There are a series of practical guidelines for executives, freelancers and professionals in any sector to learn to manage their social networks, take advantage of them to network and interact with other professionals in the sector in a fruitful way. According to Antoni Porras, author of the book Networking para to-dos, “if we want to create our Networking Plan it is vital to have well-defined guidelines and strategically manage contacts and information to increase our personal branding and virtual reputation.” These are the keys to good management of online networks.

Steps to follow:

1. Define which networks to use: Many types of networks coexist today. The most popular and generalists with a more social focus – Facebook (we can use this network for both leisure and professional purposes), Twitter and the professionals LinkedIn, Xing or Video. The most convenient thing is to be present in several of them according to our target and our location or market. Thus, connecting with our clients (also with potential ones), suppliers and collaborators in a segmented way.

2. Join vertical networks: These networks are those aimed at specific topics in our sector, location or interest. For example, MySpace focused on the music industry mainly, on language students or exclusive private networks such as AsmallWorld. Find yours or create your own. There are very powerful tools at low cost. A good strategy must combine both types of network: general and vertical. The latter are the most important trend after the explosion of virtual networking (on-line).

3. Use keywords: It is convenient to create a list of keywords that are related to you, your interests or your business. Called keywords, very descriptive that perfectly and synthetically define your activity and interests. So, when someone enters that field in a search engine, you appear well positioned. Make a list in writing, this will catalyze your business, goals or purposes.

4. Spend time: Building a valuable network takes time, especially at the beginning. You must set a method and certain times to manage your contacts, establish guidelines and comply with them. Allocate a few hours a day or a week to update the content and information of your profile, thus improving your digital image. Take advantage of the tools since today in the network everything is connected, from social networks to web pages or blogs, which allows linking different profiles and our on-line information. This helps us optimize our management time.

5. Keep in touch: Although it may seem obvious, two-way communication is very important. A simple “thank you” after receiving a message generates sympathy and offers the recipient a degree of commitment on our part. Virtuality allows us to easily track our contacts, locally, nationally and internationally, there are no distances. You have to generate community, strengthening and enhancing relationships.

6. Reconnect: Think of old contacts and reconnect them. Friends from school, university, coworkers, hobbies or leisure activities (gym, music,). You will be surprised by the number of links that can be recovered, generating synergies and providing us with benefits that we could not imagine. Make a list and look for them, you will surely be surprised on more than one occasion.

7. Connect with strangers: Locate the active players in your sector even if you don’t know them. Get in contact with people who can be a catalyst for your business, idea or project. There are key profiles called connectors.

8. Create your own group or fan page: This will allow you to share, with contacts that are related to content, information on services or products and promotions. Contribute visual material (photos and videos) and data related to your activity increasing your credibility and visibility. It provides current and quality content, with relevant company and sector information.

9. Choose good photographs: Another seemingly trivial detail, but that generates confidence in the rest of users, is to place a suitable photograph on our profile. It is advisable in professional networks to post a current photo and if possible, it is related to our activity. Generalist networks lend themselves to more informality, but we have to be aware that they are still our letter of introduction.

10. Use common sense: Having a digital identity can be a good resource to promote yourself online, but you have to be smart and use common sense. Many people have lost jobs or clients because of comments, private details, or inappropriate photos. With privacy you must be cautious.

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