I find new excuses to create Excel worksheets. I lament the lost art of the cover letter and other forms of traditional business correspondence. I read books such as Peter Bowerman’s The Well-Fed Writer and Allison Hemming’s Work It!, which preach against lazy, Internet-based business practices.
Yet I have been thoroughly charmed by the Twitter phenomenon, and am an out-and-out evangelist in support of using it as a means to further your career.
I didn’t know quite what to do with Twitter until I read a post on Problogger that advised setting Twitter goals. My mind immediately grasped upon the possibilities for promoting my multiple blogs and, since then, I have (I hope) maintained that focus. (Just ignore those tweets that mention Xanax, wine, and my three cats…) It was a happy surprise when it became clear just how much Twitter could help my career in other ways.
Read on for tips on how to use Twitter to take networking from online to in-the-flesh.
1. Use Your Twitter Profile As You Would a Business Card:
Those cards I had done up at VistaPrint are so perfect. They include my name, title, phone number, e-mail address, and website URL and, best of all, they even match my site’s background! I love how they represent the brand I’ve created for myself. Your Twitter profile should operate in a similar manner. Pimp that URL of yours in the appropriate space. Craft a well-written professional description in the spot meant for your bio. Personalize the background also! It will help you stand out from the pack. And then include a link to your Twitter account on every last social networking site you belong to, and in your e-mail signature as well. (Bonus tip: If you want to go all out — and frighten friends and family! — order a T-shirt with your Twitter ID.)
2. Let Your Twitter Feed Be Your (Ongoing) Portfolio:
While I maintain a portfolio on my professional site, I often suspect that no one actually goes there. Even when I include a link in my cover letters. This makes me sad. But nothing beats the immediacy of a tweeted link! I tend to tweet the links to my latest clips, and also point my followers toward the blog posts I’m most proud of. This way, people don’t become overwhelmed by how amazingly prolific I am, or mistake me for a spammer. If this is not a worry, there are Twitter applications — such as twitterfeed — that automatically feed your post titles and links straight to Twitter. Not only will you get a nice bump in traffic from your own tweeple, but followers might find your work so gosh-darn awesome that they retweet it, placing it in front of a constantly growing number of eyes. Who knows what could happen then! I’ve actually received additional writing assignments from those impressed with my already-existing work.
3. Grow Your Twitter Network:
If you’re doing everything right — posting helpful and interesting tweets, maintaining a healthy level of back-and-forth, and seeking out other Twitter users worth following — your network will grow organically. Once you have them there, it’s time to harness their remarkable power…
4. Get the Lowdown:
…by getting the lowdown on things like professional organizations, conferences, and other events. In musing — via tweet — about the pros and cons of joining the EFA, the NWU, or Freelance Success, I received immediate feedback of others’ personal experiences with each. Being able to determine the effectiveness of real-work events and networking groups before paying an arm and a leg, based upon the firsthand experiences of others, can be invaluable.
5. Tweet Yourself Up:
…by advertising your wares. I tweet about the blog posts I’m working on. I tweet about the manuscripts I’m copy editing. I tweet about the articles I’m researching. It makes me sound way productive. Plus, it gives others an idea of where my skills and talents lie. If you happen to tweet a lot about your amazing grasp of the behavioral sciences, or of medical writing, you’ll be the first person people think of when they need a medical copywriter. Or a shrink.
6. Ask for Help:
…by sending out an SOS. It’s been known to happen. People have acquired employment by simply letting others know they were looking for work. But you can start smaller. Ask for input on that blog post you’re working on. Search for interview subjects for that next article (I use Twellow or Twitter Search). Ask all of the tens of thousands of web developers out there why that plugin didn’t work when you did the whatchamacallit to the thingamabobber. There is a world of wisdom out there, just waiting for your call.
7. And Help Others:
Is there a way to measure Twitter karma? Or is it wrong to quantify the ways in which you help others? Either way, I believe karma exists, and the more you help others, the more others are willing to help you. This can mean simply answering others’ queries, making suggestions, or offering your help when a fellow Twitter user appears in distress. Some twitterers go a step further, and create accounts meant solely for charitable purposes. Twestival — which “brings together Twitter communities for an evening of fun and to raise money and awareness for charity” — is just one example (more information can be found here). Another one I’ve recently come across is JobAngels. They define themselves as a movement, in which they ask followers to help one person find a job. Several of the people I’m following have already retweeted their request.
8. Plan a Tweetup:
All of the above has referenced the real world only indirectly, by mentioning actions you can do in the Twitterverse in order to affect your non-virtual life. For my last point, I’d like to mention Tweetups, the happy and inevitable cousin of the Meetup. Rather than waiting for an event to happen, why not plan your own meeting of the (Twitter-based) minds? You can follow tweetup to learn about happenings in your area, or just send a shout-out to your own followers, asking if anyone would be game for taking things offline. While online networking can be amazing in its influence, I often find that nothing beats a face-to-face meeting. Placing a face to a name…being able to talk at length with more than 140 characters…bonding over a glass (or five) of wine or the healing powers of a cup of coffee…all of these things can help you to develop a more concrete connection with someone you’ve only been conversing with online. In marveling over the powers of the Internet, don’t discredit the traditional tactics.