Yesterday I talked about why you should start a blog. If you’ve been on the fence about starting a blog, I hope I convinced you that having a Web presence can be a huge benefit! But your web presence should be big, so now it’s on to Part II: Twitter!
Oh, Twitter. I love, love, love Twitter. And if you are a person with thoughts who wants a career, you should love Twitter too!
Twitter is great for networking. We use the term “social networking” a lot, but if all you’re used to is Facebook, it’s hard to really understand this. Really, Facebook is for talking to friends, stalking dates, and seeing if people from high school got pregnant or fat. That’s not really networking. Twitter is great for true networking — connecting with people or companies who can further your career.
To further your career, you need to connect with other people in your industry, establish your presence, find mentors, and build a support system — and what’s awesome about Twitter is that it allows you to do that.
And it allows you to do that for free. Without permission. Without applying. Without knowing anyone or having a foot in the door. Anyone can network on Twitter — even a “nobody.”
I don’t want to get into how to start an account in this post but I wrote up some tips on setting it up so check that out if you need assistance. Overall, it’s pretty simple!
OK from now on, we’re just assuming you have a Twitter account. So now I can explain to you how to use it to network.
To network, you need to find your people. And this is when the word “network” really comes into play. You need to find one well-connected person and start following their people. And then start following those people’s people.
Keeping with yesterday’s example of someone trying to get a job as a teacher, I just did a Twitter search for “teachers” and came up with a bunch of organizations of teachers. So start by following them. Who is the most well-known person in your field? Follow her…and then start checking out who she is following. You can also use Twitter lists to find people to follow. Go back to your well-known person’s profile. Click “listed,” and it should show them in some lists that relate to your field. (For example, if you go to my profile, I have a list of health bloggers, so you could find other health bloggers that way.) Lists are really helpful for finding a network.
Don’t hesitate if you don’t know people — “walk right up” and introduce yourself!
Introducing yourself is important though! (Hello, that’s why you wear a stick-on name tag to a networking event?!) A lot of times I don’t follow people back until they say something to me…I want to follow people who are interested in me, not just getting me to follow them.
You can also use “hash tags” to find people. You’ll see these on Twitter a lot — a hash tag is the # sign followed by a word and it just links to other posts that have the same tag. So if you see a Tweet that includes #education, click on it and it will bring up all the other recent education Tweets. There you go…more people who are interested in education to follow! (And don’t forget to use hash tags when you Tweet so that people find you. That made a huge difference in helping me get followers.)
So…now, what to say? Well, what would you say if you went to a networking event? Because that’s pretty much what you’re doing. You’d choose someone you knew or wanted to know and you’d just say something. And that’s why Twitter rocks…you can talk to people you could probably never network with physically. You can also read this post I wrote about great networking Tweets to give you ideas for when you find yourself Tweetless.
You need to be on Twitter because it’s a lot easier to get the attention of the right people via Tweets. It’s short, quick, and easy. I know of so many people who have found internships and jobs directly through Twitter! Just personally, I’ve connected with so many people and companies after I Tweeted at them, and, to be frank, it’s presented a ton of great opportunities for me in terms of work, blogging, and just friendship!
Case in point: I adore Amy Spencer, the author of Meeting Your Half-Orange. And after I wrote a post about her and her book in February, I Tweeted the link to it and said how much I liked @thedatingoptimist. Would she have ever found my blog otherwise? Probably not. But she read the post and commented; plus she’s just so cool and nice and she’s actually given me some career advice over the past few months. She also linked to my blog in her blog the other day! I can’t imagine connecting with an author that quickly without social networking — or even doing that on Facebook.
Not everyone famous or at the top of their field who is on Twitter will respond to you, but if they are on Twitter, there’s a good chance they are there to have conversations. And if you are a thoughtful Tweeter, you can get some great conversations going with the people you respect and want to know — and the people that you want to know you.
But more important, social networking is really uplifting because it can help you connect with other people who are passionate about the same things as you are. No matter how trapped you may feel by your current situation, you need to find other people who love what you love and get excited and fired up about the same things as you do. It gives you this sense of confidence that you’re not crazy for wanting to do what you want to do.
And really, I think that’s why I love Twitter so much. It’s a really quick and easy way to unleash your passions; besides just helping your career, really, networking is a shot of pure oxygen to your inner flame.