I often tell executives, “If you’re not on social media you’re committing career suicide.” Yet how does one build rapport through a screen? It’s possible, but it takes effort.
Who you should be connecting with
It’s important to develop an audience built around your career goals and objectives. You need to start connecting with people who will bring value. Focus on the most obvious and direct links to the specific professions, companies and people related to your ideal job and target employer.
How to begin
Never use the generic one-click default LinkedIn invitation. Instead, click on the person’s profile and send a customized message about how you can help them. If someone sends you an invitation and they meet your criteria, accept and reply, thanking them for the invitation.
Yes, these steps are time consuming, but it’s the polite way to build a professional brand. People base their opinions on how you establish this opening dialogue.
If you don’t know the person or you’re not sure you want to connect, click on your Invitations page (desktop view only), open the drop-down menu next to the invitation and look for the option to “Reply, don’t accept yet.” From there you can open a constructive conversation about the value you will each bring to the relationship.
From the first invitation through all of your communications, aim to be open, honest and engaging. Like any other networking setting, it’s important to give before you take. Even if you’re in an active job search, don’t try to sell yourself the instant you meet. Instead, you could mention that you’re exploring opportunities at their company.
Similarly, don’t ask for endorsements or recommendations as soon as you connect with someone on LinkedIn. Wait until you’ve established more of a relationship and had a chance to provide value to them.
What to share
Whether you’re writing a direct message to one connection or posting an update for all to see, whatever you write on social media reflects your professional brand. Always be eloquent, polite and courteous, proofread carefully for typos, and avoid shorthand or acronyms.
Don’t post any compromising photos or links that don’t contribute to a professional dialogue. Social media gives you the chance to market yourself as an expert, so share industry or functionally-related information from external sources like trade magazines, newspapers, websites and blogs.
When to share
Be consistent; posting and sharing regularly is another way to establish trust and rapport. The opposite extreme would be going dark on social media as soon as you get a new job and then resurfacing three years later when you’re in transition again.
Use a tool like Buffer to sit down once and create a whole slew of messages for the next week or month. You can combine brief tips, quotes and links to valuable articles. Then check in daily for shorter periods to engage in conversation, reply to any comments, and build rapport and relationships with your connections.
When you’re on social media, in the back of your mind should always be the question, “What is the value I can bring?”