Ways to Leverage Social Media for Professional Networking

Social media is now a fundamental form of communication, so using social media effectively is an excellent way to leverage your networking. 

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Every student and graduate should know that in today's job market, who you know is often more important than what you know – making networking a must-have career skill. Social media is now a fundamental form of communication, so using social media effectively is an excellent way to leverage your networking. 

This article will describe how you can use social media to boost your professional network and open your opportunities. 
Use the Right Platforms in the Right Way

All social media platforms fill a particular niche. To get the most out of professional networking on social media, you should be using the appropriate platforms. LinkedIn is the ideal professional networking platform used by companies, managers, students, and graduates in New Zealand. One of the most well-known uses for LinkedIn is that it essentially acts as an online CV. LinkedIn is great for displaying the same information on a CV, such as your skills, educational background, work history, professional interests, and achievements. LinkedIn is also great for connecting to professionals who share your interests – both for reaching out to new contacts as well as supplementing any connections you've already made in person. 

Personal social media platforms generally aren't used to build a professional profile, but they also have networking uses. In contrast to LinkedIn, it's less common to use Facebook to reach out to strangers, and you're unlikely to get a reply if you do so. This means it's better to use the platform to focus your efforts on maintaining relationships with people you already know in person.
Facebook is great for staying in touch with former classmates and colleagues. It can be a good idea to connect with them and keep them updated on your professional life – who knows which opportunities it might lead to.

Create a Great First Impression with Your Professional Profile

When networking in person, the first impression you give off might be determined by your clothes, body language, and introduction. When networking through social media, the first impression you give off is defined by your professional profile. The first step to giving off a great first impression online is to make sure you cover the basics well. Upload a high-quality profile picture and write an articulate and concise professional biography. Just as with your usual CV, don't skimp on the details of your career experience and achievements. The more detail and clarity you provide on your work history, professional projects, skills, and professional interests, the more appealing you'd be as a potential contact or employee. For example, instead of simply listing one of your past roles, provide details on some of your responsibilities.
It's also important not to go overboard. Avoid sharing irrelevant personal details that may detract from your profile's professionalism and hinder your ability to make connections. The last step is to check and recheck your professional profile before you start reaching out to those new connections. 

One of the benefits of social media networking is that you often have more control over your first impression. You can take the time to perfect your profile before reaching out to potential contacts and be confident in knowing that last-minute slip-ups are highly unlikely. On the flip side, this also means that possible connections are likely to be less tolerant of poorly put together profiles, making it all the more important to make sure your professional profile is complete and well-coordinated.

Put Yourself Out There

Networking is all about reaching out and making connections. One of the benefits of social media is that it's much less intimidating to approach a stranger online than in person.

People expect to make connections on LinkedIn, which means you shouldn't feel shy about reaching out to people you don't already know in person. However, it is usually easier to reach someone who has something in common with you, such as people who went to the same university or work in the same career field.

The reality of networking is that sometimes you'll get a response, and sometimes you won't. But don't let a lack of response stop you from continuously reaching out and connecting with different people. When it comes to networking, reaching out and being ignored is better than not doing anything at all. However, if you don't get a reply from someone, don't keep following up with them. If they aren't receptive, they're probably too busy or not interested, and you're better off spending your time and energy on building other connections. 

Construct A Good Quality First Message 

When introducing yourself through social media, you have the luxury of perfecting your initial message to your new connection without worrying as much about nerves affecting the quality of your introduction. However, one of the drawbacks is that people often have shorter attention spans on social media, and if your message isn't compelling, you have a higher chance of being ignored. This means that you should make every effort to keep your message as informative but brief as possible. 

A professional's time is precious. If it's your first time reaching out to someone, they're more likely to read and respond to your message if you're respectful of their time. As a rough guide, try to keep your message to 100 words and have the entire message be easily readable on a phone screen. 

New contacts are also more likely to respond if you tailor your message for them. Find a common interest between yourself and them, such as your career field, university, or mutual contacts. It's also a good idea to try to write them a message that could've only come from you – give them some details about yourself that show how you're different to everyone else. People appreciated being treated as an individual by someone else who is also an individual.  
Foster Relationships Instead of Collecting Contacts 

One of the pitfalls of professional networking, significantly as you acquire more contacts, is seeing your connections as opportunities or stepping-stones instead of real people becomes easier. Many social media platforms tend to treat contacts as numbers. Coupled with the lack of face to face contact, it becomes easier to forget that you're interacting with real people on social media.

No one likes being treated as a means to an end, and most people can tell when you are just using them for an opportunity versus having a genuine interest in them and keen to develop a relationship. As you continue to build your online network, remember to stay in touch with your old contacts too. In many cases, long term relationships are more likely to lead to opportunities than new ones. 
In the age of social media, you inevitably will at some point need to use it as a professional networking tool. This means that understanding how to leverage social media as a student and graduate can tremendously help with your career growth. Hopefully, this article gave you some great tips for boosting your online professional profile!
-  Wendy Xu, Nxtstep Content Writer

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