5 Tips for Leveraging Social Media to Build Your Professional Network

We all know that having an online presence can boost your sales, profits, and visibility. But what if I told you it could boost your endorphins? That you can be part of a professional network that is truly supportive, engaging, and fun to be a part of? That's exactly what happens every week at the #gistribe chat, hosted by yours truly. The #gistribe is an ever evolving, 100% organic network that's continually gaining more and more recognition within the geospatial community. Which must be why I get contacted occasionally by people looking to leverage its popularity to promote their own businesses, products, or campaigns.

They ask questions like, Can I/We/My pet project join or be featured on the #gistribe chat? Can you help to spread the word?...And the short answer is, Yes, but. But don't expect miracles to happen just because you joined an online chat one time. You see, the beauty of the weekly chat is that it allows like-minded people to connect with one another week after week, slowly forming relationships. Those connections grow deeper over time, and as we continue to engage with one another, we cultivate not only friendships, but trust. As a business owner, consultant, job seeker, or anyone looking to expand or dive into the industry, having relationships built on trust can make all the difference in the world. So how do you create those kinds of connections? Here are 5 tips to get you started:

1. Be Real. Engage with people as though they are real live people. Because they are. Just as you
wouldn't walk into an in-person professional networking event carrying a billboard, don't plunge into social media shouting Click this link! Follow Me! Buy This!...That behavior makes you come off as spammy and inauthentic. Even worse, people may actually think you're a SpamBot and not a human at all. That's a sure fire way to alienate everyone there. So act the way the real you would when meeting someone for the first time. Introduce yourself. Ask questions about them. Where are they from, what's the weather like there, what did they have for lunch. Have conversations. Connect.

Now I'm not saying don't ever self-promote. I'm saying use caution. You might want to come up with a strategy that works for you, like only 20% of the content you post online will be promotional. Then stick to it.

2. Be Consistent. Having a consistent online presence is important, after all, half of the battle is just showing up. If you go weeks (cringe) at a time without posting to or checking your social media accounts, its going to be very slow going. You don't need to have a presence on every single platform all day every day, but pop in on a regular basis. It could 5 times a day, or 5 times a week, just figure out a schedule that works for you and commit to it.

3. Be of Service. Providing a service to others is a great way to make a lasting impressions. What do you have to offer people? Do you have special knowledge or skills? Can you share tips or tricks on how to do something people want to learn? Can you provide links to articles or resources they might be interested in? Giving people something useful to them can have lasting effects.

4. Be In it to Win it. Things might not blow up over night, so be patient. Be prepared for the long haul. Allow your social networks to grow organically over time and they'll be made of genuine connections, rather than the SpamBots that send us running. 

5. Be Playful. When it comes to social media, we're all looking for something that speaks to us, that resonates with us, that makes us smile or laugh or go on a rant... When you're crafting your content, tap into your creativity and let your personality shine through. You wouldn't want to talk to the boring, repetitive, monotonous voice on the other end of an automated message, so don't be one. Have fun.

There you go. I hope these tips help you get started engaging more authentically in social media today. If you have any questions, comments, or tips of your own, feel free to post them below.

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