Social media has democratized professional networking.
Regardless of your industry, professional experience, schedule, and personality, you can grow your network and become a household name in your industry.
However, your network doesn't grow because you have a social media account and the willingness to network. But because you're putting in the right effort.
Emphasis on the word "right" because social media work by principles. And your goals must align with them to get the expected results. Else, you'll remain invisible and at best, visible to the wrong people.
So, how do you ensure you're putting in the right effort to boost your professional network through social media?
Below are seven practical strategies you shouldn't sleep on.
Remember, your goal is to build a professional network and not just followers. Hence, your approach to social media needs to be strategic.
If you're ready to build a profitable network, be ready to implement the strategies below.
Today, there are many social media platforms that you can leverage to grow your professional network. However, this doesn't mean you can hop on anyone you like and start establishing your presence there.
The social media platform you choose must be determined by the network you want to attract.
For instance, an architect choosing to grow a network of fellow professionals on LinkedIn is hard. This is because architecture is a visual arts career, so it makes sense that architects would prefer to use a platform that encourages visuals.
Hence, you'll find that most architects are more active on Instagram or Facebook and not LinkedIn, which favors text-based content over images.
Likewise, this explains why LinkedIn has more marketers than Instagram or TikTok.
In summary, don't choose a platform based on your personal biases. Consider the attributes of your target network and the platform that best supports them. Sign up on those platforms instead and learn the ropes.
What if your sector is more nuanced, making it hard to tell which platform your target network prefers?
Your best bet is to ask them. Then choose the platform with the highest tick.
Note that you're not limited to one platform. From my observations, most industries patronize more than one social platform. Therefore, you can use as many platforms as you can find your target network on, provided you can put in the necessary time and effort.
But, if you must pick one, you can test-run them simultaneously for a while and choose the most favorable one or the one you’re most convenient with.
Your work doesn't end after setting up a social media account. Not even if it's the platform that 99% of your target hangs out on.
So, what's the next thing to do?
Build a personal brand.
According to Neil Patel, personal branding is the process of intentionally creating and influencing the public perception of an individual.
The word "intentionally" is the core of that definition. No one stumbles on a personal brand, it's a calculated effort.
And it starts by choosing what you want to be known for and working to make your name synonymous with it.
Just like Seth Godin rings a bell when marketing is in context, your name must be top of mind when people think about whatever you choose to stand for online.
Your bio should reflect it and your content should drive it home.
Here are two attributes of the content that drive home what you stand for:
It's ok to have role models and take cues from them but don't become them. Truth is, you can't clone someone else online; you'll appear as a fraud. Be true to yourself so that you can attract people of like minds.
Nobody likes perfect stories because they don't exist. Be vulnerable. Share your struggles and failures. It resonates better. And the more people can see themselves in you, the more they want to connect with you.
Your aim for building a professional network may be to raise your professional profile, get a job, sell your knowledge, or get advice to solve career challenges.
While they're good to have, you can't appear self-serving. This is because when people perceive you as greedy, they'll keep a distance from you.
To get them to chase you, share what I call "too good to be free content".
People love free stuff. Always think of what you can give out for free that can entice your target network.
Beyond the surface, you should be helpful behind closed doors. Offer help in the DM even if you can't tell when it'll pay off.
The need to be genuinely helpful is especially important if you're new to networking on social media. It's your best bet to grow fast and organically.
After you've gained the trust of your network, it's then safe to promote yourself without sounding selfish.
Woody Allen, a famous American filmmaker, once said, "80% of success is showing up".
This can't be any truer.
When you're starting on social media, it can seem like a ghost walking on earth. But that will only last for a while if you're consistent.
You only need to ensure that you're on the right platform and creating—too good to be free content. And in no time, you'll get the attention that you deserve.
Remember, the early stage is the hardest. It gets easier as you climb the ladder.
If you have a busy schedule, you may wonder if it’s doable. Yes, it is!
Truth is, consistency doesn't mean daily. If you can only show up 2 or 3 times per week, it's ok. All you need is to stick to it and be productive when online.
How do you ensure that you're productive online?
Create a social media workflow.
Yes, a social media workflow doesn't just apply to companies. You can leverage it for your personal brand.
It's a way to create a routine for the tasks you'll do during the periods you've scheduled to be online.
If you schedule to come online between 1-2 pm on Tuesday, you're sure of what you'll do for that period.
This could be to engage on the posts of 5 people in your network before publishing your post. Then, engage on five more other people's posts after publishing, reply to comments on your post, and network with 2 people in the DM.
If you want to save time and be efficient, map a process for your social media activities.
Good thing is, there are workflow tools like SweetProcess and Manifestly that you can use to create a seamless process.
No one is online to feed your dreams. If you want attention, you must give attention.
That said, you can't afford to engage blindly. You must be strategic with it.
You should be selective of the content you engage with on your feed. In most cases, they should be from:
Why should you engage with influencers' content?
Because they already have the audience you're trying to attract. When your comment stands out, there's a chance that you'll win some of their audience.
Also, when you constantly engage with their posts, they'll notice you. The benefit is that they might DM you to network with you or that you have a good chance of getting a response when you reach out to them.
Why should you engage with content from small accounts?
Because they have similar goals as you. Hence, it takes less effort to connect with them and they're more likely to return any favor you do for them.
Also, the small accounts of today will become the big accounts of tomorrow. If you don't despise their days of little beginning, you're more likely to have a stronger bond with them when they grow.
Therefore, as you're trying to rub shoulders with the stars in your industry, you should have foresight for small brands with potential and build with them.
The DM is the pinnacle of networking on social media. If you get someone's attention in the DM, then you've successfully added a link to your network.
Don't wait till you need people's help to DM them. That's cold pitching and lots of people hate it.
Networking in the DM is most effective when the person has taken cognizance of you in the open.
When reaching out in the DM, leverage common ground. It could be about how their content impacted you or to further engage them in a conversation that began in the comment section.
This will serve as a base for deeper conversations.
Also, just like in the point about engagement, small accounts are your best friend. In all you do, don't ignore them.
Their DMs are less busy, hence, they're most likely to respond to and spend time discussing with you.
Online groups and communities are great places to get noticed quickly.
The secret here is to be active, share valuable resources, and be helpful.
How do you find your industry/niche group and community?
You can either search directly in the search bar of the social media platform that you're using. Or Google it.
If you're Googling, type in your query on the search bar.
For instance, if you're a marketer on LinkedIn, you can type the query "marketing groups on LinkedIn".
Check out the sites on the SERPs and identify the groups that interest you.
You can follow the same process if you want to join communities on Slack, Discord, Facebook, and Reddit.
There's no faster way to network than in an environment designed to foster it. Offline events help to strengthen the relationships that you've already built online.
Likewise, you can meet new people at offline events and grow the relationship online.
Whichever way, in-person interactions lower the barrier of trust, making it easier to connect and engage in profitable actions.
Benji Hyam and Devesh Khanal, co-founders of a content marketing agency called Grow and Convert, met for the first time in a professional dinner chat. Right off the bat, they found a point of connection and that led them to start a business together.
Whenever you have the chance to attend in-person conferences and meetups, don't hesitate. If you can't afford to travel, check out offline events around you.
A great place to know the next offline event happening in your locality is meetup.com.
To get started, signup and type your industry/sector and city. It will return a list of the events happening around you.
Besides professional gains, you can make new friends in offline events that can be invaluable to other aspects of your life.
The common phrase "your network is your net worth" holds true.
The amount of effort you invest in growing your professional network will reflect on how much you can reap from it.
Thanks to social media, it's easier now than ever to grow your network. All you need to do is implement these strategies:
Note that networking is a lifelong activity. Hence, you must find a way to incorporate it into your daily life.
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