Networking on social media matters – but networks are only valuable if they’re relevant.
When businesses first started using social media, it was a race to the largest audience size. All businesses wanted big numbers and boasted large like counts, maybe even touting high engagement. A lot has changed since then.
Professionals and the businesses we represent have realized that big networks aren’t everything when it comes to social media. It’s not effective to share a message with 1,000 people if 500 of them are the wrong people. Why not just talk straight to the right 500 people in the first place?
It’s a waste of time to build connections with people for no reason if you have nothing in common, no way to help each other, and nothing to talk about.
That time is better spent building a smaller network of relevant, targeted connections.
- What are you looking to get out of online networking?
- How can you help people?
- Who would you like to talk to?
Related: How to Be Authentic on Social Media
By using social media strategically, and keeping those questions in mind, you can focus on building strong, close connections with those people. The alternative, trying to keep track of and get to know hundreds of different people, seems pretty unappealing in comparison.
It’s a classic example of the Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 rule: not every connection is equal.
Focus more on the connections that yield results instead of spreading yourself thin. Those worthwhile connections will likely be the ones relevant to your company’s industry, what you do, where you’re located, etc. - they have something in common with you. You may meet them in a public group or discussion at first, but to build your online network, grow business and referrals, and expand your personal brand, building one-on-one connections is crucial.
In this post, we’re talking about how to find and meet people on social media to build a relevant professional network. Here are a few ways to get started finding people to connect with:
On Twitter: Join a Twitter Chat
Given how fast Twitter always moves, it can be hard to connect with people there. Finding and engaging with people talking about the same thing, and being available to connect at the same time, is difficult on a platform more optimized for fast one-off posts than group conversations.
A longtime favorite solution to that is joining a Twitter chat, which is when a group congregates and holds a discussion around a specific hashtag at a certain date and time. The group may discuss a different topic each week or have one overall theme or topic for every chat.
Here’s an example of #PMchat, a chat about project management:
You can find different chats simply by following the type people you’re looking to connect with - you’ll see which chats your industry peers are already participating in.
There’s no formal way to join a chat, so once you’ve chosen one to participate in, just “show up” on Twitter at the right time and start participating in the conversation using the designated hashtag!
On LinkedIn: Participate in Groups
LinkedIn has a more formal way to network with groups of industry peers, and it’s one of the social network’s best features.
Groups exist for different industries, locations, associations and organizations, interests, and job functions. You’ll be sure to find several places you can connect with relevant peers.
My favorite ways to find great LinkedIn groups for growing your network are:
- Going to the profiles of some of your connections and looking at what groups they’re a member of. Most groups are public so even if you can’t see the posts, you can see which ones you should request membership for.
- Going to the Discover Groups page. This recommends groups based on which ones you already have connections in, as well as taking into account the content on your profile and the group’s description.
Once you’ve joined a few, comment on other people’s discussions to add value and answer their questions. Post your own questions and pieces of advice when you have them. Some groups may allow you to promote your company, but if you’re focused on building a long-term network, you’re better off focusing on introducing yourself to the other members and establishing a few initial connections first.
Then be sure to connect with people you talk to. You can promote your company and content curated via, for example, Employee Advocacy programs more directly on your own profile than in a group, and LinkedIn is prime for finding referrals and customers.
On Facebook: Share Company Content
For a long time, we were supposed to avoid mixing Facebook with work. That’s starting to change, but a lot of people are still used to avoiding any specific talk about their job.
That means a lot of your Facebook friends likely don’t even remember what you do, or know many details about it. In other words: these relevant members of your personal network can’t become members of your professional one. And simply because they don’t know about it.
To solve that, you need to be talking about your company. One way to do that is to participate in your company’s Employee Advocacy program. For example, you can use content suggestions from your company to share the different things you’re working on that personal friends might be interested in. You can also share your company’s Facebook posts to your personal network.
You’ll never know the new ways you might be able to connect with Facebook friends - the connection is already there, you just need to use it!
Don’t forget to engage your connections
Once you’ve met and connected with relevant people on social media, they won’t magically know what to do next. Whether they’re a potential customer, partner, or just someone you’d like to get to know, you’ll need to take a next step.
That involves actually engaging your network, putting the connections you’ve built to good use. Message or email the people you meet, take them out for coffee, figure out you can help each other. But don’t build a great network and then waste it.