The concept and application of networking through social media platforms has drastically changed over the last two years, as I have learnt from first-hand experience. Before, I considered websites like LinkedIn to be a handy tool for job-hunting or to find out what my friends did for a living. The 2009 Global financial crisis and its subsequent effect on the jobs market completely changed that for me. Networking had now become a pillar of my business activities and even my professional survival. It represented a global map which I needed to explore in far more depth and, most importantly, it meant I myself had to become far more prominent on this map.
So how do you do this? How do you take advantage of social media networking?
While companies should first create their communications strategy before getting on the social media bandwagon, individuals don't have to. All you have to do is consider yourself as a brand! What are you and what message do you want your name to convey? Are you a cool, funky designer? Are you a meticulous, results-driven programmer? Do you sell wacky socks? You should rely on your achievements and individual personality when presenting yourself online. After choosing specific platforms suited to your professional needs, set up profiles and e-business cards focused on the important content that makes up ‘You’ on social media platforms. I personally use LinkedIn, as well as Xing and About.me.
Once you're happy with the look and content of your online profiles, it’s time to start networking. Look into groups that discuss subjects you're interested in, and when you read something you agree with, connect with the commenter. Let them know why you’re getting in touch. If you feel they deserve praise for their answer/opinion, don't be afraid to give it! They'll appreciate it as much as you would.
Become a ‘Connector’
Once you've started connecting with relevant people and are voicing your thoughts and opinions online, start looking outwards. Are any of your friends – whether they work in your industry or other fields– looking for help? Expand your network and connect others. If you can build an effective reputation as a 'connector', you'll always have people there to help YOU out, and you'll be held in esteem by those you've helped out. This can always come in handy further down the road.
Meet the world!
Social Media means we no longer have to be strangers. Opening up to and networking with people you don’t know, such as professionals in your field on the other side of the world, can lead to all sorts of great undertakings, from international partnerships to a surprise job offering in a city you've only ever dreamed of. Connect, communicate and don't be afraid to help others or ask them for help and advice. Communities are powerful things; there's nothing stopping you from creating your own hub.