How are people using Twitter to network effectively? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
Twitter is a surprisingly powerful networking tool and can be used in different ways.
First of all, Twitter can contribute to the three essential keys to building a strong network: getting to know more people, building trust with these people, and making sure they know how they can help you.
DISCOVERY. The first key to networking is to have more people in your network. Not just random people, but people who can actually contribute to your network in a meaningful way. Twitter is a very powerful tool for this discovery phase. Once you have decided to build a network of new contacts in a given field you can do this very quickly using simple Twitter searches. Start by searching for a keyword related to that field. Scan through the search results looking for interesting tweets. When you find an interesting tweet, look at the person who tweeted it and follow them. Next look at who this person follows. In Twitter, like in real life, good people follow other good people. Check out the follows and if their tweets look interesting follow them, too. In addition, follow interesting tweets upstream to find the source. The best people to follow if you are looking for information are the people who originate quality information and people who curate such sources to cover a broader area. But for networking you should also be following the people who follow these good sources. In contrast, take great care to avoid people who simply waste time tweeting fake Einstein quotes and memes. People who are a waste of time on Twitter are invariably a waste of time in real life too. Using this method you can build a map of interesting people active in a certain field very rapidly. "Active" is the key word. There might be other people who are more expert but don't use Twitter, but it's the ones who are good at communicating who will be most helpful to you.
BUILDING TRUST. The second key to effective networking is to build a solid relationship of trust with the people you have "met", including the people you find on Twitter using the discovery methods mentioned above. The way to start doing this is to interact appropriately with the good follows you have found. Use "Like" and "Retweet" appropriately. Like and/or retweet selected tweets which are genuinely relevant and useful to you. jmnAnd when you retweet something always add a useful comment, perhaps about how the point is valid in another situation. Don't just do a plain retweet and never add a meaningless comment. Your goal in this is to make it clear that you are a sentient being, not a bot. And, by the way, never ever consider using automation for this activity. It is blatantly obvious and just makes you look foolish. Watch also for opportunities to be helpful. Sooner of later someone will tweet a question where you know the answer. It might be just a question about your town. Answer promptly -- not after two weeks -- and you will get more noticed. You can also start conversations by asking questions. Counterintuitively, this can also create a bond with people who answer questions. But don't be annoyed if nobody answers. Not all questions get an answer and sometimes it is just a matter of timing, or maybe you don't have enough real connections yet. Patience.
BE CLEAR ABOUT YOUR NEEDS. The third key to good networking is to ensure that everyone in your network knows what you want. People in your network might be happy to help you but perhaps they have no idea what you want. Ask questions on Twitter. Mention things that you are looking for. Sometimes a response will come from an unexpected direction. Sometimes there is no reply but people might still have noticed your tweet and made a mental note and might get back to you much later if they happen to find the thing you are looking for. Oddly this is the part most people find difficult or neglect. We all assume that people know and remember much more than we think. Maybe you think everyone knows you are looking for a job in TV, but try asking all your friends and you will discover that this is not the case.
Twitter is also extremely useful for some other aspects of networking.
WARMING COLD CONTACTS. One of the most common mistakes people make in online networking is to send a connection request to a stranger through LinkedIn. With anyone who is not an "open networker" this is not likely to be effective. What works much better is to start by establishing contact on Twitter first, where relationships can start one-way and where the barrier to talking to strangers is much lower. Once you have been noticed you can start to get to know the person and then send a warm connection request. This also works for face-to-face meetings. If you know you will meet someone at a conference, try engaging with them on Twitter first. When you meet face to face you will then know what to talk about, know their interests and, if you have been using Twitter effectively, they will know who you are.
LISTENING TO THE UNDERTALK. Before you go to any event you should be checking the conversations on Twitter and Facebook to see what the other people attending the event have been talking about recently. This social media "undertalk" gives valuable clues about what things they are likely to talk about, problems they need to solve, questions they want to answer. By listening to this undertalk you are better prepared for a conversation in real life. And if you participate in the undertalk you can also influence the conversations when you meet. Perhaps you add to the conversation some interesting new point. All of this interaction gives you something to talk about and helps people to understand how you are. When you introduce yourself as plain "Joan Smith" you are instantly forgettable. If you add that you are the Joan Smith who shared the whatever on Twitter yesterday you give them a hook to remember you. And later they can find you easily just by looking back at the Twitter conversation.
ESTABLISHING A STRONG DIGITAL FOOTPRINT. When people are going to meet you they are very likely to Google your name before the meeting. Having a strong digital footprint makes you look more credible and gives the other person valuable clues about how to talk to you. By far the easiest way to create a strong footprint is to create non-trivial accounts on leading social networking sites, including Twitter. You don't need to tweet constantly but you do need to have a sensible Twitter name, a serious profile photo, a useful bio and a link to a more detailed profile somewhere else.
Twitter has another convenient advantage in this area. There are many other sites where you can create a simple profile in one click, copying the Twitter profile information. This saves time when you are creating additional profiles simply to push down low-quality content on Google.
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