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Harnessing the Power of Social Networking

Hannah Morgan

Why are more companies becoming active on social networks such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook? Could it be because social networks are multifaceted tools and can be used to market, promote and build relationships? Maybe it's time you tried changing your approach to networking to get more out of social networks. They're not the solution to all your job-search woes, but they can help grow your network and build new relationships that will help in the future.

Networking isn't a once-and-done task. People who are serious about managing their careers understand how crucial it is to have a pool of people to interact and share ideas with. This doesn't just happen overnight. Power networkers build and nurture connections for the future, embrace a pay-it-forward mindset, offer help and show interest in what others are doing and saying. Smart job seekers focus on the needs, wants and desires of others and obsess less over their need to find a job. Successful networkers know that when they show generosity toward others, it can and usually does come back to help them in the future. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, "The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well."

LinkedIn connections can power your success. This is where the power of LinkedIn comes in. You can use it to stay connected with people you've worked with, met in-person, met online or someone you have something in common with. Savvy networkers realize you can't just meet someone one time and expect results. The relationship needs to be nurtured. This can be done by monitoring LinkedIn in several ways:

-- congratulate a connection on a new job

-- share a connection's status update, always giving him or her attribution

-- compliment or give a shout-out to a connection by mentioning his or her name in your status update

-- monitor a group's discussion feed and look for opportunities to add to the conversation. You may have a different view point, a success story to share or be able to offer help.

Facebook friends can help. According to the Jobvite Job Seeker Nation Study, 76 percent of social job seekers found their current position through Facebook. These social job seekers are mostly ages 30 to 39, college educated, with annual incomes greater than $100,000. They are using Facebook relationships to get referred and gather inside information. These users also realize networking only works if you continue to pay it forward by sharing leads. Social job seekers report using Facebook to:

-- find contacts sharing job opportunities

-- tap contacts who could provide an employee perspective on a company

-- share a job opportunity with a contact

There's unlimited power to engage on Twitter. When you use an open network like Twitter, the sky is the limit. You can follow anyone you wish. And you can even send them a public message. Follow people who work in companies you would like to work for. (You can use WeFollow.com or Twitter's Advanced Search function to find people using the company name.) Once you start following these company insiders, you can and should:

-- re-share appropriate tweets

-- add your two-cents to the tweet if there is room

-- reply to the person who shared a helpful tweet and explain why you liked it

If you do this with some regularity, the person will respond usually. Continue to look for things you have in common, such as shared interests outside of work, colleges, cities of residence, etc. You can leverage any of these common interests to take the relationship to the next level. Maybe you could ask if they have gone back for any reunions or invite them to an upcoming event. Most people who hang out on Twitter want to interact and build meaningful, worthwhile relationships. Try it.

-- Google+ brings people together too. One complaint many job seekers have is they don't know enough people. Google+ can fix this. This platform combines the open networking of Twitter with the discussions feed of Facebook to create an unlimited opportunity of people to meet and communicate with outside your immediate network. Create circles and add people in target companies, people who are movers and shakers in your industry or occupation and join communities of like-minded careerists. The same rules apply here as they do on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. As a reminder, here's what to do:

-- look for people you know or would like to know on Google+. These may be people you have not been able to connect with on the other networks

-- share, comment or like their status update

-- mention their names in your status update

-- actively participate in Communities by offering advice, help or sharing information

-- give as much, if not more, than you get

Hannah Morgan is a speaker and author providing no-nonsense career advice; she guides job seekers and helps them navigate today's treacherous job search terrain. Hannah shares information about the latest trends, such as reputation management, social networking strategies, and other effective search techniques on her blog, Career Sherpa.

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