Social Networking: How Well Do You Work The Online Room?

social-media-companiesImagine you’re attending a career fair. Your goal: securing a job interview. You wouldn’t dream of sitting in the lobby waiting for the employer to come out to you, would you?

Instead, you would seek the right people out, build relationships, and deliver your elevator pitch in order to start a meaningful conversation.

Then why do so many employ the “sit and wait” strategy with their social media presence?

To understand what must be done online to achieve your social networking goals, let’s compare working an online room to attending in-person networking events…

Choose the Right Events

Business developers wanting to build relationships are highly selective in the events they attend; they simply won’t go to every event. With social networking, your approach should be the same.

There are dozens of different networks you could be a part of, but which are being actively used by the types of people you aspire to network with? A little time spent researching this at the outset could have a massive impact on the success of your social networking efforts.

For example, one sector I do a lot of work in is the management and IT consulting sector. These professionals are well represented on LinkedIn – and also on to a degree; but on Twitter they are hugely under-represented. Building a social networking strategy around Twitter would arguably be doomed to failure if this is the main audience being targeted.

Research Who You Want to Reach Out To

Another trait of highly successful networkers is that – once they’ve decided upon an event to attend – they’ll then invest time researching who is attending and draw up a target list of those they’d most like to meet. With social networking, the same principles hold true. Of the total audience, there are specific people you’d most like to engage with.

Untargeted activity on social networking sites is a bit like wandering around a conference hall, talking to anyone… instead of seeking out those you’re trying to meet. Sure, there’s a chance you’ll talk to a few good people if you work the room hard enough; but there is a far greater chance your attendance will produce results if you meticulously seek to engage with a target shortlist of individuals.

Engage with Your Target Audience

Another trait of highly effective physical networkers is that they’re naturals for working a room and striking up conversations with the people they’ve identified as must meet. They have a flair for engaging strangers in a way that is not at all salesy, but that builds rapport with them in a way that gains trust and respect. The same skill is of paramount importance in social networking.

Your first points of contact need to center on your adding value to their professional lives – be that by you helping them, swapping experiences, learning from one another; anything that adds to your professional standing.

The wonderful thing about social networking is that the above approaches can be so easily adapted from the world of physical events. Let’s take Twitter as an example: we can easily research the profiles of contacts we might like to make on Twitter:

  • We can assess which of those contacts are regularly active on the network – and which have a token profile but little actual presence or engagement
  • We can add our targets to a twitter list, so that every day we can monitor what they are talking about, keeping our eyes open for opportunities to interact in ways that cause that first bond to be formed
  • And we can be disciplined in ensuring we add value to them professionally in those opening exchanges, rather than being sucked into giving a sales pitch (as might risk happening in a face-to-face scenario)

Prepare a Great Elevator Pitch

Last but not least, those who are great at physical networking will have crafted an elevator pitch well in advance of the event – the words they will use to convey their value to new contacts. Th

You’ll want to do the exact same before joining social networking activities. I stress this particularly for jobseekers, where the overriding tendency is for people to appear desperate and needy when the chance to talk about their career situation presents itself. Take time instead to form the wording you’ll use to talk about next steps in your career, so that you unquestionably come across as someone who’d be an asset to a business rather than someone who’s struggling to find work!

Social networking is a learned skill. To master that skill, just ask yourself: how would I accomplish my goals at face-to-face event? Then… go do that!





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Tony_450x450_EdgeAbout the Author: Tony Restell is the Founder of, focused on helping candidates and recruiters make the best possible use of social media. A published author and Cambridge graduate, you can follow Tony on Twitter or on Google+.




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