Social media offer a great way to connect with people, and each platform has its own uses, which we’ll get to in a moment. First though, let's talk about what the experts all agree on.
For a networking connection to be solid, it has to be mutually beneficial, as Terri Mayes of The Mentor Bank recently told Talent Management. If they’re not, the other person has no reason to be interested in networking with you, and what seems to be a valuable lead can become a dead end. Mayes suggests three steps to undertake before reaching out:
Judy Robinett of JRobinette Enterprises says, “You don’t need gazillions of people on Facebook or LinkedIn. You just really need a core of 25 to 50 quality relationships.” What you want is people who will actually share favors, stay connected, and be willing to act as a bridge to other people. Robinette suggests having a core of 10 to 15 close friends or family, and building out your network with a diverse group that can provide things your career may require going forward.
A general rule for all of the platforms is to be careful about not posting so frequently you become an annoyance. Always keep in mind that you want to bring value to your network, not be a nuisance. There’s a ton of opinions on the correct posting frequency, depending on what you want to do and your industry. We’d recommend doing a search on “how often should I post.”
Twitter’s great for sharing professional ideas and news. It’s not a place to ask for favors, but a great way to stay on your network’s radar, as long as what you tweet has value to them. Susan RoAne, who wrote How to Work a Room, suggests following people you consider smart and interacting with them. She also suggests that using hashtags will help draw new contacts to you.
Posting business-related original content on LinkedIn as updates helps you establish your image as someone of value and as a source of interesting information. It’s not for personal topics, but since so many people are on LinkedIn every day, it’s also an excellent way to up your visibility within your network.
Facebook’s the most personal of these platforms, and it’s the place to foster the more holistic aspects of your network relationships. While you would want to avoid posting content that could alienate professional friends — we’re talking politics and religion here — it’s a perfectly good place to post a pic of that awesome meal.
All in all, with a little effort, you can successfully leverage social media for building and nurturing a great network, and have a great time doing it.