This blog post exists to answer the question “is there a benefit to being on a site where we’re all just sending 280 character thoughts into the black hole we call Twitter?”
The answer to that is a resounding yes!
If you want to know how to use Twitter as a place to get to know other people on a more personal and professional level (compared to “random person on the internet” level), this post is for you.
Note: Most of the following points relate to or build off of each other, but for the ease of reading have been separated into the main ideas I want to get across.
What is a professional network?#
Before we get started, let’s discuss what a network is. A professional network is made up by the people you know who you could reach out to for career-related advice and guidance, and even for leads when job searching. If you need something that your current workplace isn’t providing or can’t provide, that’s what your network is for.
But remember, relationships are a two-way street, meaning there’s a give along with a take. Authentic relationships, where you respect people, appreciate them, and offer back what you have to give, will take you infinitely further than relationships where you’re interested only in taking advantage of what someone has to give.
Why Networking Matters#
You may or may not have been given or heard much advice around professional networking and its importance, especially given the emphasis often put on solidifying technical skills when trying to find a job. But no matter how great your skills are, or how many hours you’ve put into studying interview preparation books, or what you’ve done to pump up your resume, perhaps you’ve noticed that applying to jobs through online applications doesn’t tend to have a great return value. Even with the right skills and background, resume vetting systems are simply flawed and not the best bet at getting to an interview. I once received a rejection email six months after applying; ain’t no one got time for that.
Having a network makes it possible to find jobs without just yeeting resumes into the void.
Beyond having help when job searching, a network is a really fantastic place to find mentors and advice, as well as generally increase your awareness of jobs, pay, opportunities, etc outside of your specific workplace.
So let’s discuss how Twitter can help you form these types of relationships.
How to Create a Network on Twitter
1. Create an online presence.#
To make meaningful connections with people online, you’ll need some minimum of human-ness tied to your online accounts. You don’t have to share everything about yourself- full name, workplace, selfies- to make meaningful connections, but you do need to help others understand who you are as a person. Even if it’s anonymously or pseudo-anonymously, it’s important to have your personality shine through in a way that allows people to feel some sort of connection.
An online presence can be created through active accounts, content creation (website, blog posts, videos, podcasts), streaming, or any mix of the former.
2. Create content.#
Show off what you know. Help people get a feel for your areas of expertise and interest.
- a website
- blog posts
- twitter threads
- memes (yes, for real)
You don’t have to stick with what you already know; introductory posts about something you recently learned, or even a post about how you stepped through learning a new skill or completed a project is often very well received. People love to learn alongside others and see how you like to learn. It also shows how you ingest new knowledge and how you’re able to convey it.
3. Interact with others.#
You can do this in multiple ways:
- Create conversations, ask questions, and share content that you made or that you found helpful
- Contribute to threads, ask questions, provide answers and experience, and quote tweet to extend discussions
- Attend virtual conferences; the benefit of this is getting people familiar with your handle (especially if it’s consistent across Twitter, Discord, Twitch, etc). When you do, be sure to use the conference’s hashtag. While I’m not usually a big fan of hashtags, they’re definitely useful for engaging in virtual cons.
- Watch and comment in Twitch streams
- Utilize hashtags, such as #CyberMentoringMonday or #WeHackHealth, depending on your interests. Having some you can use to engage with the community is helpful, especially when you’re first trying to meet people.
- When you read someone’s blog post, listen to someone’s podcast, or watch someone’s video: share the content, tag the creator, and let them know what you thought
- Direct message (DM), with the following in mind:
- How well you know the person. Have you already interacted in tweets? Is there a chance they may not feel like you know each other well enough?
- If the person offers advice/mentoring/networking/etc. If they actively promote any of those, or outright state that they’re happy to talk to people about x, y, or x, that’s likely a green light.
- Don’t just messsage someone “hi”. Write out a full message, with proper spelling and grammar. Include an introduction, and thank the person for their time. If you haven’t spoken before, this will show them that you take their time seriously.
4. Meet people irl (in real life).#
Go to conferences, events, meet-ups- get to know people offline!
- Make a name for yourself
Help people understand who you are.
- Create content
Help others understand your interests and expertise. If you’re looking for a new job as a network engineer and others have seen you post network-related content that you created, they’ll have an idea of what you know in addition to having already seen your interest in the subject.
- Interact with others
Start converstaions, contribute to discussions, DM people you’ve established a relationship with and want to get to know better.
- Be respectful and mindful
While I’m an advocate of reaching out to people who have inspired you or who you’d like to learn from, many people directly share their interest and availability to help people through DMs. Most people will let you know whether or not their DMs are open for conversation. And sometimes people’s DMs are open but, for any reason, may not always see or respond to all their messages. Be cognizant of this, and don’t berate people if you don’t get a response.
I hope you found this helpful, and good luck building your network! It won’t happen overnight, but with some intention and patience you’ll realize soon enough that you’ve met some really awesome people who would love to help you. And hopefully, you’ll want to help others as well!