We love our social networks. Twitter has 284 million monthly active users, and almost as many people use Facebook as live in the entire country of China. Whilst it’s unlikely that you’ll be communicating with everyone on these networks, there is an art to being a successful online networker and utilizing technology in your favor.

So how can you be a great networker online?

Find your purpose: think strategically about what you’ll be using your social media profiles for. Do you want to find a new job? Are you looking to expand your professional network? Jot down three goals you want to achieve and set yourself a realistic deadline.

Create the right profiles: most of us are on at least three social media channels, but are they the right ones for you? If you’re looking to change employment or connect with others in your field Twitter and LinkedIn are the best (and most professional) accounts to have.

Update your profiles to reflect your goals: once you’ve decided on your aims update your social media channels accordingly. Ensure your photo is the same on each profile page, and update your bio/headline to reflect your expertise and what you want to achieve.

Join groups: get into the community spirit and join some great networking groups. LinkedIn has lots of great, insightful groups for every industry, and I’ve found lots of really useful information just by being a member!

Take part in discussion: once you’ve joined some groups it is important that you become engaged in the discussion. Leave thoughtful comments on posts, share links to interesting articles you have read or written and make sure you always reply back to anyone who starts dialogue with you. There’s nothing more frustrating than a question being left unanswered!

Don’t be afraid to ask: ‘if you don’t ask you don’t get.’ Don’t fear asking a connection for help or advice! Focus on your first and second-degree connections to expand your network and target individuals that you really want to engage with. Make sure you think about what you want to ask your target connection beforehand, and write out an introduction that your contact can forward on.

What tips and tricks do you use to be effective at networking online? Let me know in the comments!