If you’re new to social networking, the thought of developing a solid pool of key contacts can be a bit overwhelming. Downright daunting, in fact, for those who place any form of networking—online or off—way down on their list of favorite things to do. Relax. In many ways, developing your online network is easier than an in-person network.
Your existing contacts are critical to social networking success. Without them, you have no network. If you’ve explored many social networking sites, you’ve undoubtedly come across people with only one or two contacts—or worse, no contacts. On every site, there are people who never do anything beyond signing up, or who accept an invitation from a colleague and never return to the site. If you want your social networking experience to be a powerful one, however, you need to connect with enough people to make it worthwhile. READ MORE
But before you start sending connection requests to anyone and everyone, you need to focus on why before you think about who and how. Essentially, you need a plan. Asking yourself the following questions will simplify the process of developing your network and ensure that you connect with the people who can help you meet your goals.
Why do you want to participate in social networking? Articulating a goal makes it easier to develop a strategic social network.
What sites are you using to develop your contacts? Every social networking site is a little different, and the techniques you use to develop your network on each vary.
Who are your ideal contacts? Are you looking for recruiters, corporate executives, potential supporters for your cause or political campaign, or music lovers who might want to buy your new CD?
Most social networkers fall into one of two categories: those, such as 39 job seekers, who are trying to develop a business network of specific, targeted contacts; and those who want to reach a wide, general audience potentially interested in their product, service, or cause.
Aubrey, for example, is ready to transition from full-time student to full-time employee. She already has a network of contacts on Facebook from her college days, but she knows that she needs a new approach to find a job in the competitive New York advertising world. She must expand her existing collegiate network into a targeted group of contacts that can help her land her dream job in advertising.
To start, Aubrey joins several other social networking sites popular with professionals. To build her contact pool, she initially focuses on the people she already knows: classmates she wasn’t already connected with on Facebook, colleagues she worked with during several internships, and people she met at local professional association meetings. Not surprisingly, many of these individuals already participate on her target social networks, so it’s easy for Aubrey to connect with them.
To take it a step further, Aubrey views the profiles of people her contacts know and sends an invitation to connect to anyone with a background relevant to her job search. Next on the list: members of local professional associations she hasn’t yet met in person and former graduates of her university who work in advertising. Because these people already have something in common with Aubrey, they are more likely to respond positively to her connection requests. Soon Aubrey has a pool of more than 200 contacts, and a plan for using her network to land her first job in advertising.
On the other hand, if your goal is to make contact primarily with people you don’t know, you need a slightly different approach than the one Aubrey took. In this case, you’re really creating a publicity campaign through social networking rather than developing a select network of contacts. To succeed with this strategy, consider the following suggestions:
Focus on your presence on the site—A solid presence with lots of interesting content is going to make people more likely to befriend you.
Start with likeminded people—Search the site for others who share your interests and match the target audience you’re trying to reach. If your goal is to befriend jazz fans, for example, search for others who share this interest and contact them. Your success rate will likely be higher.
See who has befriended your competitors—These are people who may also be interested in what you have to offer.
Be selective—Yes, you want to reach as many people as possible, but you still need to weed out anyone whom you really don’t want to associate with. Before blindly accepting every friend request or sending a request to someone you don’t know, verify that this person is really worth making a contact with. This takes some time, but it helps you avoid associating yourself with the small percentage of problem people in the social networking world.
Be patient—You need to avoid the temptation of trying to connect to thousands overnight. By doing so, you run the risk of developing a poor network or losing your network altogether. If you misuse one of the tools that automatically adds MySpace friends, for example, you run the risk of MySpace deleting your account.
Be strategic about connecting and reconnecting on social networking sites, and your chances of reaping rewards should more than double.
The above article is reproduced with permission from the following book:
The Truth About Profiting from Social Networking, 1/e
Que Publishing, 0789737884
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