Social media was once described as a professional cocktail hour—a way to connect, share, and interact with others beyond the confines of your cubicle. But now, it feels more like an epic college kegger; the kind where you find yourself wandering in a sea of red cups, the clamor of rowdy partygoers drowning out any real conversation and eliminating the chance to forge relationships that don’t involve 3 AM tacos.
So, how do you bring that party back down to a reasonable size, and actually connect with people you want to talk to? Half the battle is being able to sift through the noise. Here are a few easy ways to identify and jump into the right conversations with the right people for you and your professional interests.
1. Seek out the Authors of the Content You Read
Who are the social influencers in your area of expertise? Identifying these people is particularly useful in seeking out great conversations. One of the best places to start is the blogs or websites you go to for content. Check out the authors—people who contribute to online publications usually have a social presence, too. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter, and take the time to let them know what you think. Comment on their articles or blogs, then take it a step further and tweet some feedback. Giving a compliment with some added insight on the topic goes a long way.
2. Become an Author Yourself
There’s no better way to join the conversation in your field than by writing on the topic—either on your own blog or for industry publications. Not only will you have something to readily share and discuss on your social networks, you’ll likely have people in your field reach out to you with comments and ideas of their own.
If you don’t consider yourself a wordsmith, stick to what you know. Think about what questions you get asked most often about what you do, and write down your thoughts. Once you get started, you’ll be surprised how much you truly have to say.
3. Leverage Twitter Keyword Searches
Twitter can be a great source of information, but it can also be one of the “noisiest” places on the web. So a great way to find people, filter tweets, and join a conversation is to search for keywords related to the topics you’re interested in. For example, if you work in social media, the most obvious place to start would be a keyword like “social media.”
Seems simple—but this isn’t a perfect science, and it requires some trial and error to see which keywords get you the results you want (for example, you might try "social media marketing" or "Twitter marketing"). Play around with different versions, and join the conversation when you find something of interest. Reply to people’s tweets and give your feedback or comments. Did someone link out to an article and give her opinion? Tell her that you agree or disagree and why.
4. Join Relevant LinkedIn Groups
LinkedIn groups are great forums for career-related discussions—members often share articles, ask questions, and start online conversations with each other. Do a quick group search on LinkedIn, and you’re likely to get a long list of niche groups within your field. That said, do your research to make sure that any group you’re looking at is a good fit for your goals and interests before you request to join. (If you’re work in healthcare marketing, for example, a general marketing group might not be the best fit.) If the group is open (vs. invite-only), take a look around at the discussions and members to get a feel for the content and makeup of the group and see if it’s a good fit.
5. Meet the People Who are Looking at You
Even if you haven’t upgraded your LinkedIn account, if your settings allow others to see who you are when you look at their profiles, you should be able to see who’s looking at yours. Scan this once a week and take a peek at who’s viewed your profile. When it’s appropriate, connect with these people, thinking about why they might have taken the time to look at your profile. Are they in your field? In your community? A recruiter? Reaching out to engage in conversation not only shows you’re paying attention, but also shows you’re open to forming new professional relationships.
What are some creative ways you’ve leveraged social media for networking? Share below.
Photo of woman on phone courtesy of Shutterstock.
Mallory Woodrow is a social marketing strategist at digital agency Enlighten, where she works on social content and strategy for large brands. In her spare time, she is a contributing writer for Entrepreneur Magazine, a blogger, and a shoe enthusiast. Follow her on twitter: @malloryloren.More from this Author