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How to Network Effectively in Our Hyper-Connected World

J. Kelly Hoey

If you’re like most people trying to use social media to network, you probably think the number of followers or connections you have matters. But instead of obsessing over breaking 200, 500, 1,000, “you should be paying attention to what’s going on in your network and how you’re connecting with posts, content, likes, retweets and mentions,” says J. Kelly Hoey, a networking expert and author of Build Your Dream Network. “Online or offline, your focus should be adding value to your network.”

In other words, you should “be the person you want to network with and build a vibrant, engaged community from that vantage point,” Hoey adds. That means helping connections in tangible ways such as making referrals and introductions on behalf of people who need them. It also means being open and loud about your situation. “We need to confidently share what it is we’re working on and seeking to get done and provide ways for our network to jump in to help us,” Hoey says.

Here, she recommends five more steps to better networking on social media:

#1. Take control of your online profile.
“Google your name or name of your business. Likely the bio on your company or personal website appears first, followed by your LinkedIn profile. To set the right tone, make sure they are up-to-date, including your headshot. Also, take note of the other search results high on the list and seek out how to tap their better SEO (search engine optimization) to your advantage.”

#2. Put your best foot forward on non-work-related sites.
“If you’re involved in charitable or community endeavors, it’s easy to ignore their requests for a bio or give them something standard. But the personal information you do provide may put you in front of an expanded audience, potentially one that needs your talent or services. So keep the big picture in mind, take the time to customize what you submit—and always provide a professional-looking photo. And yes, update your LinkedIn profile with your volunteer experience.”

#3. Mix personal friends with professional acquaintances.
“Many people silo their work contacts on LinkedIn, and interact with everyone else on the other platforms. But this limits your professional network—not to mention opportunities and insights—to your industry and possibly to only certain roles and skill sets. So mix it up and diversify your network with college friends, neighbors and other connections who work in different fields or have different functional experience.”

#4. Be a digital sleuth.
“With social media, we’re all so concerned with what we’re posting or pinning that we forget to spend some quality time checking out what others are doing! Here’s an idea: make a list of five friends or business colleagues or companies that you’re close to and investigate what is going on with them, across social media channels. What content are they posting on Medium? What are their customers saying about them on their Facebook page? Who are they talking to, or what’s the chatter about them on Twitter? We don’t leave all our digital data in one place, so get curious across channels as to what is going on. You may find ways to get more business—or simply to be a better friend.”

#5. Be authentic—and human.
“I can’t stress this enough: your imperfect, slightly flawed and irregular posts are more effective than posts written by someone else for you. Many of us struggle with how social networks fit into our personal and professional lives—and part of that struggle is the acceptance of them as legitimate communication channels. Social networks first and foremost are not media or marketing, they are ways for each of us to build stronger human bonds. The faster we start acting more human online, including remembering that behind those online profiles are real people and we should try connecting more in ways that mimic IRL [in real life], the better the online experience will be. Remember: Your online persona should align with who you are IRL.”

J. Kelly Hoey will be speaking at the 2017 Conference on October 3.