Let’s start with the big question.
What is the point of doing online networking for your career? How is it any better than simply keeping in touch with people you know via email or at meetings? Isn’t stuff like LinkedIn or Facebook a waste of time, or at least not worth the time you invest in it?
Online networking tools serve two purposes, really.
First, they make it easy for people to find you – or at least find the information about you that you want to be found. Once you set up a proper profile at a social networking site, it’s often the first thing that shows up about you on search engines. Thus, when people go searching for information about you, you can have a lot of control over the information that they find.
Second, they allow you to keep tabs on other people – and allow other people to keep tabs on you. Let’s say, for example, that you’re starting a new project that might interest a lot of people in your field – and you might want input from some of them. Is it easier to collect all their email addresses then send a blanket email to all of them or to just simply update your online networking tool?
Similarly, if you’ve set up such tools properly, you can effortlessly and automatically follow such news and updates about others in your field, which can automatically alert you to any interesting changes without having to hope that that person remembered to send it to you.
Together, these things add up to tons and tons of opportunities to connect with people without having to invest a ton of time continually tracking people down.
Tactic #1: Just Use Google
One problem that many people have with doing this is that there seems to be a giant pile of services available for people to connect to others. Should I use Twitter? Should I use Facebook? Should I use LinkedIn?
Really, though, there’s only one you need to worry about. And that’s Google.
When people want to find other people online, they turn to Google. They type in that name, click on the first few links, and see what they can find out.
That means your focus shouldn’t be so much on which of these services to use. It should be to make sure you’re controlling that top search result on Google.
How can you do that? You need to have a page that’s (a) fully open to the public and (b) linked to by a lot of other people.
Based on what I’ve observed, for professional purposes, the best tool for that is LinkedIn, so if I were just getting started with things, I’d use LinkedIn. Facebook has more users, but it’s a “walled garden,” meaning the general public cannot read your profile. If you’re focusing solely on professional material, that’s actually a pretty big disadvantage.
Tactic #2: Detail Your Profile
When you sign up for such a service, the first step is to add appropriate detail to your profile. The key word here is appropriate.
The purpose for doing this is to attract professional connections, so keep it professional. Describe your career. Enter all of the relevant information and include as much detail as you can, including past places of employment, organizations you’re involved with (that you’d want to share professionally), where you went to school, and so on. Make especially sure to describe your current work (again, in as much detail as you can). Be sure to share it all publicly, too, so that you can easily be found on Google searches.
The more information you provide – particularly interesting information – the more likely it is that people will take an interest in you, follow you, and contact you for further connection, which is exactly what you want.