How to Use Twitter for Professional Networking -- Five Tested Techniques

When I talk about professional networking most people are thinking of traditional business networking sites like LinkedIn, but Twitter can also be surprisingly effective to find and engage with people in your business. Twitter also has the advantage of speed: relationship building that can take months on LinkedIn happens much faster on Twitter simply because of the speed of the medium.  Maybe you tried Twitter already and were disappointed, perhaps seeing just automated advertising bots and people who tweet daily trivia. But there are some very interesting people tweeting some very interesting things; the trick is just to find them. Here, then, are five tried and tested techniques for developing your professional networking on Twitter.

1. FIND RELEVANT PEOPLE BY SEARCHING. Start by twitter searching for keywords related to your business. This will return all the recent tweets on the topic. Scan these tweets and when you see an interesting tweet look at the user's profile and if their other tweets are interesting follow them. Look also at the People Results on the right, too, because sometimes you find interesting tweeters there. Repeat this step at different times and on different days because nobody tweets 24/7.

2. FOLLOW THE NEWS UPSTREAM. Often you will see that the good information from the people you follow is actually retweeted from someone else. Follow these retweets back to the original source because the source that was retweeted was probably even more interesting; they are closer to the original news and interesting enough to be retweeted. Sometimes the retweeter in the middle is an aggregator who adds value by bringing together multiple sources so stay following them, too; tomorrow they may find another good source you don't know.

3.  SEE WHO THE FOLLOWS FOLLOW.  Once you have found a good source of information who is regularly retweeted look at their list of follows to see who they are following. Generally good sources on Twitter follow other good sources, so this is a great way to broaden your list of good follows very easily. Some experts also maintain Twitter lists which can be a great resource for finding information. You can follow an entire list so you get all the information without having to follow individually all the users, but it is better to actually follow the best so they can see you are interested.

4.  FIND TWITTER ACCOUNTS FOR PEOPLE YOU KNOW OF.  If there are specific people in your business you would like to follow then find their Twitter account. If they are celebrities or their name is unusual it may be enough to do a Twitter search. In other cases try looking at their profiles on other sites -- LinkedIn, Quora, Zerply etc -- where they may have listed all of their accounts, including Twitter. Consider also tweeting a question about someones' twittername.

5.  FOLLOW, UNDERSTAND, ENGAGE.  Once you have found some good follows first of all just follow them, listening to what they say. This is useful to understand what topics interest them and how they like to engage with others. After listening for a while you can try to engage people. A good way to start is to wait until someone asks a question where you know the answer. Otherwise make contributions to the conversation that add value.  If you'd like to know more about how the basics of networking check out also Three Keys to Networking.

Just one warning about choosing good sources: when you look at the profile page of a possibly interesting source look to see if there are signs of conversations with other users. If there are none then it is maybe just an automatic tweetbot that just spits out advertising 24/7. Following these bots is a waste of time and most of the time they are just followed by other bots.

Through Twitter you can find in 30 minutes people that would take hours to find just by Googling. And because of the informality of the medium you can also engage with people you might not feel confident to approach through other channels. Twitter is maybe best known for trivia, but in reality it is a very powerful tool for networking. 

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