actively looking out for opportunities to reciprocate. When they do, these can be actions that are invaluable for you and your career.
Now it should go without saying that helping someone in their hour of need is always going to be remembered; and the more grave the situation they face, the more you jumping to their side is going to be remembered. If someone's facing a challenge that's derailing their career; or finds themselves out of work; or perhaps way off hitting target this quarter... these are stressful moments in anyone's life. Come to their assistance at these moments and you'll create strong bonds for life.
Last but not least, these activities require a consistent commitment of time. You need to be ever present in your channels to be able to jump in and support people when it's needed. Your activity needs to maintain a consistent level so that people continue to look out for your next communications. Occasionally there will be things come up in your professional life that mean this simply isn't possible; but for most of the year, it's really a question of making time for your networking activities and then sticking to that time commitment rather than letting it slip.
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Image source: TheMarque
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