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December 13, 2010
The Changing Nature of Relationship Building
It’s become engrained in all of us that it’s vitally important to be on our best behavior in an interview or other career-related meeting. What many people don’t realize in this day and age is that managing one’s online reputation can be just as important.

Online career networks, such as Talent Zoo, got us thinking differently about the resume and how to showcase our overall talents. Things changed again with the emergence of LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks, as these channels gave us a new way to make connections, but also changed the rules of relationship building.

While many people know about these tools, few have built a concise strategy to leverage them. All too often, people assume putting up a profile constitutes effective networking. Whenever I hear that sort of description in regard to social networking, I usually reply, “When’s the last time you sought out an advertisement?” In a nutshell, effective social networking should be thought of not so much as an online replacement for a handshake, but as the best way to currently prove one’s expertise.

Before jumping into social networking in an effort to advance your career, sit down and think strategically for a bit. Ask yourself what your ultimate goal is, try to identify the types of individuals you’re hoping to reach and, most importantly, determine not only what you are hoping to get from them but how you might benefit them as well. Next, identify some specific initiatives that will move you toward this goal. These could range from setting up a blog to showcase your writing or media results to things like participating on LinkedIn for an hour day on forums frequented by entrepreneurs, marketers, attorneys, etc. Obviously, you want to pick forums that have the type of clients you’re seeking to reach.

Next, determine some tactics that will help advance your goals, be they writing two blog posts a week or following three forums on LinkedIn. As best as you can, try to stick to these goals; it’s better to set goals you can reach than to start out with “lofty” intentions, only to begin with a burst and flame out quickly.

The other important part of capitalizing on all this work is properly promoting it. As I’ve mentioned before, when it comes to any social-media effort, you want to make sure that all the elements of your effort are working in tandem with one another. So, for example, send blog headlines and URLs out to readers via Twitter. This will not only get you more readers, but long-term followers. This is actually what the long-term goal of any social-media effort should be. Quite simply, long-term followers often evolve into relationships that will pay off in one form or another.

One final piece of advice on relationship building, as it pertains to social media: Always be looking to pay it forward. This can take several forms, ranging from “retweets” to monitoring various forums on LinkedIn and connecting someone with a trusted provider who can fill a need they have. 

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Cyrus Afzali is president of Astoria Communications, a New York City-based PR consultancy serving clients in financial/professional services, technology and real estate. Before opening his PR consultancy in 2004, Afzali worked at several New York agencies managing accounts for real estate, technology and legal clients. He started his career as a journalist, working as an editor and writer for nine years at outlets ranging from small, daily newspapers to CNN Financial News.

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