It pays to network online. Social media networking expands your circle of contacts in ways you may not have imagined. It can provide a constant source of new info, new connections, and new opportunities. But like any technology, it’s good to be prepped with the technical details ahead of time, rather than diving in and being unsure of the rules. Setting up an account for any of these networks is not the tricky part; how to act and how to navigate is what really matters. While there are numerous social networks out there, we’ll focus on the two largest: Facebook and Twitter. How to sign up, how to create a profile, how to make friends, how best to engage with others while on these sites, and finally, how to avoid some pitfalls as we discuss what not to do. Of course, before all of that, there is one big question: Why join?
Most of the time, you join a club to connect with your peers, make new contacts, or gain new knowledge about your field. Social networks are like clubs, but on a massive, global scale. When you connect with others, you are forming your own group, people you want to converse with and share with. The group could be a private, small club of 10 people or a larger group consisting of thousands. The first step is deciding why you want to get on Facebook or Twitter and how you want to position yourself. It could be for marketing reasons (i.e. to create a fan base of followers or to provide a platform for you to demonstrate and share expertise). It could be a hub from which you direct people to news and other resources about yourself or get that information into the hands of people who will pass it on. You may hope to find others whom you can pose questions to or open your professional circle and potential customer base a little wider.
Social networks are like tools: The more you work them and use them, the more you get out of them. If you decide you want to market yourself more, you’ll need to get comfortable with yourself as the brand and then choose the type of information you want to share and the voice and style you want to use. Business owners may have trouble getting their head around this concept, but politicians easily get it as second nature. It is all about what you have to say, what your thoughts are, and how you interact with your followers. When people hear about you and like what you have to say, you develop fans, you build a following. Success in social networking is often gauged by an expanding fan base (“friends” or “fans” on Facebook and “followers” on Twitter), and the more your base expands, the more others hear about you and the more fans you gain. The great part is once you get that base, you can reach them all with one click. Your one status update goes out to all your followers. It could be an update on what you are doing, a question you need advice on, or a link to some of your work you want to share. One post goes out to hundreds or thousands within seconds.
Expanding your base can be in direct proportion to how outgoing you are. If you have opinions, love to get into conversations, and provide info that is very useful, you’ll see your base grow. If you sit and lurk, just check your page often enough to see what others are saying, your network may grow slowly, if at all. This is the trap many fall into. They set up their account, add a few friends, then sit back and wait for something to happen. Not much usually does, so their accounts quickly become inactive. Going back to the toolbox metaphor, it is kind of like staring at the tools, seeing what builds. Not much. Until you pick up the wire cutter.
By Don Kreski
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