How to Network Using Social Media

Twitter and LinkedIn can help your job hunt.

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Christine Garland, a Michigan State University junior, had been internship hunting for a couple of months in 2009 before a Twitter-savvy friend offered to help. "I have a qualified PR student looking for summer internships," he tweeted. Within five minutes, he got a response from a Chicago-based B2B Web marketing company. The firm interviewed Garland and took her on as an intern. Now 22, she works as a social media manager and brand strategist for the daily deal website Savvy Avenue. These days, when Garland looks for interns to hire, she turns to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and blogs to find them.

A 2010 survey of 600 human resources professionals and recruiters by Jobvite, a recruiting software company, found that 83 percent of firms planned to use social networks to hire this year. With HR going digital, job search experts agree that social media are vital, starting with LinkedIn. "If you're not on LinkedIn, you do not exist to recruiters," says Kevin Donlin, co-director of Guerrilla Job Search International, who adds that a completed bio and a professional-looking picture are essential. Remember that once a comment or photo goes online, anyone might see it. Don't complain about your job on Facebook and avoid drunk-tweeting.

[See 21 Secrets to Getting the Job.]

Once you've established an online presence, reach out to relevant contacts. Interest or alumni groups on Facebook or LinkedIn offer easy ways to find people in your field and location. Use Twellow.com, the Yellow Pages for Twitter, to search for "marketing director New York," for example. Then identify the person with the most followers and make a connection. You can then build a relationship by joining group chats, sending a contact an interesting article, or retweeting and replying to tweets, suggests Jason Alba, CEO of job coaching website JibberJobber.com. That way you'll avoid looking desperate while you get on the radar of someone who can help you. The more you help others, "the more inclined people are to do the same thing back," Alba says.

Keep the goal of social networking in mind: offline meetings. Ask connections to join you for coffee or to chat by phone so you can learn about their companies or solicit advice. Don't just ask for a job, though, Donlin warns. As the adage goes, "Make a friend before you make a sale."

[Visit the U.S. News Careers site for more job advice.]