This week was an interesting one at Search Engine Strategies New York as for the first time, I effectively used online networking tools to connect with attendees and peers in the industry before attending. The strategy paid off, as multiple people in the exhibit hall brought the point up that they had become my Facebook friend, were a fan of Search Engine Journal or even connected with me on LinkedIn.
But before getting into my tips for connecting with others in your industry online, I’d like to share a story. I was at a local bar in Tampa about two weeks ago when I ran into a friend who I know well offline, but had just connected with online via Facebook. The friend is an IT Manager and very proactive in networking with recruiters and finding new positions and high paying projects. His salary and expertise has increased with each project.
Anyway, he walked up to me, beer in hand “DUDE!! You have more LinkedIn connections than my recruiter! You must be really important!”
I’m always trying to connect with people in the search industry and have always treated services like LinkedIn as I would an organic linking campaign : attract recognition and focus from like minded individuals with similar interests and professions; in this case, search engine marketing.
Most of the people I’ve known for a while and a lot of the LinkedIn invitations actually come my way from others. Then I took the time to find out that on Facebook and LinkedIn I can upload my Gmail and other email contact books and cross reference those contacts with the emails of people who have already joined the social networks.
The end result was invitations to connect with about 300 people on LinkedIn about a month ago. Around 200 of those LinkedIn members approved my invitation to connect and now I have over 451 LinkedIn connections (and one of those connections via LinkedIn led to a business deal).
Similarly, I tested the same functionality in Facebook and now have 352 Facebook friends. Sure that’s not a whole lot for some people but for others, 300 to 450 friends in the sign of an authority figure (I’m trying to write this in the most humble way I can).
It’s not the size of your list, it’s how you use it.
Here are some tips on maintaining a well balanced network that will help you connect with your colleagues online and help to brand yourself.
- Do it naturally. I see no point in using a friend bot or a photo of a woman in a bikini for my profile pic to add hundreds or thousands of users. This may work well with MySpace or other networks, but I consider Facebook and LinkedIn to be more professional in its value. I see no point in adding bogus connections especially since others who are socially savvy can run through my friends list and identify those bogus connections.
- Update your FriendFinder emails on a weekly basis. Every Friday I update my LinkedIn and Facebook email uploads and add about 15 to 20 new people. Since I just connected with them that week in email, the chance that they’ll respond and we build a connection is higher.
- Get personal, but not too personal. Writing about getting drunk over the weekend and uploading a video of it is fine on MySpace, and tolerated on Facebook, but has no place on LinkedIn. Furthermore, I’m sure that a lot of my Facebook friends who I connect with sometimes on a professional level want to read about my relationship troubles, family situations or fighting with friends. Keep in mind that your Social Map is quite large and permanent.
- Transparency is incredible, I’ve learned so much about people and their senses of humor via their Facebook profiles, but even the most transparent of us have to have some filtering. Just remember, the information you share today can revisit you in the future in the form of questions at a job interview or issues with obtaining security clearance. When you connect on a professional level, sometimes you have to be observant of who is reading your Social Map : could be a future boss or a future competitor.
- Launch a Fan Page for your company. Even if it attracts 10 to 20 fans, it still gives you a trusted avenue to connect in the future which can be more beneficial than email. Search Engine Journal’s Fan Page is growing, and a couple of people I had never met before introduced themselves to me last week, letting me know they had joined via Facebook.
- Personally, I’m not a big fan of littering my Facebook page with numerous applications, and I think this is beneficial in two ways. One, it makes it easier for people to find out my interests and connect to me. Secondly, when I do add an application, that should gather more interest in the social map than someone who adds an application every day.
- Ask and Answer questions. LinkedIn Answers is a priceless wealth of information at our disposal. The ability to ping the peers in your industry with a passionate question asking for resources, stats or information is at our disposal. But don’t just ask .. answer. Doing so will help share your knowledge base in your vertical and also position you as the expert.
- Don’t spam.
- Promote your profiles and pages on your blog, site and emails. People who you communicate with on a daily basis may have no idea you are on Facebook or LinkedIn. Connect to Search Engine Journal on LinkedIn and Facebook.
These are just some tips I was thinking of while, on the plane. Do you have any of your own? If so, please feel free to share them below.