Networking has changed drastically in the past decade with the development and popularity of
social media. Although some of the same rules apply to online networking as “old fashioned”
networking, savvy professionals need to learn a few new rules to be successful in this brave new
Create professional profiles- In the social media world, your avatar is the first thing
professional contacts will see, but they will use your bio or profile to create their first and
continuing opinions about you. You should write your bios, about pages and profiles in a very
professional way. If you have a cute email address, think about opening a free web account with
your name for professional correspondence. Be clear and honest about your work experience.
There are ways to word your LinkedIn profile or professional About page to emphasize your
strongest experience without adding inaccurate information. If you are a blogger who would
like to gain more experience as a freelance writer, downplay a lifestyle or personal blog name
as a place of employment. Instead, add blog experience to a freelance writer category. Use a
professional looking headshot for your avatar to complete your professional profile.
Utilize your network- As in real life, social media connections often need an introduction. On
some networks, it’s part of the platform. LinkedIn, for instance, asks you to choose how you
know the individual you’re adding, and discourages individuals from adding people they don’t
know in some capacity. Facebook profiles often require a friend request, and unless you know
a person (or can “name drop”) they can easily deny the request. Use mutual acquaintances or
friends to help you network with other individuals in your field. Many will be happy to help, and
social media makes it much easier to connect after the initial introduction has been made. On
Twitter, throw out a request to meet someone new- for instance, if ask your followers to name
some of their favorite industry Tweeters, then reply to all when your follower answers you.
Create connections offline- Connecting online is only the first part of becoming an online
networking guru, although it seems counterintuitive. Building relationships to a level to which
your new connection would be comfortable referring business takes time and face-to-face
interactions. Get to know your new connections offline by taking time to speak to them at
a mutual meeting or event or meeting for coffee. If your new connections aren’t local, use
Google + Hangouts, Skype or FaceTime to connect virtually. Seeing a person in the flesh (or
at least pixel-to-pixel) can go a long way to establishing trust and building a solid professional
Stay cool- Many individuals feel much freer and less cautious on social media, but that
doesn’t mean they are allowed to say and do anything to get into a group or group of industry
professionals. Every group, formal or informal, has boundaries and stated or unstated rules
of behavior, and pushing your way into these groups in an aggressive way can damage your
reputation and destroy your trust before you even have a chance to build it. Use your network
to be introduced, but once you’re in, stay cool and learn the lay of the virtual land. See how the
group communicates, the types of information they share and how they share it before you jump
right into the conversation.
Choose your networks- Not all networks are created equal when it comes to professional
communication. Some, like LinkedIn, are meant to be primarily professional, but that doesn’t
mean there can’t be some personal communication involved. Conversely, networks like Twitter
and Facebook have a strong personal communication base, but can be used professionally.
Unless you have all day to hang out on social media networks, you should choose one or two and
focus on networking on those the best way possible.
About the Author
Steven Burrell is a small business consultant, always on the lookout for new
tools and technology to maximize success. You can find him reviewing Time Warner’s internet
service for businesses.
Image Credit: SCLN at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons