When building your career, you need to remember that you don't have to do it alone. And that's where creating your professional network online comes in. There are plenty of industry leaders and players out there that are willing to give you a helping hand, and get you further than you ever possibly could on your own. They'll introduce you to important connections, share relevant and exciting information, share career-moving events, and become something of a mentor if you need it. But none of that can happen if you don't build a professional network online for yourself.
Think about it: How limiting is it to only rely on meeting people face to face? Granted, there might be a lot of valuable players in your city that can help you grow in your field, but you're limiting yourself to a zip code. With things like Facebook groups, Twitter lists, LinkedIn connections, and Instagram friends, the possibilities multiply tenfold. But connecting with someone online can be like the equivalent of cold calling, so it needs to be done with tact and personality. Below are seven tips on how to grow your professional network online — everything from where to find your tribe to how to stay relevant in their mind!
1. Find And/Or Create Your Tribe On Twitter
Do you have industry players that you admire and respect? If you get chummy with them and they can become your mentor, introduce you to other interesting people, and throw opportunities your way. But how can you make such an intimidating contact?
Start on Twitter! If they published an article or posted something interesting about the industry, tweet them and tell them why you appreciated it. Career writer Rebecca Healy from US News from explained, "While many people use Twitter as a broadcast medium, the platform works best for your career when you use it conversationally. Catch someone's attention by mentioning their handle in your tweet." If you do it enough times they'll become familiar with your name and will become curious about you. And voila, a connection is slowly becoming built.
2. Link Up With People You Connected With
Whether you had an interesting chat on Twitter or Instagram, or met at a conference or networking event, it's important to link up on your social platforms while the memory of you is fresh. So if you had an excellent chat, get to connecting where you think you can stay friendly the easiest: Twitter, blogs, Instagram, Facebook, email, LinkedIn, or all of the above.
Jeff Haden, contributing editor for entrepenuer site Inc, said, "...striking while the iron is hot is key to keeping your connections fresh. Whether you met at an industry event or your kid's Little League game, once you've established the need to connect, do so in a timely fashion. Timeliness allows you to continue a discussion — and building a relationship — without a lull." So don't dawdle!
3. Join Online Group Chats
Networking isn't only about shmoozing at events or conferences — there are also amazing opportunities online. For example, entrepreneur and CEO of marketing agency Jonathan Long shared with Huffington Post, "Many people forget that there are also plenty of networking opportunities online. LinkedIn groups are great and Twitter chats are becoming very popular these days." Look up when these online events are taking place and put them into your planner like a real event — you can be surprised what amazing contacts you can make while participating on there.
4. Use Your Hashtags
On both Twitter and Instagram, hashtags are used to group a community or topic together. Following that logic, if you want to find people in your industry that will be amazing additions to your network, this is exactly the way to find them. Similarly, those hashtags are how people will find you.
Healy explained, "This is really useful since many industry leaders, both local and national, have created relevant hashtags for their communities to follow. Both offline events and online events, called Twitter chats, will also use hashtags to record and supplement the event's activities. You can join the conversation by using the same hashtag yourself, and discover new people, information and contacts to follow as well." It's a very powerful tool.
5. Leverage Event Planners
Are you part of a networking group and met the event planner? Or do you use Meetup and are curious about some of the participants in your group. These are the people that know the ins and outs of the events, so leverage them to help you get into contact with some stellar people.
Healy suggested, "Meetup organizers are likely to be well connected and can direct you in the proper direction and introduce you to other appropriate people if you send a nice email. Investigate the organizer's group and background so you can be specific and knowledgeable in your request." Usually the planners are more than willing to help you connect (that's the whole point of the group!) so don't be scared to ask.
6. Stay On People's Radar
Whether that means you share interesting industry articles, make insightful comments with personality, share their content, or reach out systematically via email or comments, it's important to stay on the radar of industry leaders you admire. If you're fresh on their mind, it becomes much easier for them to connect you with other people or opportunities.
Long offered, "When you maintain contact you remain on their radar, which can result in them name-dropping you to their contacts. A simple, 'Oh, I actually know somebody you should contact' can occur simply because you kept your presence noticeable." So go ahead, send them an email congratulating them on a finished project you were impressed with, send them an article you think they would enjoy, or invite them out to coffee. All these will help keep your name fresh in their mind.
7. Help The People In Your Network
Not too many people will be keen to help a relative stranger if they haven't offered them something first. So make sure you're constantly trying to figure out how you can help your key networking group players, whether that means sending them information that could help them on a current project, introducing them to people, or simply sending them articles that would interest them. It's the effort that counts, and it goes a long way.
Haden explained, It's always worth the trouble to find out a contact's desires and concerns. The chances are high that you'll be able to find something worthwhile you can offer." We tend to favor and value those that help us, so put yourself in that position.
Whether you participate in group chats or make your connections via Instagram comments, creating an online network that will help you advance your career isn't only super beneficial, but it's also fun. You're now part of a group of talented, motivated, passionate individuals, which isn't bad company!