How to Build a Network In Your PJs
Part 2 in the Code Like A Girl Networking Series
A few weeks ago I spoke at an event that started with 3o minutes of networking. Instead of walking up to people I didn’t know and striking up a conversation, what I did instead was connect with friends I had already made. Some of those friends I met the traditional way at work or previous networking events, but at least a dozen were online friends I was meeting face to face for the first time.
Each one was like seeing a long lost friend. We could just continue the conversation we were having online. There were no awkward hellos, asking what they did for a living, or trying to find some common ground. We did all that already online, so when we met in person we could just start speaking like friends I had met the traditional ways.
We are busy people. We traditionally think of lunches, coffees, drinks, and networking events as the main ways to network. They are good ways, but not the only way to grow our networks. I find using social networks a fantastic way to grow and build my professional network.
In this piece I will highlight how I use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIN, and Slack to grow my network, all while sitting on my couch in my pjs!
Twitter is a great and easy place to start networking online. Once you have an account start following friends, family, and coworkers. There are lots of great articles online with tips and tools on how to grow Twitter followers. I am going to focus on sharing the things that have worked best for me.
I follow over 1000 people and that list is growing. When you follow other people they are more inclined to follow you! The more followers you have the better chance of what you say will be seen. However reading the tweets of over 1000 people is impossible.
I use lists to follow smaller more manageable groups of people. If you don’t know how to create, maintain, and build lists Twitter has the instructions here.
There are two main ways to use lists. First is to build and maintain your own, and second is to follow other people's public lists. To help you get started here are my lists. The as you can see from my the TweetDeck screenshot below the top three lists I pay attention to are KW Tech People, Women in Tech, and WIT Organizations.
Without TweetDeck I wouldn’t be able to manage Twitter. It lets me create columns to view notifications, my top lists, hashtag searches, direct messages, and more. It makes it easy for me to consume, reshare, schedule, and tweet important content. There are a lot of Twitter apps out there — if Tweetdeck doesn’t work for you I’m sure you can find something that does.
Hashtags are another way for more people to see your tweets. I use hashtags in two ways. First to reach a wider audience with my tweets and second to find information about a topic. For example you can see that I follow the #CodeLikeAGirl hashtag. This lets me retweet, share, and reply to other people who are talking about coding like a girl. In this way I might find people who have similar interests.
Interact With Others
At this point you might be thinking:
Great I am following people and hashtags, how does this help me build my network?
To build your network you must interact with people. There are a lot of ways you can do this on Twitter. You can support others by retweeting their content. You can reply to their post and start a public Twitter conversation. Or you can send them a direct message about a recent post or interest you have in their profile page.
Do Not, I repeat Do Not go online and share 20 tweets all at once. It is like getting hit with a firehose instead of a nice shower. It is better to have a slow trickle of tweets going out at different times of the day. The reality is though you can’t be on Twitter all day. So you can do two things. You can schedule all your tweets, or you can use a tool to do it for you.
I am lazy so I use a tool called Buffer. It allows me to choose how many times I want to tweet a day and pick the times. Then all I have to do is fill up the queue and it will tweet them out slowly. There is a great chrome plugin that will allow you to do this right from tweetdeck. This way I can go online and queue up 5 tweets that will go later when I am not at the computer. Buffer has a free version that will let you buffer up to 10 tweets. The best part is I am also able to hook up Facebook and LinkedIN to Buffer as well.
In the end I can keep my twitter presence going with about 5–10 mins a day.
LinkedIN is what most people think of for professional networking. However, most people only use it when they are looking for a job, or looking for someone to hire. I suggest that you need to check in a bit more than that. I recommend that you always keep your profile up to date and check in at least once a week.
Once A Week Check In
In my weekly LinkedIn check in the first thing I do is check if there are any messages for me and respond as needed. Secondly, I go to the homepage and look in the top right corner for the “N ways to keep in touch” widget. It lets me know if anyone in my network has a new job, work anniversary, or birthday. If it’s there I will often use the like or comment button provided.
Responding to these types of updates is a great way to show that person that you are still in touch with them, while not spending too much time doing it. Who doesn’t like getting a like or having someone say congrats to them? I know I do!
The third thing I do is I take a quick look at the feed to see if there is any interesting content. If there is I like it and possibly share it. This helps people remember I am around by popping up in their feeds. Lastly I look to see if there are any connection requests.
Unlike Twitter, I am more selective with my LinkedIN connections. I try to limit my connections to people I have met in person, or online. If someone I don’t know requests a connection with me I often will reply asking why they are interested in the connection. If they respond with a reasonable answer then I am inclined to make the connection. However, I am always surprised in the number of people that don’t respond to that request. I think it is a great way to connect and get to know another person. If they haven’t responded by the following week I ignore the request.
If possible personalize the request when you send it. LinkedIN seems to be making this harder and harder these days so it isn’t always possible.
Facebook is a great way to connect with friends but you might not think of it as a tool for professional networking as well. Many of the same rules from Twitter apply to Facebook. If you wouldn’t say it or show it to your parents, co-workers, or in-laws then don’t show it there.
With Facebook you need to decide if it is going to be a locked down space for your family and friends, or if it is just another place to have a public persona. I started out with it being quite locked down but I am changing that and have made it possible for people to follow me without being my friend. I have also opened up my friend circle to include a wider circle of people.
I have found that the stories that have gone viral on the Code Like A Girl publication have done that through Facebook. This makes it a very powerful place to expand your network. If you want to keep your personal page for friends and family, you can use the power of Facebook with Facebook groups and pages.
If you want to promote a cause, a store, or a business then this is the way to go. It allows you to create a page that is separate from your main Facebook feed and friends. With that page you can share posts, pictures, videos, notes and create events. The only thing your page followers can see is what you explicitly share through the page , not what you post to family and friends.
I wanted to give Code Like A Girl a facebook presence that was separate from myself. I also wanted to share posts, pictures, and videos with a wide audience. I felt that a Facebook pages was the best way to achieve this.
Pages are a great way to raise awareness for your cause, store, or business. They are less effective at two way communication, but they do give you a great way to have a dedicated presence on Facebook.
Groups are a great way to interact with others that may or may not be in your list of Facebook friends. There are both public and private Facebook groups. Anyone can join a public Facebook group, but you must be invited to a private one. My favourite Facebook group is for a group of people that are all alumni from one of my former workplaces. In this group we share job openings, add anyone recently departed from the company, especially those that didn’t leave voluntarily. It is a great place to continue friendships from the workplace and support each other in our continuing careers. There are some people in that group that I have become better friends with after leaving the company through the Facebook group.
Slack is very different from Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIN. It is a group messaging tool, not a social network. It is typically marketed to companies as an internal chat tool. However, I have had a positive experience using it to connect communities of people with similar interests.
I am part of two amazing Slack Channels. The first is the KWStartups Slack channel. This channel is for anyone working in a start-up in the Kitchener Waterloo area in Canada. Through this I have met an amazing amount of influential players in the KW start-up community. To me this is invaluable.
The second is the Code Like A Girl WR Slack channel. This is a channel I started for women in the Waterloo Region that work in tech or work in technical roles. You can join this Slack channel here. I got to know the amazing Karen Schulman Dupuis through this Slack channel.
Join the Conversation
The important thing about making connections and friends through Slack, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook is that you must interact on it. If you don’t join the conversations then the friendships don’t grow. It isn’t enough to join and watch the conversations go by, you must be part of the action. Don’t be afraid to jump in.
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