two guys looking at social media

Social media is one of the most relevant and key aspects of networking today. In the professional realm, social media is an easy and accessible tool that allows you to build both awareness and relationships. Knowing how to manage and strategize your use of different platforms while online networking can reap many benefits.

Brand Awareness

Being a part of a company, business or industry comes with certain ideas and perceptions. Brand is something that is easily recognizable and comes with pre-established notions and understanding through a few words or images. Social media has become the most recognizable source of promotion, and is critical to brand awareness.

Shaun Nilsson, co-founder of CityBlast, a social expert site that focuses on social media for industry professionals, affirms the significance of growing your online awareness. “Building a reputable presence among those you already know is your best bet, and social media is a powerful tool at your disposal.  Facebook and other platforms allow you to be ‘seen’ by many people all at once and to get a big impact from your activities.” Plus, it’s free! It’s no wonder major companies define their brands by their use of social media networking and marketing.

Similar rules apply when creating a personal brand for yourself. As you establish yourself as separate from, but also in accordance with, the industry or business you’re associated with, you create a unique and individual brand.

As an individual, it’s easy to brand yourself as a reputable source and supporter of the industry if you can indicate your ties to a company, agency or business that’s also considered reputable. This allows you to develop your social presence as something more personal and relatable while attached to an established brand. Still, this isn’t always enough. Being known as a source of valuable knowledge is critical to any personal brand.

John Featherston, the President and CEO of RISMedia, an online real estate news and information source, understands the significance of social media awareness for the industry professional. “Today’s leading real estate professionals know they have to be seen as a relevant resource of real estate information on Facebook and other social media outlets. The answer for many has been to find the best source of content for ‘sharing,’ and making sure the content they share can be branded, and to some degree customizable, to help build awareness.”

Developing your brand and boosting awareness is the initial part of successful social online networking. Once you become known as both a part of an industry and as an individual, while also providing worthy content and information, your personal brand can grow and expand in a way that sets you apart from the rest.

Building Relationships

Forming and solidifying relationships on social media allows your personal brand to grow and reach a wider audience. More importantly, building up your network expands your contact database. It’s important to establish the audience you are attempting to reach out, impact, or engage. What is the demographic? Who would find your information relevant and educational?

Reiterating the importance of brand, Nilsson suggests, “To understand your audience, you have to be clear on what your individual brand represents. That way, you are more likely to attract the audience you are trying to reach out to. Also review your current posts and see what your audience liked the most, and use this as a recipe when developing further posts.”

The network that grows from determining your audience depends on defining the audience and engaging with it consistently. It’s important to ask questions that lead to a call to action. While this provides further action for those in your network, asking questions also demonstrates openness and familiarity. The content you choose to share determines which connections you make and the value of those connections. According to Featherston, one of the best ways to build relationships is through frequent social media posts of interesting and relevant information.

In addition to sharing relevant and valuable information on your social accounts, responding and interacting with your connections is crucial to building relationships. It’s equally important that when sharing information, you don’t post strictly call-to-action or promotional statements.

Providing education and knowledge helps form stronger relationships and shows you’re a valuable online connection, not someone who simply wants to promote your business. When other accounts react positively to your shared posts, responding back with enthusiasm boosts prior relationships and helps create more. Responding positively includes return messages, retweets, likes and following. These proactive actions are quick and easy ways to foster new social relationships and strengthen your network.

Keeping content consistent and relevant lets your audience and connections know what to expect, anticipate and rely on. Though it may be tempting to post pop culture or opinionated items like politics, religion and other controversial topics, it’s best to avoid sharing content like this in order not to upset or offend. It’s best for relationships to be straightforward, industry focused and mutually respected. “Think of social media like being at a networking event,” said Nilsson. “Ask yourself, is this post/content something that my audience wants to hear about and will value? If it isn’t of value to them, it’s probably not worth sharing. They call it ‘social media’ for a reason. Keep it light, informative and fun.”

Management

Because there are a variety of social platforms available, it can seem overwhelming to maintain each one fully. Creating a consistent plan of action and system for management is crucial. To maintain a presence on social media, you should be posting and sharing information in a consistent, but not excessive, manner. Posting too much can cloud your feed and cause some of your information to be missed or overlooked. Managing your accounts to share information over time as opposed to all at once is a best practice.

How do you manage this consistent flux of information? Enter free social media management tools that allows you to schedule posts for Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, among many others. By linking your social accounts, you have one space in which to organize, schedule and manage them. This way you can plan out information you’d like to share days in advance, optimizing your ability to boost awareness and build relationships. This takes the pressure off of always having to decide on what to post in the moment and from having to manually share to your social networks. Creating a system and routine to schedule your social content is an easy and efficient way to amp up your engagement.

Strategy

Like with any important business initiative, it’s necessary to develop a strategy. Social media networking is no different. Strategic actions allow brand awareness, building relationships and management to be fulfilled.

Asserting your brand, adhering to your audience, and projecting the correct information for your industry should all be a part of your social media strategy. When creating a post, it’s important to use relevant hashtags, links and articles. Hashtags allow your information to be grouped with compatible information and to be discovered, which helps build new relationships and define your brand.

Tone, content and frequency of posting all make up social media strategy. If you can excel in the above categories, social media networking will become an easy and natural occurrence in your professional career.

Nilsson offers this final bit of advice, “It takes time and consistent effort to build a social network. You therefore need to see it as a priority if you’re going to make it happen.” So don’t sweat it! Like many important strategic initiatives, the more time and effort you put into it, the more fulfilling your results will be.

Take time. Be a presence. Establish relationships. Become resourceful. Adapt. Social media networking for the industry and business professional is here to stay.

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