This isn't your ordinary night spent in front of the TV, clutching a small glass with ice cubes clinking inside.
You have somewhere to be, and people are expecting you to show up representing the best version of yourself.
Tonight is different than most nights because you are on your way to a networking mixer downtown, invited by a recruiter who is incredibly connected and you believe can help you take the next step in your career.
Big important people are going to be there, you just know it, and you are ready to make a lasting impression that will change your career trajectory.
Your hair is right, your breath smells great and you feel confident as you drive into town with the windows down and Nelly’s “It’s getting hot in here” blasting on the radio.
Wait. Hold up.
That’s right, Nelly. Because the last time a networking mixer was worth your time was around 2002, which was also about the last time anyone heard from Nelly
Real connections are more digital than ever. Sounds like an oxymoron, “real connections are digital” – but it’s true. Social Media is your new business pal, not just a place to share how you felt when Malcolm Butler intercepted Russell Wilson in the Super Bowl.
Alas, the idea of networking on social media is still in its nebulous stage. Most are still confused how to leverage the social power and make their connections matter, which is where we come in with some handy advice on how to turn your social media accounts into something besides a holding chamber for memes.
Where to Make The Best Connections
Before we tackle how, we need to decide where.
There are hundreds of social media platforms, recently I received a "special invitation to join Ello"
– where I can "Join the millions in the Ello community who are creating, sharing, and connecting every day
". Which kind of sounds like every. single. social. media. site. alive.
Which brings up the exact point I want to make, you can't be everywhere, so how do you know where to best spend your time?
If your goal is to network on social media, LinkedIn is the obvious choice
- They have 300 million+ members all there to with the goal of building their professional network
- Personally caress your professional identity
- Interact with groups that share the same business and career interests as you
- Access business related articles from thought leaders and companies
More importantly, there is less BS to sift through. It is more targeted. It is more focused. And you feel less dirty and wasteful after you spend an hour or two on it. (Can you tell I’m a fan?)
LinkedIn is also an easy way to make contacts, but please, please, please, if you get nothing out of this article but this one moment, savor this advice: Don’t just connect and move on.
Here’s what happens all too often on LinkedIn:
- User A sends connect request to popular, valuable and handsome User B*
- User B accepts, they might not know the person but they are willing to be professionally connected to people out there that share the same interests
- After accepting the request to connect, User B never hears a peep out of User A. There is no dialogue. There is no shared experience. There is no purpose.
User B then sits back and wonders what User A actually accomplished by going through the process of connecting?
(*Oh heck, let’s call User B Brian Clapp
, it’s clear I’m talking about myself)
This is not networking on social media. This is artificially inflating your connections to make you feel like you accomplished something when you have actually accomplished less than RGIII or the corpse of Greg Oden.
Rules of Engagement:
Have a purpose with every attempted connection.
When you make a request to connect include a reason, like: “I just read your article on why a sports management degree
is incredibly useful, I really appreciated it and would love to connect.” Dialogue like that works because it shows you are a real person, that you value the other person’s contribution and well, you flattered them – who doesn't like that? (Works on me every time)
Now here’s the trick to deepening any networking relationship post-connection – find out where they hang:
- Do they manage a group?
- Do they comment in certain places?
- Do they post their articles or thoughts?
If you want to build a meaningful connection, post and comment in their group, share their articles on your timeline, like their comments and engage with their thoughts. Now they may actually start to recognize your name, which means they are ripe and ready for an actual well thought-out question from you.
So go ahead, ask.
Make it specific, make it smart, make it something they can answer…and you know what, they will probably answer about 75% of the time. But there are a few things you shouldn't ask (all of these things have been asked of me by total strangers by the way):
- DO NOT ask for a job, they don’t know you
- DO NOT ask for a reference, they don’t know you
- DO NOT come out and ask to be connected to someone in their network, they don’t know you
Those things hopefully come up at a later date, but if you ask for them upfront before you are a known commodity to them, you will be treated like Ickey Woods treats cold cuts
So remember the rules of networking on LinkedIn: Don’t just make a connection…really connect!
Summing up Networking on Social Media via Other Sites in Three Paragraphs
I probably made it clear I don’t think of Facebook for business networking (especially after they made Fan Pages irrelevant unless you pay, but that’s another frustrating story) that said, there is value in there, it just takes a little longer to incubate. Facebook networking works best with a small business that you want to build connections within, because bigger pages and famous people aren't going to notice you. And don’t try to connect with people directly you don’t know on Facebook, it’s creepy. If you like their fan page or business page now that is fair game. Once you do, comment, like and share – it’s that simple. I manage our Work in Sports Facebook page
and I recognize the names of the people that support us. If they asked me questions I would return the favor by answering. (That’s a long paragraph, but I said I’d keep it to three total)
OK, on to Twitter. This is simple. Follow the right people and harness the power of the RT. Share their intellectual property and you become memorable because RTing is the digital age’s best form of flattery. Many people and businesses have a policy of following back those who RT their content – I know we do. So now that we follow each other, and you've been sharing my content, I’m not adverse to a DM. Same rules apply that we discussed in Linkedin, be smart, ask smart, don’t beg.
As for the rest of the spots for networking on social media, well, I want to hear your ideas. Have you used G+ with great success? Figured out a lifehack for StumpleUpon? Share it in the comments, I want to hear how you are networking on Social Media!
(Told you it would be three paragraphs)