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At first, I wasn't sure if all this time spent on Twitter chats was useful, but here's what I realized: the more I participated in online discussions, the more recognized and respected I became in that particular community. And after some consistent and helpful commentary, the community started asking me for my help and guidance both on- and offline. Here are a few things to think about when becoming part of an online community
1. Remember that social media can be the great equalizer. On Wednesday you may be a driver of #BizForum and on Fridays be more of a listener in #Blog101. In any given situation, for a given topic, you may be a leader, a peer or a follower. These roles need not last forever. As you hone in on certain topics you?ll become a more knowledgeable and skilled participant.
2. As you become a regular in a Twittter Chat, keep track of who the other regulars are as well. Pick a few people you?d like to get to know better. Spend some time researching them by looking at their website and other resources like Facebook and Google.
3. Think about each new person and what you might connect with them about. Consider your own relative relationship to them: are you their peer? Are they someone you aspire to be like? Like any traditional type of social order we have people we'd like to meet (often experts in a field), people who'd like to meet us (they think you're an expert in a field), and people who we feel are true peers (you're equals in a field).
4. Follow people that you think have interesting things to say. Direct questions at them and develop a rapport so that they will follow you back. This is the key to relationship building on Twitter. Once you follow each other, you can start having private direct messaging (DM) conversations. These one-on-one discussions, which evolved out of the group, are where you can really begin to take online relationships and networks offline.
5. Be human. Talk to people online like you are talking to someone at a party. Ask questions about their work and show interest in what they do. As your interaction grows, include how your story is pertinent to them. Be intriguing and invested. If you've done your research on them this should be easy to do. If you don't get a response from people you reach out to, don't worry! Use rejection as a chance to grow and pivot your approach.
6. Once you've fostered a quality exchange anything is possible. People may reach out to contact you about potential collaboration. And you may reach out to ask for a Skype-coffee-meeting with someone on the other side of the country.
The online world is a great place to have a voice and stay informed. But it's an even more interesting world when you can develop real, living, breathing relationships with the person behind all of those bits and bytes of text. Make the most of your time online so that you can establish relationships offline. Because in most cases, offline is where the rubber truly hits the road.
Get involved. Remember that 75% of all hiring and an even larger percentage of collaborations happen through personal introductions. Be interested in other people and they will become your fiercest advocates. It is these kinds of person-to-person interaction that illustrate one of the powerful and significant ways that social media has changed the world.
A Word About Tweetups
Tweetups are organized events that purposefully create opportunities for online communities to meet offline. If you're in Boston, follow @BostonTweetUp. Founder @JoselinMane hosts fantastic gatherings that bring various Twitter chat communities together for fun and connection. Another great online-to-offline tweetup is @InnoBeer, where innovation enthusiasts meetup at local gastro pubs to network, drink beer, and have fun.
For more on how to create effective and compelling personal and career networks, read my book Carry a Paintbrush: How to Be the Artistic Director of Your Own Career.
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