Smarter Networking

Networking doesn’t always need to be social. Make your social networks work harder and smarter to improve your career as well as your social life.

Originally published 13/04/2018

As part of my work in The WOW Network, I have spent a lot of time networking. Not just in the traditional sense of going to launch events, conferences and network socials but also on Facebook, IMs, Twitter, LinkedIn, texts and emails.

As we move to an increasingly digital world, social media and communication grows and grows. Many people use it as a purely social tool, and a way to share things they are up to, often communicating with family and friends from across the world. Others use it to organise shared events, or as a platform for their political views.

We all have our preferred apps – I can’t get my head around Snapchat, and I know so many people who barely use Twitter.

But these apps are our tools, and they can help us network with new and existing work colleagues and contacts who can help us on our path of employment. Once you’ve decided how you want to progress in your career, you can think about how you want to network, and what you want to achieve. Is it just to be well known in a niche industry? Or is it about gathering a host of different contacts from diverse areas who you can benefit from in different ways? Whatever your goal, it has to work for you, at the point you are at in your career.

When business networking, it’s important to remember that these apps or ‘business tools’ as you may want to call them all do different things, so you need to take your time and think about which ones will be the most useful for you. Here’s a quick guide to the most popular tools –

LinkedIn – great for expanding your existing network, and keeping up to date with news in your sector. Go into it with a plan – when I first joined I wanted to connect with the main players and CEOs in my industry at the time, once I had completed that, I moved into building a network of contacts from the Diversity and Inclusion arena.

Top tip – remember that in order to connect with a CEO of a large corporation, you will need 2 or more mutual connections in order to even send them a connection request. If you are already connected to someone like this, beware of ‘false connections’ who have seen your CEO on your list and are merely using you as a stepping stone. Unless they are helpful to you, don’t add them.

Twitter – a wonderful tool to connect to a large amount of organisations and individuals in a fast paced setting. Twitter is the best platform for making those ‘out of reach’ people become your contacts, either through mutual following or a tweet which sparks their interest. Bear in mind that people will only follow you if they are interested in what you are about.

Top tip – it’s really easy to have multiple accounts on Twitter, so consider having a business one if you already tweet personal stuff from an existing account.

Facebook – originally set up for online socialising, Facebook has expanded into business advertising, and is a broad platform for sharing ideas and events. Use it to host or find out about events, link to your blog or to set up a group.

Top tip – Private groups are a safe space for people, which is ideal for LGBT groups like WOW. For promotion, consider a page which is open so you can invite people to follow.

Instagram – Perfect for the snap-happy, Instagram documents through one off pictures and ‘stories’ series of photographs building up a narrative. Instagram is best used for businesses with a tangible product, or a person who is networking in order to promote themselves as a product (like a public speaker or spokesperson). Use it to document a particular event or occasion.

Top tip – lots of people use filters and effects on Instagram – fine for personal use, but for business it’s best to keep it simple and authentic.

Remember for whatever tools you use, make sure that you spend time on each one regularly from a business perspective, hit ‘like’ on any useful articles that you read, and show an interest in the people that you are networking with. Don’t follow or connect with people that you actively dislike, as this will translate into any interactions – just as you would actively avoid the person who rubs you up the wrong way at a conference, it’s the same online.

This blog was originally posted on The WOW Network.
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