Just like with networking in-person, there are secrets to smart social media networking. Apply these proven principles of in-person networking to social networking and you'll catch the attention of decision-makers.
1. Pay attention to the right people. Start by identifying who you want to know. With a little research, you can find out who's in charge of human resources at your target company. A quick Google search will net that individual's LinkedIn profile at the least, and if she's active on Facebook or Twitter, you should be able to find her profiles easily.
2. Provide a benefit. Just like with offline networking, the key to your success is giving, not getting. You can't walk into a networking group and demand a job. It's the same on social networks. If one of your new contacts asks for advice about something, make a recommendation if you can. Send articles you think she'll be interested in. Work to provide value to her.
3. Build the relationship. Establishing a relationship with an HR manager or recruiter will take time, so don't start when you're itching to quit your job. You'll be presented with more relevant opportunities if you have these relationships established before you need them.
4. Amplify others' message. Networking is about helping other people, not just convincing someone to hire you. That time will come, but if you focus on sharing content your contacts have tweeted or posted, comment on their content, and leaving insightful thoughts on their blogs, you'll build a strong foundation. Then you will be able to ask for help when you need it.
5. Share your own opinions. People want to know what you think about topics, so make sure and share plenty of your own comments, content, and insight. Create conversations on LinkedIn groups or engage followers on Twitter.
6. Ask questions. The secret to networking is to ask questions. It's too easy to talk about yourself nonstop. It's more challenging to be selfless and focus on others, but it will help people build confidence in you. Get people to talk and then listen.
7. Ask for advice. Another secret to networking is asking for advice. This is not the same as asking for a job – by asking other professionals what they think about an industry product or your career path, you're telling them you think they're experts and worthy of doling out professional advice.
8. Be personable. Online or off, you can't be formal all the time. Talk about your kids or your favorite sports team. Get to know people on a personal level, and you'll see your relationships propel forward faster.
9. Keep at it. Networking isn't a one-time effort, but takes continual nurturing and energy on your part. Similarly, make sure you're updating your Twitter, LinkedIn, Google + or Facebook accounts several times a week and interacting with others to keep relationships growing.
Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs, a niche job board for public relations, communications and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.