Here is a story.
When people ask me about Twitter and its value, I like to tell a story of how I landed my very first freelance writing job in 2009. I was turned onto it by a family member who swore by the service, and was using it to make connections in his field. In no time, he had me following categories, keywords, and hashtags – which ended up connecting me to my first client.
They were a startup in California looking for articles to populate their social network site. I was a capable writer looking to take on new work. We talked on Twitter about his needs, which led to a deeper conversation about how I could be of direct service to him at an economic price. By the end of the day, we had an agreement signed and delivered, and I was working on the first set of topics they forwarded over. Months later, in an odd twist of fate, we found out that we had a common connection on the Central Coast of California: his best friend was married to the daughter of a Public Information Officer I used to work with back in my news days. How strange, right?
Yes, I was shocked at first that we were closer connected than two strangers on Twitter. But the more I thought about it, the less it surprised me. After all, we met on a social networking website – the keyword in there being “network.”
If these tools were to be purely social, then we’d gain little value out of them. Sure, we would enjoy talking to our friends about what we’re having for dinner, or the weather, or how that local sports team is faring this year. But these tools, as their name suggests, are also used for a bigger purpose: physically constructing our networks, and figuring out the intricate jigsaw puzzle on how we’re connected to each other. Think about it: you are connected to your core set of friends on Facebook, LinkedIn, and many other different websites, right? Who else are you connected to through that group? (hint: LinkedIn shows you how far away you are from any individual person) Moreover, who do you want to be connected to in that group?
With this in mind, how do you know if you’re getting the most out of your network?
Like anything good, it will take time to cultivate, and put together – you can’t just put a profile out there and expect to make a million dollars tomorrow. Did that happen for any of your friendships? No – they took time, dedication, and personal investment to make them work. And a couple of shared interests never hurt, either. Here are some of my “quick tips” to get started today:
- Look at your social network today. Are you connected to everyone you know, like, and have a personal investment in? If not, why? Reaching out to your entire network is a great way to see the reach you have in your group of friends right now. Plus, making a old friend a new friend on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn is a good way to let them know that you care.
- Join a group. Think about it – a lot of the friends you may have now, you met through a common interest, like your work, gym, or curling club (in my case). This directly translates to the digital world as well, in the form of LinkedIn groups and Facebook pages. If you see something you’re interested in don’t be afraid to join up with them. Odds are, the people you want to meet are there, too.
- Look beyond the status updates. Facebook and LinkedIn do a very good job of showing you who you could be connected to based on your current and mutual connections. Don’t discard them right away – those little reminders could be the way to connect to a whole world of people you never knew before. Too shy to send a digital “hello?” Ask a friend or colleague to introduce you, and see where it goes from there.
- It applies in the real world, too. Lets say you go to a networking event and make two or three great connections that you hit it off with immediately. You exchange business cards, and hope to see each other around. Why leave it at that? Instead, make a point to connect with them that week on your networking website of choice, with a thank you pointing out the great conversation you had. This way, you have a way to keep in touch with them – and explore where your new connection can go.
Remember – none of this is instantaneous. Its going to take time to grow, develop, and turn your social network into a network. But with the care, consideration, and time that it takes to make it all come together, you will begin to reap the rewards of new found friendships, stronger connections, and new introductions to the people you want to meet.