Everyone knows that their network is an absolute powerhouse of potential for any cause you are championing. Be it job search, short term opportunities, advice, mentorship, customers, peers, collaborators, and friendships.
Yet for many, we only tap this resource when we need it; instead of nurturing that relationship to be meaningful over time.
In this episode we talk about networking from the perspective of different social networking platforms, understanding the ingredients that enable it, clarifying your goals, and building the skills.
Using Social Networks for Intentional Networking.
You can and do build networks on various social media platforms on a regular basis. Of course offline networks exist and are still going strong, but for most of my listeners, the more crucial source of network opportunities is online on social media, so a strategy is needed to tap into the right spaces where we can build meaningful connections.
All of this activity takes a tremendous commitment in time, so I would recommend that you choose one platform, and put 30 minutes in your calendar every day for meaningful engagement. It’s important to stay on top of the conversation, so that you know what to discuss, and why. Warning though – it’s imperative that you avoid doom scrolling if you possibly can, because we all know the addictive and “depression stimulating” power of social media when we don’t engage with it having a clear intention in mind.
I’ll start with LinkedIn.
As social meaningful networking goes, this is my personal favourite, but I’ll hasten to add that this will be unique to everyone.
The beauty of Linkedin in building real social connection is in the following fab features:
The platform algorithm gives you a hand, by suggesting relevant people to connect with based on your interests, past employers, professional associations and universities. You can then curate this list, and add new connections, or reconnect with others you’ve lost professional touch with.
Anything you comment, if you do it thoughtfully enough, can be seen by your network, allowing people you know who are interested in the same things as you, to learn from what you share and interact with, which already re-establishes a meaningful link.
There are events, video or audio that you can engage with where you can meet others with an interest in having similar conversations.
There are newsletters relevant to your interests which you can follow, and build a relationship with the newsletter creator, or with its following.
There are groups where you can also connect with shared interests.
I give LinkedIn a top rating on potential for meaningful connection and network engagement.
I’m no pro on Twitter, but I’m learning through others the incredible power of this platform to support you in growing a meaningful network, and it is almost solely in the power of hashtags.
When you are starting from zero, twitter is hard work, but so are all platforms nowadays. If you can niche into a small set of hashtags that you are deeply interested in, and engage meaningfully on important trends there, growing an engaged following is not just possible but likely, and relationships can be genuinely nurtured.
Facebook is a bit of an odd place to be these days, as they are going though many transitions, there are many many ads, and it’s sometimes hard work to see what’s happening with people you actually know, but if you use it enough, you can stay engaged with people on interest to you, and through the same formula – engagement on relevant topics, stay connected with your network. Groups and communities are another incredible resource; I’ve met many great new connections here.
Another place where hashtags can be handy. Depending on your use case, Instagram can be a great resource or a great waste of time; building an audience there is harder than most other platforms so you may need other offline strategies to get your networking going, as well as Direct Messaging.
I love TikTok, but not as a networking tool. It’s great to find people of interest and consume engaging content, but in my view, networking would be better served off tik tok, although you can engage with direct messaging here too.
Whichever platform you choose, the keys are intentionality, clear and narrow set of related topics, regular engagement and deliberate connection.
From this point forward, I will be focusing on giving you strategies for LinkedIn, but you can adapt these as relevant to your social media drug of choice.
The keys to being a standout networker are:
- Start before you need it, and continue long after you’ve reaped a benefit.
- Give as much or more than you get.
- Have goals or intentions in your interactions.
- Practice and Prepare in advance.
- Have a good idea about where the interaction will sit in your life or career stakeholder map.
- Treat everyone with dignity, fairness, respect, recognition, reassurance and responsibility.
Some healthy goals for networking can be:
- Engage with peers on topics of mutual interest, discuss challenges and alternative solutions, experiences, and collaboration opportunities.
- Establish connection to micro, medium and major influencers in your areas of specific interests.
- Find Insights about companies you may want to work for in the future, through your network.
- Find out and be recommended for jobs.
- Generate interest for a business venture or social advocacy project.
- Keep in touch with ex colleagues or university alumni
- Meet new people.
Don’t just seek out peers in your company, look for people doing similar jobs as you, in other companies too, be they competitors, suppliers, customers, or just companies you have an interest in. Building a network of diverse discipline peers, is a powerful asset for continuous improvement and innovation
LinkedIn and most platforms will recommend major influencers for you. I typically recommend adopting a few of these major players, but finding your own sources of truth on micro influencers, as they will be way more accessible and easy to have a meaningful interaction with. Here are some tips for finding the mini influencers.
- On the comment thread of the major influencers.
- Through books you’ve read – authors or other mentioned works.
- Through events – in person or online on a topic you have a clear interest in.
- Through comments, shares and recommendations through others you are connected with.
I don’t just follow a company to learn about them, I also look for their top players – CEOs, CFOs, CMOs, CHROs etc depending on your interest to understand what they are really about, their values and what they are willing to be held accountable for.
I also look at the feed of connections I know who work there, to have a bit more insight into what life is like at that company.
Of course LinkedIn is heavily a job posting site, and many people use it only for this purpose, and otherwise spend their time consuming the content of others, without posting anything. Where you have connections in senior roles who do post regularly, looking at the nature of their content can give you clues as to where your skills may come in handy in support of helping them solve their problems.
To make the best use of LinkedIn for jobs, be sure to update your entire profile, utilising the key words and phrases that match the skills and experience being sought. This includes your headline, about section, experiences, skills, and training. Also seek out and provide recommendations, this is a powerful tool for positive engagement.
Generate interest for a business venture or social advocacy project.
To develop interest in a business venture or social advocacy project, its useful to develop a content strategy that takes into consideration research, timing, specific areas of interests, fact finding, story telling, and using different media as relevant to the topic of interest.
For this type of network building, there is a significant role for you to be the generator of content, but also to engage with followers and other influencers on your topic. This is you as a micro and maybe eventually major influencer.
Keep in touch with ex-colleagues and university alumni
Traditional networking is built on societies and alumni communities. In today’s world of continuous learning, we can all continue to build great communities, possibly with different alma mata to help extend the diversity of our networks. The more companies you’ve worked for and schools you’ve been affiliated with, the wider your network of people who either know how you work, how you think or both, and vice versa, finding ways to add value to this network, will be beneficial to everyone.
Meet new people.
Online networking events promoted on Linkedin are one of my favourite ways to keep my stream of new people alive. In addition, I follow up on introductions with a virtual coffee and tea chat, or invite people I find interesting to participate on my podcasts. Whatever your angle, be it a project, cause, problem, or shared interest, approach new connections with a clear purpose, and engagement rates tend to get stronger, than a simple weak mass produced message. Do the work.
- Find the common thread that helps you start the conversation that has meaning for the other person.
- Research them, listen to them with attention, and engage in genuinely curious questions when you meet them through messaging, online meetings or in person.
- Have a few relevant stories to hand that you are willing to share about yourself when prompted.
- Be comfortable with sharing things that go from simple to complex such as:
- Your hobbies
- Where you grew up
- Past and present jobs
- Past and present skills
- Things you value (related to your common topic of interest if that’s useful)
- Your north star – why you do what you do
- Some key experiences that changed or shaped you.
- Some challenges you are currently feeling.
- Opportunities for a follow up engagement
- Be authentic, but have the necessary boundaries where you need them to be.
I hope that helps, if not send me a message and let’s talk!