When you think of networking what usually comes to mind? For some of us it may be a fear of being in large crowds and struggling to strike up a conversation. Others seem to have the ability to make friends with anyone in the room.
Social media is a great tool to use no matter where you fall on the spectrum of networking skills. If you’re looking to grow your network and build business contacts, LinkedIn is the place to be. It has the largest professional network with 300 million members and has tons of resources you can take advantage of for free. Here are some recommendations to get you started:
Join LinkedIn. Set-up your profile with a polished photo and resume. Even if you’re not looking for a job, it still gives people a snapshot of who you are and what skills you have. It’s a representation of your professional brand so spend some time on it.
Connect with people. LinkedIn is very good at telling you who you have connections with. You’ll want to connect with your past or present supervisors and colleagues, people you’ve done business with or met at events, and friends. But like any social network, be careful about accepting invitations to connect from people you don’t know. Remember, it’s about relationships and you’ll want to be genuine and authentic with your connections. LinkedIn even has the capability to go into your Gmail or Yahoo account and find which contacts are already on LinkedIn. What a time saver!
Get introduced. Once you’ve spent some time making connections, poke around the profiles of others and see who you might want to meet virtually. LinkedIn provides a great template for getting introduced to people to expand your network and further your business relationships.
Join groups. If there’s a particular field, industry, or topic you’re interested in (professionally or personally), you’ll find there are tons of groups available to you. Once you join a group you can have conversations with like-minded people and share related information.
When you feel confident with your presence on LinkedIn, try expanding your network with other social mediums like Twitter. See if you can convert your key LinkedIn connections to personal contacts and/or advocates where you can have instant conversations, seek referrals and share content much faster. Also, try following people who are in the same field and industry as you. You can begin the relationship with a retweet or a reply to their content. Usually people are willing to follow you back when you show them some love.