Recently, a friend of mine found out he was in need of a new job, and asked me if I had any leads. I didn’t, at least not for his area and desired position. I did have one suggestion, which was to get on Twitter. His response, “Thanks, I hadn’t thought of that!”
That got me thinking, how many other folks hadn’t thought of that? How many other people haven’t realized the power of social media as a tool for professional networking, mentoring others, and the occasional tech support? And, what’s an effective way to let people know?
Here’s my Big Idea: start talking (more) about social media in your local or regional user groups. If you’re a VMware User Group (VMUG) leader, start talking about it to your group members. Make an announcement or build a quick presentation. Maybe you’re someone who knows a VMUG leader that isn’t connected in social media, so, inform them of the benefits. Grassroots organizations have proved their effectiveness at communicating at an individual level time and again. It’s inexpensive, and has a higher rate of success in delivering message to its intended audience.
If you’re a VMUG leader, consider creating a VMUG hashtag, and promote it in your VMUG. This will help to get folks connected to each other outside of that day’s VMUG. You may also want to point out some other group members that are on Twitter, and those within the community at large that others might consider following. Bring social media to the forefront of your groups whenever possible, not just Twitter, but solid technical podcasts & video chats. The VMware community is absolutely overflowing with great, intelligent folks that produce informative media on a regular basis.
Getting Started with Twitter
You or someone you know may be wondering — “What’s the best way to get started on Twitter? How do I find people in my field of expertise?” When I first joined Twitter, I started following folks I’d heard on podcasts, or authors of books I’d read, etc. Pay attention to who they’re following, and who they talk to. Read their Twitter bios, take a look at their tweet timeline — if it looks interesting to you, then follow them. If you’re following an author or blogger, reach out to them. Nothing’s better than hearing a quick “thanks for writing, it helped me out in this way”, etc.
Just as with anything else, there are a few simple guidelines to keep in mind while using Twitter. These aren’t set in stone, but I’d recommend them to someone who is new to Twitter.
Follow Friday (#FF)
Follow Friday is a tradition on Twitter to let folks know who you feel they should be following. This can be anyone you want — someone with a low follower count, a friend, or someone whom you admire professionally. Although Follow Friday is a sometimes maligned tradition, it can be useful to find more folks to follow, which in turn can improve your professional social network.
If you retweet someone else’s tweet, use your Twitter client’s Retweet button, Quote button, or prepend the tweet with ‘RT’. This lets others know that you’re tweeting it forward, and not claiming it as your own. When retweeting, it’s OK to shorten the tweet as needed to fit within the 140 character limit. Just don’t misquote or change the nature of the tweet from the original’s intent.
Bios & avatars
Some folks consider a Twitter bio an absolute necessity before they follow someone or follow them back. Fill yours out as you feel comfortable; it can help folks get an understanding of your goals on Twitter — be they professional networking, finding more friends in your area, etc. Better yet, set a recent picture as your avatar, based on your comfort level. When I first started getting involved, I made it a point to attach my face to my tweets, and I took the pic as I look today, not back when I was younger or had more hair. 🙂 I thought it was great when folks who I hadn’t met in person came up and introduced themselves based on recognizing my face.
Vendor presences & twitpisses
The VMware community on Twitter is full of folks that work for specific vendors. Many times these folks started out as VMware administrators, and over time have moved to work for a vendor (such as VMware, EMC, NetApp, etc.), or work for a value added reseller or systems integrator. If you work for a vendor, you might consider putting who you work for in your bio, especially if your tweets promote your employer. Keep it honest and aboveboard.
A twitpiss is a disagreement that usually breaks out between folks who work for competing vendors, or even between folks who sit on the customer side of the table. If you work for a vendor, please keep your customers in mind. It doesn’t benefit you, your customers, or your competition to get involved in FUD slinging or arguments. If you have a disagreement, take it out of the public tweetstream — use direct messaging or email. Vendor arguments rarely benefit anyone and only lead to polarization within the community. Everyone has a right to their own opinions, and some folks feel stronger about certain things than others, but arguing and insulting people personally benefit no one. Take the high road at all times.
Additional social networking tools
There’s a number of additional social networking tools available for the professional looking to increase his or her professional social network. Some folks use Facebook, although if I had to guess, there’s less professional networking done on Facebook. It is usually reserved for closer friends and family. That’s not to say there’s a benefit to using it in your social media toolbox, but each platform has it pros & cons.
Another great social tool is FourSquare. It can be especially useful during conferences, or other large social gatherings. It can help you meet folks you might not have otherwise had an opportunity. FourSquare is also great for groups of local friends, as it’s an easy way of letting folks know where you are.
Most twitter clients these days have direct integration with photo and video services, allowing you to quickly publish rich media in your tweetstream. Some social media platforms such as Instagram have taken that idea a step further and added cool image editing features.
Remember the “Golden Rule”?
Last but not least, always keep your professional image & personal moral values in mind. Help out folks who have questions if you have time. Add more value to the community than what the community currently provides to you. Treat others the way you want to be treated. 🙂