I was talking with my husband and our friend over coffee about the value of social networking. They’re both self-employed and generally don’t understand how to use it to foster new relationships and business prospects.
I hear this often, even from friends who do publicity for the music industry. I tell them to approach social media the way you would a cocktail party or networking event. Here’s why:
1. Survey the space
When you walk into a networking event, you might look at the nametags on the entry table or see in advance who registered. That way, when you arrive, you know the people you’d like to say hello to.
This same tactic should be used on Twitter. Do a search for keywords in your industry or for the publications you read every day. Follow people, reporters, publications and organizations that line up with your interests, especially if they have a robust following or fan base. Many people and organizations will follow you back, no questions asked.
2. Put yourself out there
Once you’ve figured out who is in attendance and who you’d be interested in meeting, grab your favorite cocktail and start shaking hands. Once you’ve followed someone, introduce yourself with an @ mention. Tell them why you’re following them and show that there is common interest. Be sure to retweet and comment on content that they’ve shared.
3. Add to the conversation
When you’ve met a new person, you want to contribute to their conversation with your own thoughts and knowledge. Since you’re trying to make a lasting connection, choose your words carefully.
When it comes to Twitter, don’t tweet or post a status update about just anything
. Be thoughtful and meaningful with your contributions. If you’re tweeting a blog post, CC the handles of people you’ve followed that would be interested in reading that content. If you’re tweeting a news story, be sure to give the reporter or publication credit with an @ mention. If you’re posting on Facebook, tag interested parties in the status.
4. Mind your manners
You wouldn’t ignore someone speaking to you at a cocktail party or event, and you shouldn’t ignore them on social platforms, either. When someone @ mentions you, tweet back. If someone comments on your Facebook status or tags you in a post, comment back. If they retweet or share your content, thank them.
5. Give a shout out
You’ve tried to have a friend introduce you to someone you’re interested in meeting, but they just haven’t followed through. Or the person you want to meet always seems to be engaged in other conversations. Sometimes you just have to tap that person on the shoulder when the conversation lags and introduce yourself.
In social media, don’t be afraid to call someone out. Send an @ mention, or a personal message, and let them know you’ve been trying to reach out. You’d be surprised how fast a person will respond after that.
These are tactics that have worked well for us when we are doing work with our clients. New business and media opportunities can be created using social media, you just have to remember to use your real-life social skills when you use the online platforms.
Laura Paine is an associate at Inkhouse Media + Marketing. A version of this story first appeared on the company’s blog.