With the rise of social media, we now have multiple avenues that we can utilize to strategically build our network. Networking can be a daunting task, especially if you have no idea where to start. I’m an advocate for digital networking because it removes many barriers of connection and allows us introverts time to prepare what we want to say. In this post I will share with you best practices to build a powerful digital network across various social media platforms.
Twitter is my favorite platform to use for networking because its easy to engage with someone. LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram have a filtering system as it relates to messaging but Twitter lacks a few of those barriers. Before you begin networking, ensure that your Twitter profile portrays an accurate reflection of your brand. The elements of your Twitter Profile should include the following: photo, bio, location, web link, header image and background image. Your profile should be complete and clearly convey who you are and what you do. You can be creative as well and add a fun fact about yourself.
As it relates to networking, the easiest way to do this is via Twitter chats. Twitter chats are scheduled conversations where a specific hashtag is used to discuss a particular subject. During Twitter Chats, engage with other participants. Comment on their responses, follow them and engage after the chat. Twitter Chats exist for practically every industry and topic. Not only will this increase your network in your area of interest, but the quality of your responses can build your brand as a subject matter expert. A quick Google search on Twitter chats will help you find chats of interest. As a reminder, #HERmovement chat takes place on the last Tuesday of each month! A few of my other favorite chats include #sidehustlechat, #blkcreatives and #ambitionista.
A major key for networking via LinkedIn is following up. Let’s say you requested to connect with someone you admire but do not know personally. You included an attention grabbing message to connect and the person accepted your request. Now what? I’ve seen this numerous times where individuals have then expected the person that they requested to connect with, to message them. It is YOUR responsibility to follow up with a message to that person, thanking them for accepting your request and then following up with your ask for an informational interview or mastermind session, etc. I’ve engaged in several virtual mastermind sessions that have led to new professional relationships and friendships with young professionals across the country. Those that have become the most successful in this type of networking, have branded themselves as “connectors”. They try their best to connect you with someone else based on your interest. Introduce individuals who could benefit from knowing each other, without them having to ask.
Facebook groups are a popular vehicle for networking with likeminded individuals. I recommend joining a handful of groups that are relevant to your industry. A few of my favorite groups include the #HERmovement Mastermind Group, That Pitch Life and Brand, Build, Launch with Arsha Jones. Be cognizant that true networking lies in adding value. Simply leaving the links to your latest project does not cut it.
Instead, focus on commenting on the questions of others and sharing resources. The members of the group are more likely to support you when they feel you are genuine and collaborative as opposed to self-serving. If you notice that you have a few things in common with someone from the group, do not be afraid to ask them for a phone call or Google Hangout session. I’ve made great friends and found accountability partners from Facebook groups and Twitter chats.
Instagram is another great tool for networking and is relatively easy to navigate. I’m a fan of occasionally looking at the profiles of those who follow and me and leaving comments on their posts to show my support. I also look at the search results of certain hashtags to find other bloggers and creatives to engage with. Similar to above, I’ve taken Instagram conversations offline if I find someone that I’m truly interested in connecting with.
One thing to be cognizant of is the branding of your profile. You do not have to have a beautifully curated color coded feed, but you do want to ensure your brand is clear. Someone should look at your profile and have an understanding of either what you do or what your expertise is. I’ve had a few people say to me when I emailed them that they immediately recognized my name and brand from Instagram. Consistency and clearness are huge as relates to digital branding and relationship building.
Once you’ve identified your favorite tool for digital networking, set a goal for yourself. After engaging with a few people online, email then to schedule 20 – 30 minute meetings. In those meetings, seek to genuinely get to know the other person. Ask them about their backgrounds, current projects and goals. Share yours as well as this will enable you to build rapport. I go into initial conversations with the goal of simply learning about the person and understanding if we have chemistry. Collaborations and partnerships naturally flow if both parties have similar interest and a strong connection. Genuine outreach and being a good supporter leads to long term return on investment in the world of relationship building.
Tell us in the comments, what strategies have you used to effectively network online?