As discussed at the beginning of this series, networking is crucial to career advancement. However, collecting business cards and having lunches with associates is not enough to make a positive impact on your goals.  When reaching out to people, you must be intentional, and social media allows for that intention.

Social media is the perfect way to quickly meet people within your industry and maintain those relationships for long periods of time. This is not to say you should abandon the usual networking methods like joining professional groups, attending conferences and meeting people through current acquaintances. It just means that social media can open up a much larger pool of people to network with.

Facebook is used by half a billion people, so chances of making a connection there are probable. There are many advanced options that can help you expand your search for potential connections. Using Facebook’s “People I May Know” option works well if you already have established business contacts. When you find someone you may want to make contact with, check who your mutual friends are. You may want to ask that mutual friend for an introduction or you can mention the mutual friend’s name when trying to connect independently.

Facebook groups also provide an open forum that allows you to join groups of people with similar interests. Once you are able to establish contacts on this platform, it’s easier to connect with them on other sites.

LinkedIn is most geared towards professional networking.  Keeping your profile updated is very important, because LinkedIn uses your profile information to suggest groups to you. These groups are great places to search for new contacts. Once you are established in a group, make yourself valuable by asking relevant questions and answering questions of others. Forming these relationships is invaluable for when you need to reach out to someone with a favor.

There are a variety of tools available on Twitter that make networking on this social media website effortless. Using Twitter Bio allows you to paint a picture of who you are. Be sure to include things that will highlight your professional accomplishments. The content that you tweet will show others what you enjoy talking about, and utilizing the hashtag symbol enables you to share conversations that you are interested in. Retweeting is a good way to network.  However, retweeting, alone, will not likely get you the response your desire from most people. Try adding a comment to the retweet. This may initiate a response from the person you are hoping to connect with.

Networking is an important activity to participate in when trying to build your career. However, it is not necessary to connect with anyone and everyone. Be selective about the contacts you make and spend time developing those relationships. It is far better to have a smaller amount of good quality relationships than hundreds of acquaintances you never interact with.