Network More Efficiently Using Social Media

imagesHow much time are you spending on social networking? Are you using social media to help you network? What networks make the most sense for you personally and professionally?

If you have ‘friends’ on Facebook and Twitter, it helps to know how networking can bolster those relationships. For some, these friendships can flourish in an exclusively online setting. Others feel there is no substitute for in-person friends, and social networks merely exist to enhance those relationships.

We’ve written recently at Damsels in Success on how to build good relationships with customers; why can’t these same tips apply to your online networking? In the end, it all comes down to human interaction, on a real and trusted basis.

The Global Web Index recently compiled these trends about the pervasiveness of social media in our personal and professional lives:

  • Active engagement is rising across all social platforms (Twitter is the fastest growing).
  • Participation in local social platforms (community boards and forums, etc.) are declining around the world.
  • Mobile use is driving big spikes in real-time active usage of social platforms everywhere.
  • Older Internet users are helping to grow social platforms.

The survey also found that:

  • The number of people accessing the Web with a smart phone jumped by 60 percent to 818.4 million since 2011.
  • 55-64 year olds are the fastest growing age bracket for Twitter, with a nearly 80 percent growth rate since 2012. Users in the 45-54 age group grew larger on Facebook (46 percent) and Google + (56 percent), respectively.

Connecting online is sometimes the first step toward longer, more fulfilling relationships offline. Sometimes, it’s just casual work-day talk. In any case, there are ways to know if your efforts in social media are helping with your own personal networking. One way to check is how busy your mobile device is day after day. If it seems you have to turn off your Samsung Galaxy 3 just to get some work done, then you know that your networking and social interactions are at peak levels.

Social Networking Options

Social Media Today discussed how to use social media for networking in a daily setting. Let’s look at some of the key findings:

Google+ — Google+ is an open network, meaning people can follow someone on Google+ without the peer pressure of having to follow that person back (like you would on Facebook). Google+ posts can also be more easily shared with others who are not in either person’s network.

Facebook — Facebook is much better at keeping friends and family up to date on personal comings and goings. It can be useful for networking to a certain degree, he says, but Facebook is better at facilitating friendships for family members, former school buddies and others. Linked-In and Twitter are the go-to points of contact for professional networking.

Twitter — If you’re passionate about social media, blogging, technology and more (like the author), Twitter is your place. There, you can tweet about your blog posts, share hashtags with others in similar topic areas, and gain a quick picture fix of what’s happening across the sphere of your networks.

LinkedIn — The granddaddy of business networking, LinkedIn has incorporated many new features that give it a distinctly ’Facebook’ feel. It provides a business feel with career details and highlights, but with a lighter, friendlier feel. Using LinkedIn to promote your career still comes naturally to many older business people who aren’t as apt to use Facebook, Twitter or Google+.

Networking in the flesh

Once you’ve established some online relationships, whether via Linkedin Groups, Facebook engagement or Twitter chats, you can drill down more to find out if a personal meeting makes sense from a physical and logistical point of view.

Some social networks host networking events and users can tag along. On Meetup.com, a site hosting networking events in users’ local areas, you can use your Facebook account to check out various local events and gatherings. Depending where you want to take your networking, you can attend as few or as many events as time allows.

Of course, if you’re shy, then there are other obstacles you’ll need to overcome for efficient networking. CIO.com offers great tips for chronically shy people to be better networkers. (Stop apologizing!) If you’re more gregarious, and like talking to strangers, take advantage of it and invite your online networking contacts out for drinks, dinner or coffee. Once out with your contacts, you’ll find that conversations based on mutual interests can be a great confidence booster. Sharing knowledge is a two-way street — don’t forget that the online contact you are meeting is as eager to hear your thoughts as you are to hear his or hers.

It’s a misleading notion that networking events have to be awkward, stilted gatherings of people with similar business interests. This is patently untrue. As long as you smile, ask questions, listen, engage, and mark your conversation with a business card, then your networking should be as natural as any other human interactions you develop.

As you make new friends in person, build your professional and personal status with online contacts. Being at the top of the feed of one’s social network can help in getting onto that personal invitation lists for local gatherings. And as you integrate both online and offline into a satisfying whole, you’ll find that you’ve been efficiently networking all along!

 

5 tips for mastering LinkedIn

We’ve heard over and over again that networking is an incredibly important part of building a business. Make connections. Find resources. Build your network. Seems simple, right? Well, networking can be difficult and keeping up with the connections you have previously made is time consuming and often unrealistic. Luckily, LinkedIn is a fantastic tool to help with this. Here are 5 tips to optimize your LinkedIn presence and help grow your business.

  1. Complete your profile, completely. If you only put a few things up on your profile, you won’t be as credible. Putting all of your education and work allows others to see your past history and work experience. Also, make sure and add a picture that is appropriate to the field in which you work.
  2. Find contacts. You can upload your contact list directly to LinkedIn and it will tell you how many of them are on the site. You can start by adding all of those people. LinkedIn will then tell you whom else you might want to connect with and you can sift through that list to add more contacts.
  3. Find LinkedIn Groups. Groups help you connect with like-minded people. You can join alumni groups, local business groups, or groups in a related field.
  4. Use recommendations to your advantage. Within your network, ask for recommendations on your work, and make sure to return the favor by giving recommendations to others.
  5. Use the LinkedIn Answers section. By answering questions you can show your expertise in an area. By asking questions you can get good advice from professionals and experts.

 

How to network: tips for building your business

Networking can be scary and daunting, especially if you’re new this game. You may think that networking isn’t necessary to your business and that you can get away with simply sending out emails and trying to reach out to people through other means. This thought process isn’t going to get you very far. Networking is important to help grow your business and help build relationships, which will prove important throughout your time in the industry. So, to make the process smooth and effective, we’ve put together a list of tips and hints that have helped us and will hopefully be of use to you.

Arrive on time. We know that you think it’s cool to show up fashionably late, but at networking events it’s best to be early or on time. You have more time to meet people and you are there before the big rush, giving you an advantage. The more people you talk to, the better. So don’t waste any time trying to be fashionably late.

Be lighthearted. Don’t worry about selling your product or service to someone in the first 5 minutes. Networking is about building relationships and you don’t want to turn them off immediately by being to abrasive. Stick to lighthearted conversation and easy questions.

Stay engaged. Make sure you are listening to what the person is saying. People can tell if you are always thinking about what you are going to say next and never really paying attention to them. They will not want to continue the conversation with you and they will remember how you were only worried about yourself.

Show your passion. You only have a few minutes with each person and you want to make a good impression. If you show your passion for what you do, this will leave a lasting impression on the person and they will be impressed with your determination and ambition. Don’t be shy about your passion for what you do.

Follow up. Don’t let you first conversation with someone be the last. Make sure to get their business card and follow up with them after the conference or meeting. Send them an email and connect with them on LinkedIn. This will allow you to begin building a relationship with them and to be a reference for you in the future.

We have found these tips to be helpful and we hope you will find them to be useful as well. Networking is such an important part of business today that we can’t be lazy about it. Make sure to show up prepared and leave feeling inspired and accomplished.

Elevator pitch tips and tricks

So you’re in the elevator and in walks the person you’ve wanted to talk to for months. The person that could give you the advice or resources you need to take your business to super-stardom. In this moment of truth, what do you say?

This situation of off-the-cuff networking can happen at any point and you want to be ready. There are times where you will have just 30 seconds of someone’s attention to tell them about your business and get them interested. This is why an elevator pitch is so important.

Here are some tips for making your elevator pitch unique, engaging, and effective:

  1. Keep it simple. You only have a few seconds and so you need your message to be clear. Get straight to the point, don’t waste time talking about things they may not understand or care about.
  2. Be unique. Find something about your business that is different from anyone else. This will peak the interest of whomever you are talking to and possibly lead to more time with them if they want to hear more about it.
  3. Be consistent. Make sure that everyone in your company is saying the same thing and make sure you are consistent when speaking to others as well. You don’t want to create confusion about your brand. It may help to write it down and practice.
  4. Solve a problem. When you show how your business helps solve a problem, people will want to know more about your services. You make it easy for them to want to work with you.
  5. Be passionate. This is what you do for a living. You need to show how passionate you are about this business every time you tell people about it. It will get them excited and want to know more.

Following these steps will help you create an elevator pitch that is sure to hold the interest of whoever you end up talking to, whether in a large group, on the bus, or in an elevator.

Lessons from the Networking Trenches

I realized this month, during a conversation with one of my closest friends, that I’ve unknowingly surrounded myself with people who compliment me. I’ve been lucky enough to meet these women (and men, too) at school, various jobs, and through friends and family. Without even trying, I’ve created a network of professionals who have been willing to mentor me and support me where I’m lacking in skills, motivation or knowledge. They share lessons learned, trade services, recommend me to their acquaintances, and generally support me, and I return the favors. It’s a symbiotic relationship for all. It’s not just about what I need, and that’s the networking key.

It turns out that the purpose and importance of networking is not solely to make connections that you can cash in on later. Instead, networking is about meeting new people, supporting others and allowing them to support you when you need it. The goal of networking should always be about bringing people together to meet needs and get things done. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned about networking the right way.

Be aware, be kind and don’t be shy. Everywhere you go, there’s an opportunity to meet someone new. Smile at strangers, introduce yourself to that woman next to you on the train, and be kind to everyone. You never know who you might meet, and how you might be able to support each other. What do you have to lose? The least you’ll get out of it is a nice conversation to pass the commute time.

Think of others. Networking isn’t all about you. Instead of always wondering how a person can meet your needs, or how you can sell your services, consider how you might be able to help the people you know. Who might benefit from meeting this person? Or do you know someone who might be able to meet this person’s need?

Tell everyone you know about your business. It may sound simple, but if people don’t know what you do, they’ll never know if they need your services. That woman on the train might know someone who could benefit from your product. Your sister’s boss might be looking for someone who does what you do. Remind people often that you have services to offer and they’ll be much more likely to hire you.

Carry your business cards everywhere and hand them out! Again, this seems like a no-brainer, but you wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve been caught empty-handed in a situation where a business card might have sealed the deal. Even if the person you meet isn’t interested in what you have to offer right now, when she’s digging through her wallet a month from now and finds your business card, you might be exactly who she needs.

Networking has clearly never been my forte. I’ve only recently become comfortable striking up conversations with complete strangers, and I still sometimes forget to mention “what I do” when I meet someone new. But I’ve learned that networking doesn’t have to be a chore. Meeting new people is fun and eventually, handing over your card when you shake hands or say good-bye will become second nature. Think of networking as weaving a net that connects people of all different walks of life and ensures they’ll have what they need when they need it, or that they’ll at least know who to call to find it.

Visit Ami’s personal blog or her professional website to learn more about her. You can also check out her new writing blog, Write Out Loud, a place for writers looking to free the stories inside them.