Social media can be a great way to build your professional network. However, even people who gravitate toward sites like Facebook and Twitter naturally may find themselves lost when it comes time to making contact with people in their industries. When you decide to use social media to build professional relationships, keep the following tips in mind:
– Join public conversations. Online conversation etiquette can get a little bit tricky, but in general, feel free to jump into chats in which many people are participating. Chats on Twitter often use hashtags for easier organization, and they can be a great place to begin developing new relationships.
– Allow relationships to develop slowly and organically. Don’t assume that just because you’ve bandied a few tweets with someone that you can start hounding them for job leads or information. Start off by expressing admiration for someone by rebroadcasting the content they share or by mentioning them in a general context. Slowly work your way to contacting them directly, and keep your contact brief until you have an organic chance to engage in a substantive discussion.
– Mention why you’re contacting someone. When you reach out to a potential contact, tell them why you’re doing so. Mention that you admired a blog post that they wrote or that you have a contact in common. Doing so will make it more likely that your relationship will progress.
– Take advantage of offline events. Conferences and other gatherings often have official hashtags so that people who are not attending can track what’s happening. Share your experiences and interesting information using the hashtag, then see who reads or rebroadcasts your content. You may be able to follow up with them after the event and do some networking.
– Employ offline rules of behavior. When in doubt about whether or not to reach out to someone, ask yourself whether and how you would do so outside of social media. If you wouldn’t ask someone for a job if you ran into them on the street, don’t do so on social media.