How to use social networking to succeed in business

Gaining immediate feedback, building your dream team in your current job or finding your next one are good reasons to embrace social

In the current business climate, networking is at the nexus of technology, the customer, and true innovation, and it's about time you put your heart and soul into it. In short, it's time to get on board with social or get left behind.

"Networking as an executive in any profession or industry is possibly one of the most valuable ways to build credibility both personally and professionally.

"It won't happen naturally and requires significant investments both in time and fostering business relationships, but can yield long lasting return on investment both in business, leveraging referrals, new business, and opportunities to advance your own career," says Laura McGarrity, vice president of marketing at Mondo, an IT sourcing and staffing firm.

If nothing else motivates you about social networking then consider this; the days of working for one or even two companies for your entire career have all but gone away. Those days have given way to a world where CIOs last on average four to five years while IT pros average somewhere around three.

Looking for a job is hard work and takes a long time.

In surveys, a majority of people find their next position via an introduction through networking. What that means is that social media and social networking have become woven into the fabric of the job search process. In addition that reality, there are other compelling reasons to join in.

Immediate feedback

Finding your next job is one reason but there are a few more for CIOs and IT managers to consider, such as immediate feedback.

Social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have given people who care enough to get involved and interact at a one-on-one level with their customers, their peers and their staff. Places like Twitter require a tough skin, but the payoff is honest feedback from the people who use your service or product.

Services like Twitter offer almost immediate feedback, which comes in handy when a new product, service or feature is launched. Sage IT managers and CIOs monitor these places to see how their user base is reacting and interacting to their new launches.

"Twitter is a tremendous asset for tech professionals. It feeds the need for instantaneous response," says Shravan Goli, president of Dice.

Building your dream team

Hiring IT pros has become increasingly difficult, as headhunters and staffing firms can be cost-prohibitive for some businesses. But thanks to places like LinkedIn, SpiceWorks and various job boards there are more places than ever to look for fresh talent.

LinkedIn is especially helpful in finding the passive candidates for your team, allowing you to search for people by geography, years of experience and various skills, among other things.

"I use LinkedIn to connect with others, whether it be potential candidates for a job opening I may have, vendors, usually through group discussions, or with other IT leaders," says Jeffrey Hurley, vice president and head of technology for Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.

Creating a collaborative environment

In order to innovate, companies need to create more collaborative user-friendly environments. Social media and the Web are providing the tools to make that happen. More teams are staying connected with suites like Campfire, Yammer and other online collaboration tools.

To stay relevant you need to be where the innovation happens, and if it's in one of these collaboration suites, then you better get involved or get left behind.

Being an industry thought leader

How will people know about your genius if you aren't out there sharing your experiences in places like LinkedIn Groups, Twitter, Quora and other communities? Whatever you do, whatever industry you are in, the Internet has a place for you to interact with like-minded professionals that facilitate collaboration and sharing. So don't be shy, get out there and start asking and answering questions.

Demonstrate through your postings that you are an engaged and informed leader that knows what's going on within your specific industry. "You can raise your profile in other ways too - answering questions on Stack, contributing to an Open Source project, marketing your own open source project on SourceForge.

With the new recruiting tools that aggregate information, recruiters are expecting to see passion related to your work. So, I recommend tech professionals do something to show that commitment to their craft," says Goli.

Social networking online

While there are thousands of articles that cover the various ways to network on the different social networks available, the problem according to career coach and strategist Donald Burns, is a lack of focus.

Many people fall into the trap of blindly networking with everyone when the key is to be more focused. "...many people start 'networking' because they've been ordered to do so--beaten over the head to keep networking--but just connecting with people is not enough.

You must be connecting with people to reach a target. In my humble opinion, that's the problem with 'networking', people aren't clear about what they're after. When a job seeker has a clear target, a red-hot passionate, well-defined position at a particular company - then connecting with the right people is much easier," says Burns.

Start a blog or column

Many of us work in our various industries with the intention to become thought leaders. Writing a blog is great way to share your knowledge, insight and show off your troubleshooting prowess.

"Creating content is a powerful way to build your personal and professional brand online," says McGarrity. When most of us are interested in doing something new, one of the first things we do is search the Web to find someone who has been down this road before to get an idea of what to expect.

"Have a content strategy. Create content, share data, multimedia, photos, and engage in conversation with original content creators. Relevancy and frequency is the name of the game. Have a goal, be transparent, be conversational, be YOU, and get engaged," says McGarrity.

There are various outlets you can use but most experts agree that having your own branded site, especially in the technology world, is the best way to go.

Next up: Offline networking

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