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Network Without Leaving Your Seat

The days of the three-martini lunches are gone — and they have been for decades. Companies and professionals alike now converge online by default. It’s easier. It’s in real-time. And it’s much less expensive than hundred-dollar bar tabs. However, with greater accessibility comes greater responsibility. Are you managing your online networking effectively? Are you on the right channels? LinkedIn is an obvious option for job seekers and working professionals, but how about Facebook or Twitter? Where do you start?

There are countless places to build your professional presence online. To ensure that you’re using them effectively, consider these tips for enhancing your personal brand — and improving your chances of connecting with the right people.

1. Keep your profiles complete and up to date

The opportunity to connect with hundreds of people with a few clicks is empowering, and making a great first impression is more critical than ever. Your online profile is often the first thing a potential contact sees. Make it matter.

  • Complete your biographical and résumé information. Many platforms, such as LinkedIn, will provide you with prompts, pointers and progress updates to ensure you’re including the right information. Others, like Twitter, offer minimal room for background information, but are just as important and, arguably, tougher to complete; summarizing your life and career into a few short sentences isn’t easy. Put in the time to create a statement about yourself that’s both interesting and meaningful.
  • Don’t forget to include a good photo of yourself. While not necessary, uploading professional headshots can add polish and sophistication to your profile.
  • Finally, review the public facing information you share on these platforms. Inappropriate photos, updates, comments and other online content you create can unravel the hard work you’ve put into creating a profile that leaves a positive impression.

2. Connect with companies on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter

Having an in-depth understanding of a company and its industry is a prerequisite for anyone applying for a job. Today’s job seeker is more fortunate than those from previous generations: It’s easier than ever to research companies online. Corporate websites, social media and an array of online industry publications offer unprecedented insight into an organization — its values, its culture, its work and, of course, its open positions.

Social media in particular provides a steady stream of information from and about the companies you care about most. If they have a presence on the most popular social media channels, follow them on each channel to receive regular updates. If they’re using social media effectively, the content they post will vary by channel. Take the three most popular channels for example:

  • Facebook: Companies often share updates about their culture and people. You’ll likely find postings on company events and causes, staff photos, news items and recently advertised job openings.
  • Twitter: Typically, companies use Twitter to distribute their news and share content related to their industries. Often, you can gauge a company’s culture by seeing the types of content it shares here.
  • LinkedIn: Many companies use LinkedIn as a secondary job board, sharing openings they’ve posted elsewhere. The more active organizations on LinkedIn also post staffing updates and news as well as original content such as whitepapers and reports — valuable insights into their business that could serve as talking points during a job interview.

3. Curate news

Information overload is an epidemic on the Internet, with millions of publishers looking to grab your attention. This environment provides an excellent opportunity to position yourself as a curator of content — and a valuable member of the networks to which you belong. Help your connections and followers sift through the torrent of information by sharing what matters most to them. Use curation apps like Feedly and Klout to help you find and share news with your networks quickly and effectively.

4. Connect with people on a personal level

LinkedIn, in its efforts to make connecting to others easier, has also created an unfortunate side effect. With a click you can send someone an invitation to connect, complete with a generic message. This impersonal message is often easy to overlook. Instead, try reaching out to a potential contact through a personalized message that notes shared references, contacts, groups or interests. Compliment them on a recent accomplishment. Or simply share with them why you’d like to connect in the first place. Be honest and humble.

5. Be a friend

Good deeds can happen digitally, too. Look for ways to help others in your network. Write them a recommendation. Share one of their posts. Introduce them to someone else in your network who shares a similar interest. Alert them to a job opening. Pay it forward. You’d be surprised how often others will do the same.

6. Don’t let contacts collect dust

Creating connections takes real effort. Don’t let it go to waste by losing touch with those connections. Find opportunities to reach out: Share an article, congratulate them on a promotion, invite them to an event or simply send a friendly hello every once in a while.

While nothing will ever replace the handshake, online networking has certainly made it easier to make valuable connections. But the art of building and maintaining relationships still requires hard work and a human touch. Remember that before you click to connect.