By Rohan Ayyar

Social media, if you filter out the useful versus useless battle raging over it, is the ultimate channel for networking.

For once, it takes silly handshakes, pretentious nods, and “working the game” out of the equation.

With social media, there is no game; there’s just the real you. What comes forth is your real self.

Social media is also a great leveller. It brings out the best in you.

Here’s a little more on how to “milk” your network for all it’s worth with grace, elegance, and style.

Take Stock and Do Your Housekeeping

You can’t get work done on an untidy desk. You can’t do much with your social media networks if you can’t take stock of who connects to you, and whom you connect to.

Revisit your networks (across popular channels), and remove connections that don’t mean anything to you. Get ruthless if you have to, but you are better off with a few right people in your network than thousands who give nothing, learn nothing, and do nothing.

This is a first step. It’s mandatory, clean, and it’s something like wearing an apron before you cook. It’s just Networking 101.

Networking Means Prepare to Give and Acknowledge What You Take

Networking isn’t a party where X meets Y and everything is a fairy tale ever after. The first contact, the initial acquaintance, meeting people, and getting introduced to others – all of that is the easy stuff. The hard work begins after the first contact. It’s hard because you have to “give.”

Determine what you can contribute:

  • Can you mesh people together? Can you find someone for someone else? Can you form the bridge between two people who are each looking for something the other person can offer?
  • Can you help someone out on your own? Can you offer something to help without expecting something back?
  • How far down the road can you go for others?

There’s no “taking” back anything yet. Instead, acknowledge what you need. Find out what kind of information, contacts, connections, sources, or communities you’ll benefit from.

It’s “give” and “take” in that order.

Social Inequality Reigns Supreme

Hustle, with or without grace, means  you are looking for something to take advantage of. Hang out on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and Pinterest before you determine the best social network to help you “hustle for business advantage.” Don’t forget what you are hustling for. Feel the pulse of the network. Respect the boundaries and understand the limitations of every platform.

Become a Valued Resource

On social media, thought leadership is much easier. It provides a platform. By publishing your own posts, reports, slides, videos, podcasts, images, webinars, you take the first step to creating a base for thought leadership.

Build your communication strength on the back of trends. Match them to aspects related to your business. Fire your ideas, insights and opinions on all fronts.

  • Don’t just retweet someone’s tweet next time; add your own thoughts.
  • Don’t just mention people with a handle or name. Add why they are so wonderful and worth following.
  • Share your precious finds when it comes to content, but always give due credit to authors and publications.
  • Be accessible enough to respond and reciprocate. No one is too big on social media – big brands don’t hesitate to get down on their knees before King Customer.

Be Proactive

In time, social can get repetitive and boring: You’ve liked, tweeted, updated, shared, and maybe stumbled on social media. These are things most business owners, social media managers, and everyone else in between routinely do. So, how do you stand out? What’s so special about you? How does your own network benefit from your “presence?” The secret is being proactive.

Questions, suggestions, referrals, unsolicited testimonials, full-blown reviews, glowing recommendations, heartfelt thanks, credit where due, and showering love and respect toward legitimate and deserving members of your network are all ways you can make your presence felt.

Make stars out of your network members. Refer one to another. Solve problems. Extend your experience to create and share knowledge no one has but everyone needs. Pull your sleeves up and do work for others. Ask questions. Answer others’ questions.

Don’t expect your followers and fans to fall on your feet even if you do all of the above, though. Learn to wade through social media without expectations while doing what you ought to do and you might just end up being an invaluable part of your network.

Give Your Assistance, Support, Service

Pledge your lifetime support to old, new, and potential clients. Support vendors, friends, and acquaintances. If you dare, go ahead and support your competition too. Take positive stands, rally others’ opinions, contribute your thoughts on a pressing issue, or maybe just share thoughts you agree with.

Service doesn’t mean giving money – you are just letting the world know you have the gumption, guts, and balance to support a good cause, thought, or movement.

None of these points come out of a Social Media Blue Book: They are based on experience and “trial and error,” accompanied by years of success, frustration, learning, and embarrassment all rolled into one.

How do you hustle your social media networks? What clicks for you? Are you the centrepiece of your network?

Rohan Ayyar

Rohan is a serial blogger and digital strategy consultant at E2M Solutions. He also helps startups develop remarkable user experiences at Only Design. You can follow him @searchrook on Twitter.

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