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Answers to Your Online Networking Questions
August 2009

Last month I asked you to submit your questions regarding social media and networking. Thanks to those of you who responded. I have compiled a variety of those questions into this month's column. Please continue to submit your questions and topic ideas and I will be sure to address them in future issues of Career Zone.

How do I use social networking to connect specifically with other Drexel alums?

There are many ways in which you can utilize social networking to connect with other Drexel alumni. Drexel has multiple forums already established to encourage communication and networking between alumni.

Currently, alumni can join Drexel's official Facebook sites for The Alumni Association, The Community Alumni Network at Drexel University (CAN DU), The University City 5K Run and The Young Alumni Association. There, they can share ideas with one another, ask questions about upcoming Alumni Association events and programs, or simply reconnect with old friends and classmates.

inCircle is an online networking tool similar to Facebook, however inCircle is exclusive to Drexel alumni. Alumni can network on inCircle with friends and classmates, post blogs, as well as view job opportunities posted by other Drexel graduates. On inCircle, alumni can set up groups based on location or special interest. Groups are communities built around a club, industry, organization, location or simply an interest. Joining or creating a group on inCircle is a great way to find and connect to other Drexel alumni with similar interests.

Alumni can search the Online Alumni Directory for friends, post and view class notes, and register for permanent e-mail forwarding. This exclusive membership is complimentary to alumni.

More information on these services is available on the Drexel Alumni site by clicking on the 'Alumni Network' tab above.

There are also many user generated and 'unofficial' Drexel Alumni group pages on many social networking sites so just do a group or topic search and you can connect with other alumni there as well.

How can I leverage LinkedIn, or similar tools, to build my network?

In the May 2009 issue of Career Zone, I wrote about the basics of networking and how to begin to develop your personal network. Utilizing tools such as LinkedIn to build your network will take time and energy depending on your goals. Some people want to grow their networks in order to find a new job or advance in their current profession, others to bring in new business opportunities. No matter what your goals, here are a few ways to help grow your network of connections.

On most social networking sites, users have the ability to import their contacts from Outlook, Gmail, Yahoo mail, etc. Doing so is the first step in building your network. With LinkedIn, increasing your contacts only increases your opportunity to connect with your 2nd, 3rd, 4th degree connections. Once you have your connections established, look at who they know.

Conduct a search: Depending on your goals and objectives, your search criteria will vary. If you are looking for a job, identify the top companies in your field and use a focused approach to connecting and contacting people that work at those organizations.

Participate in groups: Many of the social networking sites offer groups for their members. Joining and participating in these forums will give you the opportunity to interact with others who are not directly connected to you but have similar interests.

Use search engines: Search through Google, Bing, pipl, and other search tools to find people in your top company list. Follow their blogs and posts. You may be able to find their contact information and connect with them directly.

Give and get recommendations: Use the recommendation feature of LinkedIn. Have clients and co-workers post recommendations about your work or business which future employers and clients can view to get to know you.

Be a matchmaker: One of the best ways to grow your network is to be generous with yours. Make introductions between people in your networks. Both Facebook and LinkedIn offer the ability to introduce people. Add a personal note as to why you are making the introduction. Being thoughtful to others will come back to help you.

If I find someone I want to connect with, but we have never met before, is it okay to introduce myself and explain why I want to connect?

Yes. It is acceptable to introduce yourself to someone you have never met before, but before you do there are a few things you should consider.

Do you have any mutual connections who can introduce you? If the answer is yes, ask your mutual connection to make the introduction. Referrals go a long way and it will help get your foot in the door faster.

Are you sending this person a canned request? You do not want to appear to be a connection spammer. Be specific when sending someone a social networking invitation or contacting them blindly. Explain how you know the person, or why you are requesting a connection with them. For example, if you see another Drexel graduate on Facebook that you want to connect with, don't just click on the ‘request friend’ button. Send them a message with the request that mentions that you are both Drexel alumni and the specific reason why you would like to connect.

How do you “manage” your network on social networking sites? You can’t just have a profile and expect people to find you, right? How do you actively put information about yourself out there and establish a presence?

First you need to decide which social networks best meet your needs. Are you looking to connect with old friends, establish your professional knowledge or search for a new job? Whatever your goal, there is a social network that will fit your needs. Creating a profile and then doing nothing will not help you increase your network. You must put time and energy into developing the right online presence to meet your individual needs. There are many applications that can help you keep control over your social network activity.

Digsby is a desktop IM, e-mail and social media aggregation application that brings together Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and LinkedIn, as well as multiple e-mail and IM programs.

Flock is a social media web browser gives you quick views of your friends' activity on 20 popular social media site. It allows drag-and-drop media sharing and has a built-in RSS reader to track buzz around your personal brand.

FriendFeed is a social network built around aggregating social networks and has you create a view of all your online activity and lets you see and comment on all your friends' online activity.

iGoogle and PageFlakes offer personalized home pages that let you add Gadgets and/or widgets for various social networks to get an overview of recent activity.

Minggl is a browser plug-in for Internet Explorer and Firefox that gives you a toolbar and a sidebar to keep track of contacts, link up your profiles, send cross-platform messages and do mass status updates.

Ping.fm is a status blaster tool that lets you update multiple social networks via text message, IM, e-mail and other mobile and desktop applications.

Tweetdeck is a desktop dashboard to help you manage Twitter and Facebook updates, and allows you to set up filters and friend groups to help manage a large network

There are people that have thousands of connections, but are those people really true connections in the sense that they can lead to other opportunities? This is like going to a networking event and handing your business card out to everyone there? Is there such a thing as having too many connections?

There are people who are very well connected and know how to manage and work with their large networks and then there are ‘connection spammers’ or ‘card collectors’ who add people just to see their numbers grow higher and never add to the value of their networks.

Networking is only effective to the extent that you can develop and build your relationships with people. That means that you are in contact with them and you follow up. It does not mean collecting a stack of cards or online connections and never communicating with them again. If you are effective in your follow up with people and build meaningful relationships you will have a successful network.

If you are connected with someone that has thousands of people in their network, chances are, they may not really know the person, remember where they met the person or have had contact with that person in a long time. I would not assume that this person may be able to make a very warm introduction for you, but they may still be able to help you get your foot in the door.

Do you need to be strategic in some way about who you invite into your networks?

You should be strategic in which social networking sites you participate in and whom you invite into your networks on each site. I establish boundaries between the two social networking sites. Typically, when a professional contact requests to be in my network on Facebook, I immediately go to LinkedIn and send a connection request to them letting them know that my professional networking site of choice is LinkedIn and that I use Facebook for close friends and family. This seems to have worked well for me.

Should you be on every single site or just have a presence on a few?

It is best to figure out your networking goals and be strategic in your online presence. Networking takes time and you should have a thought out approach to which sites best meet your needs. This may mean trying out a few different sites and deciding if they work or do not work. 

How do I use Facebook and other sites that are traditionally for social networking for professional networking?

One of the best ways to find a job is through your personal network. There are a variety of ways that you can approach your job search via Facebook. The easiest way to reach out to your Facebook network is to update your status. One Drexel Alumni who was looking for work wrote in about her use of social networking sites. “I posted messages for help on Facebook saying things like, ‘Does anyone have contacts in the healthcare marketing field?’ I also sent several messages and posted notes on Linked In letting people I’m connected with know that I am job searching.”

My brother, who is looking to bring in new business to his consulting firm, recently sent out an e-mail on Facebook asking friends and family to help introduce him to his target audience. His e-mail included information on what he did for a living, the types of people he was looking to meet and a sample e-mail that his friends and family could use to forward on to their contacts on his behalf. It is too early to determine the success of his first networking campaign but I am confident that he will be successful in expanding his networking and bringing in new business opportunities.

One innovative way to use Facebook to your advantage is through its ad network. You can create a targeted ad campaign via Facebook to drive traffic to an online version of your resume. Figure out which companies you want to target and then, all you need is a professional photo of yourself, a catchy heading and a sentence or two about what you want. It is not expensive and very easy to set up. Here is a sample I created:

Facebook Ad

I hope this Career Zone Q&A addressed a variety of your social networking questions. You now have a number of new tools and sites to explore and figure out if they fit into your social networking strategy.

Over the last few months Career Zone has addressed networking and social media and, next month, I will discuss the dreaded interview. I’ll talk about how to prepare for an interview, tips and tricks for success, and the answers you need in order to get the job offer! Have you ever had tough interview questions that stumped you?  If so, send them to me at alumni@drexel.edu or join our discussion on inCircle or on the Alumni Association Facebook page. I will ask a few hiring managers and recruiters to chime in on their favorite responses to each question.


alumni@drexel.edu