I was interviewed for a newspaper story on this topic today! And I was referred to a post by Kristina Cowan called 7 Tips For Boosting Your Career Through Online Social Networks.
With a recession looming (or here already) it is more critical than ever to start build your network IMMEDIATELY. I hope things don't get any worse, but unfortunately, many Americans are going to be looking for work in the next 6-12 months. Now is the time to lay the foundation of a strong network of friends and business relationships that you can call upon if you, or someone close to you needs help.
I told the journalist that in my mind everyone should follow these three key steps.
1. Create a great profile in the online social network that you get invited to join most frequently. If you get a lot of LinkedIn invites, it is likely that your personal 'network' can be found there. If you hear from a lot of friends on Facebook that is the place for you. Kristina covered this topic extremely well in her blog.
2. Online networking is still networking. The old saying is that 'you must give to get'. What that means in online communities is you should help people out, answer their questions, connect people looking for jobs with opportunities you know about, participate in groups on the social networks. Find things that interest you or groups focused on areas that you have a lot of knowledge about. Participate actively and volunteer for any possible organization roles.
3. The final step is to Build your personal brand online. Develop a blog or website focused on your unique area of business expertise or a personal passion area. A blog on Blogger.com or WordPress.com is free! And, these blogs can be formatted to look like a website, updates take minutes to do and are as easy as sending an email. By making 3-4 posts a week you'll quickly develop a following and Google and the other search engines will start showing your posts in the search results. Link to other popular bloggers who cover the same subject matter as you and comment on their blogs to develop your link to the online community.
Good luck building your online presence. I hope you won't need to fall back on your network, but if you need it in 6 months, you'll be happy you started today, instead of the day after a layoff.
Hat tip to Sonia Meisenheimer