Social media’s value for brand-building, sales, and customer engagement is regularly discussed and debated. But one area that’s frequently overlooked is its incredible networking ROI, especially for introverts who may eschew large, noisy professional gatherings.
As an author, consultant, and business school professor, here are five ways I’ve personally used social media to enhance my networking and develop lasting professional relationships.
1. Conduct Interviews
As I discuss in my book Stand Out, interviews – for blogs, podcasts, or web video programs – can be a powerful way to break through the line of supplicants trying to snag the attention of industry leaders. Instead of approaching them to beg for a cup of coffee or a chance to “pick their brain,” you move to the front of the line when you offer to interview them and share it online.
2. Leverage Your Content
Interviewing someone is great; it’s even better if you can find multiple ways to extract value from that conversation. One master of this is Roger Dooley, who was kind enough to interview me for his podcast. But he didn’t stop there; he also wrote three different blog posts based on our conversation (including this one). That’s certainly memorable as a networking strategy; who wouldn’t be grateful for so much play? In turn, of course, I’m writing about Roger here and will look for other opportunities to spread the word about him. (In my free Stand Out Self-Assessment Workbook, I offer additional ideas about how to leverage your content.)
3. Recycle Content
Once you’ve interviewed someone once, don’t let it languish and go to waste. If it’s “evergreen” – i.e., not time-sensitive, such as a list-based post like this – you can repost it periodically on social media. You can do this either by hand or (as I do) using a service like Edgar, which automatically reposts content you’ve put into your “vault” after weeks or months. I recently retweeted a 2014 post I’d written about executive coach Alisa Cohn; Alisa told me yesterday it caught the attention of a prominent tech executive who just hired her. The best kind of networking is when something you did for someone 18 months ago keeps putting money into their pocket.
4. Write a LinkedIn Recommendation
It’s human nature to appreciate praise – especially public praise. A very simple way to make a positive impression on someone you know is to take the time to write a LinkedIn recommendation for them (not just an “endorsement,” which can be done with a click and consequently isn’t that valuable). People will appreciate your effort, and – though this shouldn’t be your goal – they may be inclined to want to reciprocate and write one for you, as well.
5. Respond to Real-Time Updates
If you follow friends, colleagues, and people you admire on social media, you may be able to catch interesting last-minute opportunities. For instance, author Jon Acuff is known for hosting spur-of-the-moment meetups in different cities, which he promotes through his Twitter account. When blogger Alexis Grant announced that she was going to be in New York City (where I live) during a certain week, I invited her to a dinner gathering I was organizing, and she accepted – a great way to turn online networking into real world relationships.
In an Internet-fueled world, we’re increasingly working with people who live in other cities or countries. Networking these days isn’t just Chamber of Commerce mixers; instead, when deployed correctly, social media has become one of the most powerful networking tools at our disposal.