This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Never Eat Alone" by Keith Ferrazzi. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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Can social media networking help you further your professional career? How do you find contacts for meaningful and professional connections online?
There are two ways to use social media networking. You can approach potential new contacts yourself or get new contacts to come to you.
Let’s look at these two social media networking methods in detail.
What Is Social Media Networking?
As the name suggests, social media networking is connecting with new people on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. These social media platforms have millions of users, at least some of whom would make valuable additions to your professional network. There are two ways to use social media networking: approaching potential new contacts yourself and getting them to come to you.
Method #1: Approach People on Social Media
Reach out to potential contacts on social media using these three steps:
Step 1: Decide which social media users you want to connect with. For example, you may decide you’re only going to contact professionals who work in your industry. Alternatively, you may choose to approach any professional you think you’d have a good rapport with, for example, because you have a shared interest.
Ferrazzi advises against approaching users with high follower counts—for instance, in the hundreds of thousands or millions. These users probably receive dozens of requests to connect each day. Your attempt is likely to be either missed or ignored and is therefore a waste of time.
Step 2: Reach out to your desired contacts. Follow them, if you don’t already, and send them a private message expressing your interest in getting to know them. If this isn’t possible—for instance, if the user’s privacy settings prevent people they don’t follow from messaging them—reply to one of their public posts instead.
Step 3: Try to convert your online friendships to real-life ones. Once you’ve messaged back-and-forth with your new online contacts a few times, follow the advice given in Chapter 4 and arrange to meet them face-to-face. Ferrazzi argues that relationships that include at least some in-person meetings will always be stronger than those conducted solely online.
Method #2: Inspire Social Media Users to Ask You to Network
This second method involves inspiring social media users to come to you with requests to network. You can do this by creating compelling social media content that piques people’s interest and makes them want to get to know you. Types of compelling content include:
- Posts about what you have to offer. Create these posts frequently to ensure that when people visit your page, they immediately find out why connecting with you will be a good idea.
- Posts with useful information—for instance, tips on how to get ahead in your field. Social media users are more likely to engage with people who produce content that helps them in some way, as opposed to content that’s ultimately useless (for example, a post that simply reads “I ate a sandwich for lunch today. LOL”).
- Posts about your successes. Many social media users like to live vicariously through the people they follow. If you regularly post about all of the good things that happen to you, you’ll attract users who want to bask in your positivity.
- Posts about your struggles. Being honest about the harder parts of your life will make you seem “human” in the eyes of other social media users. They’ll appreciate your candor and relate to your fallibility.
- Posts on controversial topics—for instance, the political issues of the day. These are often the posts that get the most attention, as social media users either agree or argue with the points you make. While you may alienate users who don’t share your views, those who do will feel a connection with you and thus feel encouraged to contact you.
- Posts that are unique—for instance, that take a format that no other social media user has tried before. People are more likely to follow you if they can’t find content like yours anywhere else. Also, they may feel compelled to contact you to discuss your unique ideas. Artist Noah Scalin used this strategy to great success. He gained a large online following thanks to his unique approach of creating and posting an image of a skull each day for a year.
No matter what type of content you choose to create, make sure that it reflects your authentic personality. For example, if you’re a joker in real life, make your posts lighthearted. If you’re passionate about advocacy, frequently mention the causes you care about online.
Remaining authentic online is important because if you present a “fake” version of yourself on social media and then go on to meet your followers in “real life,” they’ll be disappointed to discover that you’re a totally different person.
One way to ensure that all of your social media posts are authentic is to create a “personal brand” cheat sheet. Identify and list all of the key facets of your personality—your likes, dislikes, demeanor, and so on. This is your “personal brand.” Then, each time you create a post, refer to the list and check that your content reflects your brand. If it doesn’t, amend it accordingly.
Broadcast Your Social Media Content
An important facet of social media networking is ensuring that potential new connections actually see your content. After all, your content won’t convince people to contact you if they don’t even see it in the first place. Here are three tips on how to broadcast your social media content and thus attract new followers:
1) Play to the algorithms. Many social media sites—notably Facebook—use algorithms to decide which content they show their users. If you want your content to be seen, you need to play to the requirements of these algorithms. (Shortform note: It’s worth noting that social media algorithms are always changing. Ferrazzi’s recommendations are based on how the algorithms operated at his time of writing, and thus may now be outdated.)
Algorithms usually push content that they know users will like and share with their followers. Here are two types of content that are particularly popular, and thus algorithm-friendly:
- Posts containing pictures. Analysis of social media usage has shown that people vastly prefer image-based content to text-based content. For instance, on Reddit, 90% of the most popular content is image-based.
- Emotional posts. According to research conducted by marketing professor Jonah Berger, one of the attributes of highly shared content is that it inspires emotion—particularly “high-arousal” emotions such as awe, anger, and amusement. (Shortform note: To learn more about Berger’s research, read our summary of his book Contagious.)
2) Play to current trends. Look at the most popular content on social media right now, and find a way to emulate it. For instance, if there’s a trend for posting short informational videos, make one about your area of expertise. On-trend posts tend to generate much more engagement than “regular” posts, making them a key tool in attracting more users to your profile.
3) Reply to posts from users who you think will be interested in your content. Use your chosen social media site’s search tool to find posts on your area of expertise. Then, respond to these posts with either a link to relevant content you’ve produced or intriguing nuggets of wisdom. The users you respond to will inevitably visit your profile to find out who you are, thus exposing them to your content.
Here are five final tips on how to make your social media networking as effective as possible:
Tip #1: Make your posts’ headlines eye-catching. You could set up a mystery in your headline—for example, “You Won’t Believe How I Made X Sales This Year.” Another option is to clearly state what the user will learn from your post—for instance, “How to Create an Eye-Catching Headline That People Click On.” People come across dozens of social media posts and articles each day. By crafting an intriguing headline, you ensure that your content is what people choose to read—and, consequently, that you’re the social media guru they ultimately choose to follow.
(Note that headlines are usually only available on social media sites that allow you to craft long-form content—for example, LinkedIn.)
Tip #2: Have a high-quality profile picture. Make sure it’s crisp and well-cropped (for instance, not cutting out half of your face). Likewise, make sure you look friendly in the photo—wear an inviting smile rather than a scowl. Your profile photo is often the first thing that potential new followers see. You want it to make a good impression.
Tip #3: Make a posting schedule and stick to it. For instance, you could decide to post a short Tweet every day and a longer LinkedIn post each weekend. Only posting sporadically indicates to potential followers that you don’t use social media very often—therefore, following you doesn’t have much value.
Tip #4: Set aside a specific block of time to use social media, and publicize when it is. For instance, tell your Twitter followers that you’ll be online from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. each Sunday to answer their questions. People are more likely to reach out to you with an invitation to connect if they know that they’ll get an immediate response.
Tip #5: Don’t be afraid to experiment with new platforms. If you’re not gaining many followers on your current platform, try moving to a different one. Trial and error is a big part of building a social media presence, and the more platforms you try, the more likely you are to eventually find the one that works best for you.
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- How to build and maintain a successful professional network
- The 4 key strategies to building up a network
- Why you have to put in work to keep your network relationships strong