The advent of social media has helped to introduce the concept of ‘social media for professional networking’. Slowly, ‘in-person’ networking is being overpowered by simply connecting to social networking sites. It’s all part of the phenomenon of social media that engages tens of millions of internet users per day. In today’s ‘networking space’, it is thus important to know how to use social media for your professional networking. Here are 5 ways to help you do this. Start With Connection Sites Use connection sites like LinkedIn or Xing to look for quality contacts or high-level networkers (HLN) to network with. A quality contact or HLN, according to Entrepreneur.com, are people who are active online, have at least 500 connections and powerful profiles. You should make sure the HLNs you choose to network with are decision makers, executives, media, influencers etc. who are relevant to your field. Don’t let the fact that you don’t know these people hold you back, simply be transparent when sending them a request or invite and let them know why you would like to connect with them. Try to make the request or invite more about how you can help them and not how they can help you. The more of these people you successfully connect with, the more your visibility increases and the better for you. Increased visibility puts you and your work or brand out there, and this can be especially useful when seeking job opportunities because when head-hunters browse through LinkedIn profiles looking for suitable candidates to fill business positions, you’ll be more visible to them. Target Market Connections (TME) There are two types of people who market online – posters and seekers. You are a poster when you actively post valuable information, resources, tips and offers. Posters are mostly businesses, firms or companies. Seekers are mostly consumers, actively seeking for products and services. TMCs are mostly used by posters. Posters aim their products and services at these TMCs (groups of seekers actively sourcing for information about products and services). A keyword search on social sites will take you to the groups and discussion areas of these TMCs. You can then join in the groups and discussions where your target market is active and engage with them. Joining these groups and discussions can also give you information on places your target market goes when looking for something in your industry. Groups, Communities And Discussion Areas There are community areas on most social networking sites for people who have the same interests to gather and connect. You can join and monitor these groups, communities or discussion areas, be active there and engage in their conversations with thoughtful and relevant questions and contributions. This helps you establish a relationship with members in the group and thus expand your professional network by exposing you to and giving you a chance to connect with the right people. When members of your group are familiar with you, they will be more willing to connect with you. Groups, communities and discussions areas can also give you information on relevant events happening in your field that can present an opportunity for in-person networking, or present a platform to showcase your talents or whatever it is you have to offer. Blogs And Fan Pages Blogs and fan pages are two of the best ways to engage with your target market, especially if you are a poster (business, firm or company). You can connect or partner with relevant blogs in your field, create your own blog, create and launch a Facebook fan page or Twitter Profile or do all of these together to reach out to fans and enthusiasts in your field. Once you are able to connect with them through your information, resources, tips and offers, and they like they what they see, you can through this, build a loyal following. Consequently, these loyal followers will be happy to tell their families, friends and peers about you, and your word-of-mouth will grow. Share Your Content Whether you are a poster or seeker, it is important to share your professional content or achievements on your social media profiles so your connections, followers or friends can see your professional achievements. If you have a blog or one you contribute to, share your post and links to your post on your social media profile. If you are an artiste and have written or sang songs, made dance videos etc., share them on your profile. By doing this, you increase your visibility in your field especially when your connections or friends or followers re-share your content. Increasing your visibility helps you to make new social network connections, and thus expands your professional network.