Guest post by Erik Bergman.
It’s getting more unusual to see in-person events that are dedicated solely to “networking.” And that’s okay. Networking events can seem dull or even desperate, with everyone there treating them as a direct opportunity to boost their career without much effort put into making real, meaningful contacts.
Now that social media has become such a key part of our lives, social media platforms (as well as purpose-built professional networking platforms like Kinetic) may be the best places for networking.
No doubt you’re already doing some networking online, and you’ve optimized your profile to grow your network on LinkedIn. But there’s so much more to these platforms that we can use to grow our professional opportunities and make true connections.
Much of the social media advice online is about how to use specific apps to achieve your marketing goals on those particular platforms. The four tips here are more broad advice that is useful on every platform you may use for your networking, whether to expand your business or to gather a helpful group of people within your social circle you can lean on when you need them.
Because in the end, using social media should be part of your networking strategy to help you reach the best people to achieve your goals.
1. Go Where Your People Are
Is your industry or field of interest highly visual, like photography or fitness? Then use platforms that focus on visual content, like Instagram, Pinterest, or TikTok.
If you’re more interested in having deep conversations with a lot of back-and-forth commentary, then try Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. Different social media platforms lend themselves to different social experiences.
Once you’ve determined your platforms, don’t be afraid to connect with lots of people. You can either search for specific people within your industry, or you can search for subjects within your field.
After you’ve found those first people you want to connect with, see who they follow. You’ll probably be interested in the same topics as they are, and you’ve just expanded your network.
You should also see where else your network connections are reaching out to their audiences. Maybe you found them on Instagram but they also have a blog or a YouTube channel. Be sure to follow or subscribe to those, too. That will deepen your connections with them and also give you another way to engage with even more like-minded people.
2. Be Thoughtful About How You Engage
Once you’re following some important or helpful people, start commenting, retweeting, and otherwise sharing their content.
Often, the people you retweet will follow you back. Of course, that’s not always the case — clearly, Jeff Bezos probably won’t follow you back no matter how many times you retweet him. But usually, this opens up conversations and connections with other people in that same space, allowing you to share more thoughts and ideas.
Make sure that the comments or questions you’re posting are insightful and genuine. You can’t get away with simply saying “I agree” and think that the follows and praise will come pouring in. Ask a question to clarify someone’s process, or offer up your own helpful tip. Show that you have something new or important to say on the topic.
In short, be sure that you’re adding value to the conversation and to other people’s interactions with you. This can lead to some great connections because you’re showing that you’re informed, trustworthy, and willing to share. Other people will remember you for this when you ask them for their own feedback or even their help in the future.
3. Post About What Interests You
Everything you post, comment, or share should come from a genuine passion for the topic at hand.
This is for two reasons. First, your audience is smart and will know when you’re not really emotionally or mentally engaged with what you’re sharing. They’re in your network to see what you care about and what you have to say about it — if you don’t really care, then why should they trust you or keep listening to you?
Second, it keeps you actively involved in maintaining your relationships. Networking can be a long, hard process sometimes, but when you’re having fun, finding the motivation to keep it up is easy.
That positive energy you feel can be infectious, and your network will be more likely to engage with you when you’re really excited about what you’re saying. People will remember that enthusiasm and look to you as someone who is authentic and authoritative.
4. Share How Someone Has Impacted You
Maybe you’re looking to connect with someone really important in your industry. If you send them a message or leave them a comment about how they’ve impacted your career, they will most likely appreciate the gesture.
It shows that their hard work has been truly beneficial to someone else, and it also shows you in a good light because you’re not asking them for something (which they probably get all the time). This might lead to them remembering you and being willing to connect with you in the future.
You don’t have to limit this approach just to influential business leaders. You can share your praise for a colleague or even an old teacher. No one becomes successful alone, and it’s important to acknowledge who has helped you along the way.
Showing others your growth and your humility can be inspiring, and it also lets people know that you are willing to take the time to show others your graciousness. People within your network will feel like they can reach out to you if they need some help or support, and they’ll probably be willing to extend you that same favor if you need it, too.
Social Media Networking With a Purpose
Remember that networking, especially on social media, isn’t a quick fix to get you that next job or tons of followers in a day. It’s a process that takes time and work, but the relationships that you build will make that effort more worthwhile.
Erik Bergman co-founded Catena Media and helped grow it to over 300 employees and a $200 million valuation before stepping away to start Great.com, an iGaming organization that donates 100% of its profits to environmental charities. In addition to running a successful online affiliate business, Erik also hosts the Becoming Great podcast, shares entrepreneurship tips with his more than 1 million social media followers, and contributes to sites like Entrepreneuer.com, Business Insider, Foundr, and Forbes.