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HOW TO BUILD YOUR ONLINE SOCIAL NETWORK QUICKLY AND ETHICALLY

ATTENTION: Join us on 5/30/2013 for a FREE live webinar on Turning Likes Into Sales.

Whether you’re using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or any one of the many social media sites, building your contacts is an important aspect of your online networking.

As your personal and professional network grows, so do your reach, your influence, and your opportunities. But as I recently wrote in 7 Social Media Truths You Can Ignore and Still Be Successful, quality trumps quantity when it comes to connections. That’s why it helps to seed your network with people with whom you are already connected IRL. (In real life.)

Luckily, all of the popular online networking platforms have tools to make it easy to quickly and ethically build your network.

Import your current network.

Did you know that you can quickly find out if any of your current contacts are already on your favorite social network?

Assuming that you already have a database of your contacts, you can import that list into Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. Your database may be in Outlook, or a CRM (customer relationship management) platform like Highrise, or even in a simple Excel spreadsheet.

How to build your LinkedIn network

LinkedIn allows you to upload a CSV (comma separated value) file of your contacts. CSV is a common format, and you should be able to export your contacts from any CRM or Excel file into .csv.

At LinkedIn you can choose Contacts > Add Connections. There’s a link there that allows you to import your “desktop email contacts.”

Once you’ve shared your contacts you’ll see whether they’re on LinkedIn or not. I don’t recommend “inviting all” to LinkedIn, but rather looking through the contacts already on LinkedIn and requesting a connection from them. (Note: you don’t have to connect with every contact on LinkedIn. Feel free to pick and choose.)

How to build your Facebook network

Facebook allows you to upload a .csv file or share your Gmail contacts, assuming you have a Gmail account.

Since Facebook changes more often than Lady Gaga at an MTV music award show, I’m hesitant to say exactly how to find this page, but currently it’s at http://www.facebook.com/?sk=ff

Like LinkedIn, you’ll have the opportunity to send invites to everyone who’s already on Facebook, or choose from that list, or invite everyone in your database to join you on Facebook. (Again, not recommended.)

How to build your Twitter network

On Twitter, you’ll want to choose “Find People” in the top navigation, then “Find Friends” on the following page. Twitter will let you import your Gmail, Yahoo or AOL contacts, but won’t let you upload a .csv file, which is unfortunate. Especially since lately I’ve found the Gmail import to be flaky. Hopefully you’ll have better luck.

If you don’t have your contacts on one of these three webmail platforms, you can always set up a free account and import your contacts from your favorite CRM to Gmail, Yahoo or AOL, then import them into Twitter.

Personalizing Your Invitations

The downside of sending mass invitations on Facebook and LinkedIn is the generic invites it generates; “So-and-so would like to be your friend on Facebook,” and “I would like to add you to my network on LinkedIn” is about as customized as it gets.

If you’re not inviting too many people at once, it might be best to invite people one at a time, and send them personalized messages. “It was great meeting you at the Lunch-and-Learn the other day; I thought I’d reach out to you on LinkedIn and try and connect here,” or “I’ve finally forgiven you for dating my sister in high school, so I was hoping we could be Facebook friends,” remind people of their connection to you and hopefully convince them to accept your invitation.

If you do decide to personalize your invitations you still start by importing your contact list. When you find your contacts you’d like to connect with, just right-click them to open them in a new tab or window, and then send them personalized messages one at a time.

On Twitter, you can’t send someone a personal, private message unless they’re already following you, and asking someone to follow you publically has the reek of desperation. However, by including their handle in a tweet, you can start a conversation that may lead to them following you. “Hey, @denisewakeman, loved your post on driving traffic to your blog!” Of course, it’s always a good idea if you’re following them first.

In Conclusion

There is, of course, a lot more to building your online network than just importing your offline network. After this initial push you should slowly, organically build your online network over time. Try too hard and too fast to grow your network and you’ll come off like a spammer.

Even more important, you should invest in your network by continually adding value to it. That may mean connecting people, providing quality links, sharing articles and videos, or whatever your network would find helpful.

If you’d like help and strategies on building your professional network online, please contact flyte today.

–Rich Brooks
President, flyte new media

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