Just like walking into a crowded room of industry professionals, social media networking is the opportunity to put your best foot forward, grow your brand and increase your business standing.
And just as you dress for success, have your business cards within quick grasp and a smile firmly fixed to your face when attending events, the same applies metaphorically in the heady social media world.
Let’s look at some tips for successful social media networking.

Best foot forward

You wouldn’t waltz into a networking event bare foot, with a casual swagger and your business credentials scrawled on post-it notes. Nor should you take on social networking in less than professional attire. That means honing your social persona; that image for your business or yourself that you wish to present in the public realm.
Ensure your catchphrase, company boilerplate and images represent who you are and what you stand for in the best possible light, in the knowledge that years from now they will remain in the public domain.   
Likewise, tend to your personal profiles carefully as the face of any business. Take the time to review your profile and make it stand out. Your bio is the first thing people will seek out so make it catchy so you stand out from the crowd of other professionals in your industry. Make sure you include all of your awards and achievements too and this information is kept current.

Find your people

The key to great networking is to find your people – those who are either part of your industry, clients of your business, associates, experts or industry bodies. These may include relevant people who support your services or who you support, along with other experts in the field, or people who share the same business interests.
There are groups out there for all occasions, seasons and events, so seek out the ones that are relevant to you and get involved by following, connecting, liking and referring.  Also seek out expert people you need, whether it’s media professionals, publishers, accountants or members of your local Chamber of Commerce.

Connect with others

It’s networking folks so it requires a little give and take, meaning you need to actively connect with people, forums, groups and events just as you hope they will connect with you. It’s essential to remember social networking is a community and it’s not just about you.
As highlighted in the Stop Posting Embarrassing Media Content: “You wouldn’t walk around a networking event only talking about yourself, never asking questions about others. So stop doing it on social media!”
Your role is to give as much as you take in the networking stakes, and that includes referrals, likes, testimonials, and sometimes even free expert advice.

Keep it real

Social media might be social, but if you’re using it in a professional capacity keep it professional. It’s a great rule of thumb to run every item that you consider posting through a quick mental calculation: How would this comment, post, association look plastered on the front page of a newspaper? Because, make no mistake, social media is publishing, it’s searchable and it’s accessible to the world.
It’s easy to feel comments and actions on social media float out into the ether never to be seen again, but just as in the real world, the way we interact online is a reflection of who we are and what we stand for as an individual or business entity. Manners, courtesy and careful consideration ensure your digital footprint accurately reflects the right image and tone.