Online networking can be a powerful tool during a job search, but in order to maximize its effectiveness, you need to follow up. It’s rarely enough just to exchange a few words with someone on Twitter. In order to build a truly powerful online network, you must deepen your relationships with people once you have made initial contact.
Start by reaching out again in thoughtful and organic ways. Retweet someone’s content or comment on an update. If you notice someone asking for help, jump in and do whatever you can. Stay in touch with the digital communities you want to be a part of so that you can contribute to the conversations they’re having. And try to track your networking success by more than just the numbers. Making a bunch of contacts may feel good, but having contacts you can connect with regularly is much more important.
Once you’ve started to build a relationship with someone, try to move it off of one social network and on to another. If you initially contact someone on Twitter, track down their LinkedIn profile and invite them to connect. If you’re having a good conversation, look for an opportunity to move it to email, where you can communicate at length.
In order to develop a truly strong networking contact, you may eventually want to move your relationship offline. Suggest a phone call to go over something you’ve been wanting to discuss in greater detail, especially if the person you’ve connected with might be uncomfortable with digital communication. By moving into their comfort zone, you’ll have made them more likely to open up to you. Always remember the power of face-to-face networking, as well. If you really want to get to know a contact, it might be worth driving a few hours to meet them for brunch or coffee. In addition, if you know you’ll be at the same conference as a contact you’ve made online, try to do your best to get together with them while you’re there.