When I first heard about Twitter, I honestly thought it was ridiculous that society was about to have another social network, let alone one where you could only convey 140 characters of information at a time.
As it turns out, I spoke too soon. So far, Twitter has helped me 1) become a team member of an international tech startup, 2) connect with an English gentlemen about becoming a correspondent for a very popular blog, 3) find opportunities to work for my favorite local businesses, and 4) obtain a killer summer job.
I truly believe this one-hundred-forty-character platform is one of the most powerful networking tools at our disposal. For anyone thinking about diving into a new industry–students, I’m looking at you–having a network to leverage your experiences and create new opportunity will end up giving you invaluable returns. Twitter is where to begin.
So how do you go about fully utilizing Twitter?
1) Change your mindset
It took me a while to learn, but I realized that one of Twitter’s powers comes from being an interest and connection platform instead of a media consumption platform. Sure, you can still aww over your pictures of cute cats and chuckle at a few parody accounts(this is my favorite), but it’s beneficial to contribute and connect to the conversation.
2) Interact with people(and businesses) online
The general conversation doesn’t have to be too serious. Twitter provides an excuse for brevity while maintaining interpersonal connections. This affords the power to casually interact with others and in the process, grow your network.
When I started Twitter, I used it to keep up with my local coffee shops. Eventually, I expanded to interacting with strangers and friends-of-friends who had similar interests. I started tweeting and interacting with others about local food, tech startups, community events and of course, coffee.
3) Follow up (offline!)
My network grew most when I would make a connection through a brief tweet exchange and then I would run into that person offline–usually at an event which incorporated our similar interests. For me, that was coffee shop openings, latte art competitions, and local food festivals.
Note that you aren’t limited to just following up offline. Sometimes it’s a little more logical to continue to interact online with the guy you just sent 30-40 words to than arranging a meeting right away(especially if he lives across the globe). Regardless, follow up with a direct message, email, or anything. Just take the initiative. Slowly, you’ll grow your network.
(You can use this process with business profiles too. There is always someone behind the computer, right?)
This advice seems like common sense–it should be! The problems I believe most people run into are…
1) not taking initiative
2) Not being genuine. Remember, networking isn’t about numbers–it’s about fostering relationships.
Enough advice. It’s time to give personal examples.
The power of casual interaction(& cultivating your brand).
Great things happened after I developed my brand and interacted with other people–online & offline, strangers & friends. The greatest outcomes came from interacting with others who also genuinely shared my interests of coffee, everything Indianapolis, technology, and startups. I’ll sum it up:
1. I obtained a killer summer job. After riding my bike on a local trail, an idea popped into my head: during the summer I could buy or rent a bike taxi and give tours of downtown Indianapolis. After my initial research, I learned there was a company that did just that. I contacted the owner of Indy Bike Cab and the next thing I know, I have my bike taxi license.
For the last two summers, I have been able to combine my love for biking, people, and downtown Indianapolis into an amazing job. I met some very interesting people and have dozens of stories–all through having an initial Twitter interaction.
2. I generated fun opportunities for extra cash*. Through interacting online and attending local coffee events, I’ve developed relationships with coffee folks all across town. Consequently, I’ve been contacted by people at several of my favorite shops asking whether I’d consider helping out at particular events, working as a barista during the holidays, and helping to develop content. All of these are fun opportunities to make a little extra cash and all I’ve been doing is maintaining a genuine presence online and offline in a community that shares my passion for coffee.
*And other free stuff. Last year, I learned about United State of Indiana‘s student ambassador program and have earned awesome Indy-inspired clothing by showing off how much I love my home. Check them out! (If you like anything, click here to learn how to get a discount)
3. I’ve made connections across the globe. An individual based in the UK, Henry Wilson, contacted me through Twitter to talk about becoming involved with the marketing side of his growing coffee website, Perfect Daily Grind (At the time of writing this, they have around 160,000 unique visitors each month). I continue to pass off on this opportunity because I’m busy with number three, but I chat online occasionally with the founder Henry and contribute my coffee knowledge from the good ole’ Midwest.
4. I joined a tech startup based in Barcelona. This is my favorite. A mutual friend connected me with a Barcelona-based Internet of Things and marketing startup, Clex. Seriously, check it out. I’ve been learning a lot about general digital marketing from writing video scripts to conveying value propositions and leveraging social media channels. Every day is different and I get to speak Spanish for my work on a weekly basis. Divertido, no?
I can’t stress enough that I was only able to make these connections and open new doors through actively engaging others, taking initiative in new relationships, and developing a genuine online brand.
Every single online channel you participate in contributes to your brand, not just Twitter. Take care of your brand. Foster it. Be genuine and make sure your online brand represents your personal and business interests(often they can overlap!). Make sure that these interests and the brand you develop actually reflect who you are. Nobody likes insincerity.
I understand that this networking strategy isn’t completely relevant for all people and interests. For example, I’m sure there are a lot more savvy coffee shop owners and digital marketers to connect with online than accountants, lawyers, or doctors. Don’t let that stop you. Almost everyone has some online presence just waiting to be engaged.
I challenge you to get on Twitter, engage others, develop your brand, and learn. You’ll be surprised what opportunities present themselves.