Networking on Twitter

by Cathie Ericson

Networking on Twitter

Are you on Twitter? If not you should be! It's one of the best places to have an informal exchange with professionals whom you might not otherwise meet. The tone is perfect for interaction: it's much more informal than LinkedIn, but it's also not as casual as Facebook.

One of the benefits of Twitter is that it’s not reciprocal – that means that you can follow luminaries in your field, job prospects, potential clients and more – but they don’t have to follow you back. (They might; it just means that you don’t have to wait for that approval to get connected!)

Here are nine ways to get involved:

1) Build Your List

Follow accounts that relate to your professional interests. Search for influential industry trade journals, where you’ll find reporters who cover your industry – that will also provide you interesting commentary to share with your own followers. Search for companies that interest you and follow their official accounts. Many companies also have a separate handle where they list job openings so make sure to find and follow that as well. Anytime you meet someone new, find their Twitter and follow them. It’s a great way to strengthen a connection after you’ve met offline.

Another great way to find people to follow is to search the lists of your colleagues or prospects. You’ll likely find a host of relevant accounts to follow. Watch what you see retweeted, and you might find someone new and interesting there too. One note of caution as you click “follow!” You want to watch your ratio of "followers" to "following." Conventional wisdom is that you should keep them relatively similar. You don't want to be someone who is following EVERYONE and not getting followed back; nor do you want to look like someone who doesn't follow anyone and therefore might not be good at engagement.

2) Know Your RT From Your @ # DM

By now, most people have a basic understanding of Twitter talk, but before you dive in, take some time to learn how Twitter works, and some terminology, like retweet, direct message, hashtags, etc. Search online for articles with information and shortcuts about Twitter postings, or check out the Twitter site itself, which has its own comprehensive and easy-to-understand FAQ section.

3) Use Timing to Your Advantage

Figure out when there is the most activity on your social media site of choice. Twitter typically finds its highest traffic 10 a.m. through noon and 8 p.m. through 10 p.m.

4) Make Smart Use of Your Summary Area

Read through some summaries you like to identify the elements that make them compelling. Keep it professional, and that goes for the photo also! Don’t risk being the default “egg.”

5) Find an App

The Twitter website is a great place to start, but if you want to do more there are many, many options for websites and apps. For example, I like Hootsuite, because when you retweet, it offers an opportunity to add your own commentary before or after the retweet. It’s a two-fer: you’re giving props to the person who wrote the tweet, and also adding your own personal spin.

Other sites might do the same as well; that is just my personal favorite.

6) Love Your Tweeps

Remember what we always say: it's SOCIAL media. Once you find those influencers, be sure to take the time to follow and comment on their tweets. Respond to someone's tweet if they've posted something funny or interesting... or better yet, retweet it to your followers. Retweeting is an excellent way to be noticed by people you follow.

But don't just blindly retweet too much. Make sure it has value; and ideally add your own commentary before the retweet. Of course you only have 140 characters, but sometimes you can add a short phrase like 'Loved No. 6' if you are retweeting a list, for example. Before you retweet a link, make sure you have read the article. Sometimes the content doesn’t match the headline and you might end up retweeting something with a spin you didn't intend!

Before you retweet a link, make sure you have read the article. Sometimes the content doesn’t match the headline and you might end up retweeting something with a spin you didn't intend!

And if someone retweets you or follows you? Send a shout out! "Thanks for RT." or "Thanks for follow." Everyone likes to be appreciated.

Received a compliment? Retweet it and thank the person. Do everything you can to actively engage with your followers. People really do notice when you participate in social media. And not only will you be aligning yourself strategically with these other professionals and their content, but you’ll start to stand out to this person, and the others who trust their insight.

7) Use Hash Tags (but Sparingly)

We’ve all seen the cringe-worthy #sun #fun #great #day #work, etc. posts where people seem to have hash tagged each and every word. Hashtags are helpful if you are trying to participate in a conversation or want your followers to know you’re in the know. Find ones that are relevant to your topic, or your profession, and use them – but not too much, not every time and not too many in one post.

8) Watch Your Word Count

The official length of a tweet is 140 characters, but keep yours a little shorter if you’d like to be retweeted. Always make sure you shorten links if you are offering an article you’ve read. Use a service like bit.ly that will automatically shorten it for you. But make sure that you have correctly ID’ed either the publication it’s from or the headline so you can pique the interest of your followers to check it out.

9) Participate in Twitter Chats

These are a fun way to get to know others who share similar interests. Publications and industry trade groups often have Twitter chats, where everyone is answering a similar question. You can follow a Tweet chat by its hashtags; the moderator will keep everyone aligned. Participating in these chats is a great way to identify potential accounts to follow and also to establish yourself as an interesting or credible account yourself.

There’s a whole big networking cocktail party going on over at Twitter, so be sure to follow the fun! It’s a wonderful platform for showcasing your professionalism – but also letting your personality shine through.

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