Building strong relationships is the cornerstone of professional success regardless of your chosen field. Social networks are emerging as another channel to foster professional and personal connections with an expanded reach. Although personal networking best practices have evolved over hundreds of years, the rules for social networking are just now emerging. As well, online networks open doors for those who are not ‘practiced’ in the art of professional socializing.
Let’s talk through some of the obvious and not-so-obvious courtesies that will help you build a strong online persona.
Your social network is an extension of your live network. In real life you make friends by learning about them and being interested in them personally as well as professionally. You talk about what they are doing and by supporting, coaching and encouraging them. You don’t call a friend to talk about you and then hang up – do you? The same applies to social networking. In order to build a network you have to earn trust, respect and be an interesting person. You will build your online network over time – not overnight. Make the investment.
Your online persona might be separated by categories, for instance; professional, personal and pro-personal. Your professional connections are reserved for professional relationships only (this is where your boss and other influential business contacts belong). Personal connections are probably family members and close friendships (those who know about all your faults). Pro-personal are likely close colleagues, work-related peers and business affiliates with whom you have a pseudo personal connection. Your security settings within LinkedIn and Facebook for example should reflect these categories so that you can manage the information that each connection category will see about you.
Rule #3 – If you’re gonna be there, be there
Yes, it’s borrowed from a song, but it fits. Social networks are built on a philanthropic foundation; people helping people regardless of status, position, location or culture. This isn’t a country club or private elite membership. No one is excluded from social networks so be prepared to share your wisdom with those who ask. Ask for wisdom of those who have information you need. Reciprocation and community involvement are what make social networks hum. Commit to growing your network. Find former co-workers, classmates, follow client blogs, send out unsolicited recommendations and endorse companies/products that you like. The result will be reciprocal endorsements, recommendations and a bunch of people who want to connect with you. Remember this takes time, a long time. Make the commitment.
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