In this post, I’d like to focus on building relationships on the Internet. The Internet gives you the opportunity to maintain relationships with people you know well, strengthen relationships with people you know only a little and build new relationships with people who can help you create the successful life and career you want and deserve.
I believe that LinkedIn is the best social network for professionals. Facebook, Plaxo and Twitter are OK too. Regardless of the social network you choose, there are some common sense points you should follow if you want to build solid relationships. While these points focus primarily on LinkedIn, there are similar functions on just about every social network.
Your profile is the place to begin. It can help you build your brand. A good profile will attract others, educate them about you and influence their feelings towards you – even if you’ve never met in person. Experts say that you have three seconds to communicate your brand on your LinkedIn profile. Make those seconds count.
My professional description on LinkedIn used to read “Bud Bilanich, The Common Sense Guy.” Now it reads, “Bud Bilanich: I help individuals, teams and entire organizations succeed by helping them apply their common sense.” I don’t know about you, but I think that the second professional description is much stronger, communicates better and makes the most out of my three seconds.
You can leverage your social network profiles in several ways. Invite everyone you know to connect with you. Most social networking sites have a reconnect function. Use it. LinkedIn calls this the “colleagues and classmates reconnect function.” It can be a lot of fun to reconnect with people you used to know. If you use Microsoft Outlook, download the Outlook toolbar. It will let you know the LinkedIn status of everyone from whom you receive an email. Ask your existing LinkedIn connections to introduce you to their connections. In this way, you can build a large network of people who will be exposed to your brand.
The LinkedIn “What you are working on now” function can help build your brand. Update it regularly. Post all of the interesting things you are doing – at work and in your life. This will help others get to know you better and it will showcase the depth and breadth of your experience. Think of it as a longer tweet. Twitter limits you to 140 characters per post. Here you can post three or four sentences and go into a little more detail. And, just like Twitter, people can respond to your LinkedIn “What you are working on now” posts. This creates the opportunity for you to engage in dialogue with the people you meet on LinkedIn, strengthening your relationships.
LinkedIn Groups are another powerful way to leverage the power of LinkedIn. You can find groups to join by seeing which groups people with interests similar to your own join. You can use the LinkedIn search tool for this. Start slowly, join no more than three groups at first. Spend some time in these groups. See if they appeal to you. If they do, become active by participating in conversations; sharing your thoughts and ideas and links that you find helpful. If you don’t like a group, drop out and find another. Participating in groups can be time consuming. Set your default to receive emails from groups once a week. Then set aside a specific period each week to read the recent post and reply to the relevant ones.
Remember, the career advice here is to build on line relationships the same way you build in person relationships. Give with no expectation of return. Establish yourself as a person of value first – someone who not only has something to give, but someone who is willing to help others. In this way, when the time comes, you’ll be in a great position to ask for the help you need in creating your life and career success.
The common sense career success coach point here is simple. Successful people follow the career advice in Tweet 140 in Success Tweets. “Social networks allow you to help others. Give value, and you’ll be able to build some great online relationships.” Build strong, lasting mutually beneficial relationships – in person and on line. While there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction when it comes to building relationships, the Internet has opened up a lot of opportunities to reconnect with old friends and to make new ones. For my money, LinkedIn is the best social network for professionals. However, Facebook, Plaxo and Twitter are good too. Offering something of value is the best way to get people to befriend you on social networking sites. This can be as simple as retweeting a Twitter post you found interesting. Or, you can offer advice by answering questions people posts in forums. The idea is to offer value – not hype yourself. Keep in mind the Zig Ziglar quote, “You will get what you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.” Social networks allow you to help others get what they want. So give value – and you’ll find that you’ll be able to build some great on line relationships that will help you create the life and career success you want and deserve.