Social media adds a new dimension to the way we communicate. That offers a new way to network. Networking is a strategy that helps entrepreneurs and professionals discover new business contacts. We can take our networking to the digital world thanks to social media. But how do you use social media as a networking tool?
No doubt, social media offers tons of benefits to professionals. Some of these benefits are tied to growing your business and expanding your digital Rolodex.
But to reap these benefits, you must use social media the right way. Therefore, we will show you first-hand tips on using social media for networking like a pro.
First, Build Your Presence
You can’t network on social media if you don’t have a profile. So, naturally, the first tip is to create your social media profiles. But everyone knows that. So because of that, we’re expanding the tip to include the following: Building your social media presence.
Building social presence means personalizing your profiles and adding value to each one. That way, you can network under your full name and lay out your expertise for everyone to see. Unfortunately, building a social presence takes time and effort.
You can start by following or adding the people you already know and steadily expand the list. At some point, you will celebrate your first 100 followers, should these people decide to follow back.
Although arduous, this first tip is crucial, as no one will want to network with a nobody.
Create Meaningful Content
Social media sites allow users to post all sorts of content – from images to infographics, links, and even sharing their thoughts. But for the purpose of online networking, your goal is to create and post meaningful content.
What does meaningful content mean? Like the name says, meaningful content provides meaning to others. The stuff you post should intrigue others and want them to know more about it.
Some popular examples of meaningful content for social media include blog-style posts, long threads, and even how-to videos. Naturally, you will need to curate the content around your industry, so some of these won’t work.
Your goal is to attract as many users as possible to your content, ultimately receiving a follow or a friend request from these users. Moreover, the more people you reach with your content, the greater the chance of someone connecting with you personally.
Don’t Try Too Hard to Sell Yourself
Social media marketing is exhausting. You know it, and the ordinary user knows it as well. People try too hard to sell products and services through the many social media websites. If done poorly, it comes off as spammy and bot-like. The hard sell ultimately has the opposite effect. So, avoid the hard sell as it comes off as off-putting.
So what’s the best way to sell yourself to network online through social media? Well, the best way to sell yourself is to provide meaning to others. The stuff you post has to be helpful so others willingly want to connect with you. Instead of trying too hard to sell with an agenda, try to add value.
Always Prioritize Quality Over Quantity
In some industries, quantities topple qualities. But when networking through social media, quantity is never the way to move forward. Networking professionals should always prioritize quality connections as opposed to quantitive ones.
What good does having 1,000 low-quality connections achieve if these connections aren’t even business professionals? It would be much better to connect with ten business professionals who are experts in their field.
How to Approach Someone on Social Media?
With that said, what should you do when approaching someone on social media? Your networking efforts will ultimately fail if you don’t acquire a connection. So, here are a few tips to help you do that:
Be Brief But Personal
First impressions matter once you find someone you want to connect with on social media. Despite being eager to kickstart your social media networking efforts, not everyone is up for reading long messages. So always be brief but personal.
Avoid spammy text and speak from the heart. As a rule of thumb, make sure to write no more than one paragraph when hitting someone’s DMs. To give yourself the best chance to connect with someone, start with 100 words or fewer.
Ask for Advice
Professionals love chatting about their areas of work. And you’re probably eager to pick their brain on specific topics. So once you pass through the first stage, the next is to ask for advice.
This gives you the best possible chance to really start things off with your new networking buddy. If you’ve done your research, you will want to include some of their achievements.
For example, if the person you want to connect with is successful at building their social profiles, pick their brain on ways to grow your social audience. You can ask anything you like. Just remember to be polite and acknowledge that they might not have the time to respond to you.
Make Yourself Available
Lastly, the best way to establish a relationship with a fellow professional is not to expect anything from them but to make yourself available should they need you.
This tells the other person that you’re genuine in your networking efforts and easily approachable. To put it simply, you want to engage with them in whatever way possible.
Social media emerges as a valuable networking tool for professionals. Therefore, everyone should be using social media websites like LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to meet professionals in their field. But there’s a right and wrong way to use social media for online networking.
Avoiding mistakes and practicing good ethics gives you the best chance to achieve your goals.
Erik Bergman, Founder of Great.com
Erik Bergman co-founded Catena Media and helped grow it to over 300 employees and a $200 million valuation before stepping away to start Great.com, an iGaming organization that donates 100% of its profits to environmental charities. In addition to running a successful online business, Erik also hosts the Becoming Great podcast, shares entrepreneurship tips with his more than 1 million social media followers, and contributes to sites like Entrepreneuer.com, Business Insider, Foundr, and Forbes.