Thursday, January 15, 2009

power networking with social media

I'm speaking this morning at the Tech Council of Maryland's "Power Networking" session, which combines advice about in-person networking with tips on using social media for the same purpose. (This is the e-handout for that session's participants.) Anyone who spends time on social media sites from LinkedIn to Facebook will tell you that good networking online mirrors good networking in person: You need to build relationships, share information before you need a favor, and pay attention to others' interests to find areas of affinity. But beyond those basics, there are four things you should pay particular attention to -- profiles, publishing, people and personality -- when sharpening up your social media tools for good ongoing networking:
  • Profiles: Social media profiles aren't just online resumes. Most social media sites use the keywords, photos and links in your profile to help make networking easy for you, serving up suggested contacts based on what you enter in your profile. And your profile on Google allows you to post comments on search engine results (see below). To take advantage of that, provide a complete record of your employment and education history, volunteer work, even your hobbies and out-of-work pursuits. Good profiles always include a clear, professional photo; links to your company website and any other sites (like blogs) that show what you know; and in some cases, like LinkedIn, recommendations from others. Be sure to cross-promote your profiles--that is, make sure your Facebook profile explains how to find you on LinkedIn and vice versa. To cover the basics, develop a profile on Facebook, LinkedIn and Google (create a sign in account, then go to the "manage accounts" page to edit your profile). You also may find it's useful to join a specialty social media network like GottaMentor, or to pay attention to where your contacts already reside online. (It's a great question to ask at an in-person networking event!)
  • Publishing: You also can boost your networking power by publishing frequently on the web, and social media tools make this easier than ever. Blogs are especially effective at pushing you higher in any search engine result, and give you a platform to demonstrate your expertise--particularly if you run a small business or are a subject expert. You also can publish professional updates on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter in your status updates; answer questions in your areas of expertise on LinkedIn or comment on others' blogs; and, in Google, you can click on the speech balloon that appears after every search result and type comments in the box that pops open. If you've created a profile, make sure that your "nickname" highlights your brand or website URL--that's what will appear when you make a comment on a search engine result. Sharing useful information in this way is similar to what you'd do at the office water cooler or a networking event, just more efficient and effective, as many more people can benefit.
  • People: They're the backbone of any network, but the area where most people make missteps online. Social media sites can let you find long-lost colleagues and personal contacts who may now be in businesses helpful to you, and they offer an effective and easy way to amass all your contacts in one or two places. But the same etiquette rules, decisions (whom to include or not include in your network) and conflicts apply online as in person. Amassing thousands of contacts you don't know just because you can is pointless--and all your contacts need to be purposeful. Instead, use social media sites to read and listen to what your contacts are doing. Comment or ask questions or offer help. Use the tools available to let them know what you're doing on and off the job, and they'll be more informed about you when you do need help.
  • Personality: Don't be afraid to show some, keeping in mind that you're building a permanent online record any recruiter or employer can see. Sticking to a narrow range of earnest work-only updates ("Staying late at the office again to make sure it's done right") or over-promoting yourself ("Have you read my brilliant blog post yet?") don't make you look genuine and confident, and social media sites prize authentic, credible posts. So do share insights into your out-of-work pursuits, just as you might discuss your family, golf game, sports or cooking when socializing with work colleagues. Post pictures or video using a Flip Video MinoHD Camera, which makes it easy for you to upload video. (It's the same camera we're using in today's Tech Council session.) With a hat tip to Law Firm Blogger, here's a great example of an attorney using video to liven up his web presence and share some personal background. If you add some personality to your online presence, your contacts will have more to talk to you about in person--in effect, social media sites are the world's biggest icebreaker for networkers.

1 comment:

Shayne Packer said...

I really like this article, Denise. It makes so much sense. I like how you describe each of the 4 Ps. I'm really keen on well-developed profiles. I've been building up my profiles in many places on the web. I'm trying to focus more on publishing frequently. Sometimes I have a tough time trimming my articles tightly, but I'm working on it. I do work hard and enjoy high search engine rankings.

Thanks for your thoughts!