Social media started as an innovative way to connect digitally with your family and friends and keep them updated on your more important life happenings. But as it has evolved, its implications are more far-reaching than just sending a picture of your gourmet lunch into the black hole of the interwebs.
Social media gives the average user the opportunity not only to brand themselves, but to interact with like-minded strangers all over the globe. It's an epic networking opportunity that doesn't exist in real space. What an opportunity to connect with people you wouldn't ordinarily get to meet!
Twitter is particularly friendly towards engaging conversation with someone you don't know, because you don't have to "friend them" (which can seem creepy), and tweets are capable of being sorted into applicable categories, and thus, are very findable. To encourage networking and the exchanging of ideas, the Twitter Chat has become a popular way for users to connect and build professional (and friendly) relationships based on a common interest.
Twitter Chats exist for a wide number of groups and special interests. Most are scheduled at a particular day and time and use a specific hashtag to group tweets from participants in one place. The moderator then poses questions for the group to respond to, and that's where the magic happens. You can post your answers, and engage others in lively conversation about their responses. It's a great way to exchange ideas, observe new perspectives, and make new (digital) friends. You'll find that the number of users who you follow and who follow you will grow as you discover interesting people with whom you have something in common. This is how you build your network.
Because there are so many Twitter Chats out there, it can be difficult to find and choose a forum that works for you. My go-to is #MillennialTalk on Tuesday nights, which connects ambitious Millennials and encourages conversation about a variety of professional topics. A simple Google search for topics that interest you can give you information on a corresponding Twitter Chat. Once you find a lively Chat, jump right in! These conversations are open and meant for anyone to participate.
The biggest challenge I've faced with Twitter Chats is fitting my responses into 140 characters. The questions posted trend towards engaging and thoughtful, making it difficult to keep my answers succinct without committing every grammatical sin in the book. But I enjoy the challenge, as well as the craft of creating a comprehensive answer.
You might say that it's impossible to create meaningful networking relationships with Twitter Chats. Truthfully, you get out what you put into these forums. The more you reach out to others, the better response you receive. And the connection doesn't happen overnight. By participating in a chat each week, you become part of a community. You'll get to know the players and they'll get to know you. Twitter Chats are simply the foundation to these networking opportunities, but it's up to you to give them a real life application.
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