Why social media is really business networking

Social media is the rage. Pundits talk through mystical PowerPoint presentations lauding the incredible power of social media and business. We're all still trying to figure out how to measure results, of course, but I'll save that for the pundits to figure out.

But despite the mystery of tweets and Likes, social media has a specific, powerful use for Cubicle Warriors and for those aspiring to take control over their career: it helps you recover, maintain, and build your professional business network.

Social media helps you recover your professional network

Let's be clear: most people have not kept up with their former coworkers or colleagues. In the past, trying to find someone you used to have activities with - classmates, coworkers, clubs and organizations - was really difficult and time consuming to do.

Now it's not. Search on Facebook. DM your Twitter friends. Search on LinkedIn. And if all fails, search Google or Bing. I have. It is pretty amazing who you can now find.

If you have failed to maintain communications with your network and are ready to begin anew, social media is the place to start.

Social media helps you maintain your professional network

There are a million articles out there about how you interact with social media. And that's the point: they tell you how to interact with social media, not how to interact with people you want to communicate with on social media. Social media, you would think, is the end game. It's not. Social media in all its forms is simply a tool to communicate with people.

Before social media came along, you'd have to regularly go to all your club meetings to interact with the people you knew there. You'd have to pick up the phone and call all your friends or they drifted off into their world. You'd lose the contacts in close-by cities because it was too time consuming to keep up with them.

Not any more. Using social media, you can consistently drop "digital deposits" in the accounts of the people you are following. A quick note congratulating your colleague on their new job via LinkedIn. Commenting to your friend how much you liked the same movie on Facebook. Or retweeting something your buddy put out on Twitter. Done consistently and you are now regularly communicating with many people in far less time and effort than in the past.

Social media helps you build your professional network

People you don't know, but have similar interests to yours, can easily be added to a social media tool with a little foresight and work. Once added, the "digital deposits" build consistent contact with this new contact. Done long enough - and with professional courtesy - you can initiate an e-mail or phone call in order to help that person or have that person help you answer a question.

Because you have broken the ice with the contact, you have a better chance of building a business relationship that is meaningful to both of you.

It's not about social media

Most of the stuff out there about social media is simply noise to the person sitting in the corporate cubicle. And even though we use LinkedIn and Facebook and Twitter, we don't really think about how all those contacts are really a great way to recover, maintain and build a wonderful, professional network of friends and colleagues.

But you can. How much of a professional network do you already have from your social networks?

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