How 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!