How to Network through Social Media
Social media is a big deal these days. In fact, it’s one of the best networking tools available to you. According to research done by the Pew Research Center, 74 percent of adults who regularly use the Internet use social networking sites. Most potential employers are among that 74 percent, so using social media to network is in your best interest.
Social media allows people to connect with you and learn who you are in a way that traditional resumes cannot (though you still need a traditional resume!), and it can help you realize existing connections you have with potential companies.
With that in mind, here are a few tips to help you network more effectively with social media.
Know the Social Channels
There is an ever-growing number of ways to connect online socially, and these are often referred to as channels. Each channel serves a different purpose and will allow you to connect with your network in different ways. Here is a review of several current social channels so that you can identify which ones would be the most helpful to you. (For a more comprehensive overview, refer to A Beginners Guide to Social Media.)
LinkedIn is a social media site designed for professional interactions. This is where you would add colleagues and professors, as well as classmates and friends. You can input work history and a portfolio, and your connections can endorse your skills. LinkedIn allows you to tell your professional story like no other social network, making it essential for any and all professionals.
Facebook is a social networking service that allows you to share messages, links, and videos with family, friends, and other contacts. Facebook is often used for personal contacts and acquaintances. Many of the interactions on Facebook are more casual, making it a good place to connect with old classmates, friends, and people in your ward. That being said, many recruiters admit to using Facebook to research potential employees, so be sure that anything viewable by the general public is professional looking and appropriate.
Twitter is for sending and receiving short messages and images called tweets. You can follow as many people as you want: friends, colleagues, companies, organizations, and leaders in your field. Twitter’s default setting is for tweets to be public, that is, viewable by anyone. Because of this, the audience is very large, as is your potential reach. Twitter allows you to show that you are up-to-date in your professional field and a thought leader in that niche, even if you aren’t currently employed.
Blogs are personally owned web spaces where people share long, article-length commentaries on any subject. There is no one website you can use for your blog, but some popular options are Tumblr, WordPress, and Blogger.
Be Active Online
This may seem like a given, but if you want to make valuable connections online, you have to be active on at least one social media channel, if not several. Interact with others’ tweets, Facebook posts, and LinkedIn updates. Leave comments, retweet, and share content freely to show that you are aware and involved. You also need to post some of your own content, but keep in mind that everything you post leaves an impression. As a general rule, follow Elder David A. Bednar’s suggestions to be authentic and consistent, edify and uplift, respect intellectual property, and be wise and vigilant in all of your social media interactions (see “To Sweep the Earth as with a Flood”).
Maintain Professional Relationships
One of the best aspects of networking with social media is the ability it gives you to continue professional relationships without needing to live near your contacts. For example, if you meet people at a conference, you can stay connected with them through LinkedIn or Twitter. Keeping in touch with people in your industry is an essential part of expanding your network.
Remember to be generous—like appropriate posts, retweet, and share others’ content. You can also endorse your contacts, particularly on LinkedIn by focusing on a specific skill or writing a recommendation of a colleague. Don’t hesitate to acknowledge people for a job well done.
Identify Leaders and Organizations
In any industry, certain people and organizations stand out as the best and brightest. To create a network that can provide you with great opportunities, connect with the leaders in your niche. You can do this by reaching out to them directly; LinkedIn is often the best social channel to do so. Or you can identify mutual friends who can introduce you online. When you reach out to connect on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter, make sure you’re clear about why you’re connecting. Then share good and helpful content that followers in your industry will find useful and pertinent.
A Word of Caution
Although widely popular, social media does include some dangers. Make sure you always read the terms and conditions and know your privacy settings before you start posting. Even with heavy privacy settings in place, you should be careful with the information you share online. All it takes is one unprofessional post to scare off a potential employer, so be wise in all of your social media activity.