If, like me, you are not one for going to Networking meetings then Social Media sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are perfect to network online. It’s like constant networking every time you tweet or post a status update. They have certainly worked for me although it does take commitment and patience to build your network. It doesn’t happen overnight but hopefully these tips will get you started or suggest ideas you hadn’t thought of doing yet. It’s such a vast and probably never ending subject that I’ve had to split the post into two parts, first giving tips on how to Network on Twitter and Facebook. Twitter Of course the best networking tip on Twitter is to chat to people. If you don’t speak, i.e. tweet, then it’s like going to a networking meeting and sitting in the corner not saying anything. It won’t get you very far. Check out the people you normally chat with on Twitter as their followers or followees may have the same interests. Remember you have to follow them both to see conversations between them however if you just check their profile you will see all tweets, whether you are following them or not, so you may find some interesting and join in. Be careful you aren’t being rude and gate-crashing a chat though. Retweet If you see something interesting on Twitter then Retweet it so your followers can be enlightened too. Whether it’s useful tips, a cute picture, a link to an interesting article, or a funny video; it’s good to share and your followers will appreciate this. The person who originally tweeted it will be thankful to you too as it’s getting them seen by new people who may become followers. It’s like a big networking party where you’ve just been told something by one person that you then tell other people because it’s useful. They then want to know the original person who said it and networks grow from that. If you are generous with Retweets it may well be reciprocated when you have something interesting to say therefore expanding your network too. And don’t forget to say thank you when Retweeted – politeness goes a huge way on Social Media. Answer Questions If you have an area of expertise then search on Twitter using hashtags for that subject. This is made simpler if you use applications like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite as it will add a column that is easily viewable and updated real time. I also create columns for things I’m interested in like mentions of Bloggertone plus a column for my own website. I can see if people tweet it then I can say thanks as often they are strangers and I’m tweeting new people and possible new networks. Check the hashtag search results to see if people are asking questions that maybe you have the answer to. Remember you may not be following everyone in that column so it’s a great way of tweeting new contacts and therefore networking with them. Even if you see people asking a question in your normal timeline then answer it if you can. It’s good to help people and they will hopefully recommend you in future. For example I have helped some people previously on Twitter questions and they have told other people to ask me as I’ll probably be able to help, therefore increasing my network. And obviously vice versa, if someone is able to help you then you can recommend them in future; building networks again. Sometimes I think of it like that Automobile Association advert saying “Can you fix it? No, but I know a man that can.” Network online by recommending and helping people and it will come back to you too. Facebook As a business you will mostly be using your Facebook business page to network amongst the people who like your page. Of course using your personal profile is like networking amongst your friends although there will be others that have “friended” you that you don’t know. As on Twitter if you see questions you can answer then do, make yourself useful to people and maybe your “friends”, whether real or not, could be recommending you. Start discussions Point people to your business page whenever possible so they can see more about your company and what services you can provide. Put a status update on your page to get people chatting which is really just networking online as each time a person comments they are being seen by other people in that conversation or who are looking at the page so there’s the possibility they will get “friends” or “likes” from it. You are creating your own network group therefore. The more interaction you can get on your page the better as it will be seen in more Home pages, thereby creating more chats so it’s a win win for your own networking too. Be your Business Page Of course the best way to get people seeing your page rather than your personal profile is to be on Facebook as your business page.This is done simply by clicking on the link “Use Facebook as…” on the top right of your screen on your page. Now every time you chat on other peoples pages you will be chatting as your business and not your name. This is great for people to check and see your business page. Remember it’s much simpler for someone to quickly “like” your page rather than try to become “friends” which you would have to accept too. Chat as your business on other people’s pages, you do have to like the pages too, but be careful you aren’t being spammy and just posting updates for the sake of it. Again, like Twitter, join in conversations and seek out like-minded people or businesses. Events Online Arrange an event on your Facebook page like a Q&A session. Social Media Ireland are great at doing these with guest “speakers”. This is the equivalent to a huge networking event that can include people from all over asking questions and receiving the answers via your page. There’s no need to leave your sofa so it can be accessed simply and all join in hence seeing new profiles and businesses on Facebook. If you are going to do this then make sure you know your subject inside out as you’ll be answering all types of questions on it plus publicise it well online across all your Social Media sites in advance. Post it as an Event on Facebook and invite all your “friends” and “likes” to it. The more the merrier as you’re not limited by the size of a room. The above suggestions are only the tip of the iceberg that is Social Media networking. As the title suggests, Social Media is about being sociable so, as you would if you were in a Networking group face to face with people, ensure you chat, help people, recommend solutions and be friendly. This can be hard work for some and time consuming but if you are able to do some of the above then it will start working for you and may not seem so much like work. Please check back next month for Part Two of this post. I hope I’ve helped somewhat and any other suggestions are, as always, welcome.