People always laugh when I tell them I used to hate Twitter. Because, as of today, I’ve tweeted almost 20,000 times. What was my turning point from total Twitter-hater to full-fledged adopter? It was the realization that Twitter is one of the best networking tools (if not the best) out there.
No matter what your current career situation is, you can always get a leg up on Twitter that you might not elsewhere. Yes, yes, LinkedIn exists. But, I think we can all admit that your LinkedIn can feel a bit, well, stuffy some days. Twitter, on the other hand, allows for a certain level of casual banter that lets you get to know people in a more laidback setting.
Of course, becoming a Twitter networker doesn’t happen overnight, and it’s pretty daunting in the beginning. (How will you ever go from 100 followers to 10,000?) But, that’s only because you have no strategy right now. Without exerting too much energy, you can put a plan in place and start to see your networking connections—and professional opportunities—rack up. May I recommend you start with these three tips?
1. Utilize Twitter Chat Hashtags During Off-Hours
I’ve talked about the benefits of Twitter chats before, (and Liz Furl has a great piece on how to get involved in them here). However, like a lot of people, I can’t make every Twitter chat I want to attend; some of the best ones take place during the workday or late at night—and I go to bed earlier than my grandma.
My advice? Tweet any relevant links or quotes to the hashtag if it’s one that gets used consistently (whether it’s just popular, or part of a weekly series). People surf chat hashtags all the time, so even if someone doesn’t see your tweet in real time, there’s still the opportunity to be part of the conversation.
For example, I run The Prospect, the world’s largest student-run college access organization. Even though I couldn’t always make #CollegeCash chats, I still got in on the conversation by tweeting relevant Prospect articles throughout the week using the hashtag. So, people were still able to find our content and connect with me. Eventually, Jodi Okun, the woman who created the #CollegeCash Twitter chat, actually got in touch with me and asked The Prospect to guest-host the chat one night. It was an awesome opportunity that I wouldn’t have gotten if I’d stuck to the idea that there were “appropriate” times to use the hashtag!
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2. Ask Thought-Provoking Questions
A friend of mine was growing frustrated that she wasn’t really connecting with anyone on Twitter, despite constantly attempting to engage with people.
I noticed the problem as soon as I looked at her recent tweets. Every time a journalist tweeted an article that she liked, she’d reply with, “Great piece!” While it was a nice compliment, it didn’t lead to anything, besides maybe a favorite. After all, how could these people know from that comment that she wanted to turn the interaction into a conversation?
Just like in an in-person exchange, people can’t really respond unless you give them something to respond to. The easiest place to start (especially if you don’t know someone well) is to ask questions. People love talking about themselves in real life, and the internet is no different!
Not sure what to tweet to get a conversation going? Just go straight to a question. For example, let’s say you see me tweet this very article out. You could ask me of the following to get me to respond:
- “Cool piece! Out of curiosity, what’s your favorite Twitter chat?”
- “Any one moment that made you decide to really give Twitter a chance?”
- “Whoa, who’s someone you met solely over Twitter?”
Last note on this: Don’t forget to put some personality behind it! No one wants to tweet with a robot. Or no one you want to network with, anyway.
3. Become a Connector
It seems counterintuitive, but by taking time to connect other people to one another, you’re actually strengthening your own networking power. People don’t just like to know other people; they like to know connectors, too. Twitter is the perfect place to do this for obvious reasons—no one needs to open their calendar, move drinks around, re-schedule a brunch, and table a work event to make it happen.
One of my favorite examples is pretty light-hearted: I “e-troduced” two of my friends who both loved livetweeting The Bachelor. They ended up tweeting the rest of the season together and then got drinks in real life. Now they both owe me a job—just kidding!—but their connection can only benefit me in the future.
The best part of this? You don’t necessarily have to know either of the people you’re connecting. A friend of mine noticed that two journalists had similar thoughts on a particular issue and tweeted something to the effect of, “@Journalist1, @Journalist2 had a really cool article covering the same thing: [link].” Random? Yes, but they started talking (and they followed each other, as well as my friend, on Twitter).
Networking on Twitter doesn’t have to be time-consuming, and it’s definitely worth it. Have any other ideas for easy ways to network? Send me a tweet, obviously.