03/20/2012 05:52 pm ET Updated May 20, 2012

Social Media: 4 Strategies for Growing Your Online Network

According to Pam Dryer in her article "How Women Use Social Media," 53 percent of American women regularly use social media. 75 percent of them use it to connect with friends and family, 57 percent use it for fun and entertainment, and 52 percent use it to "connect with others like me."

Maybe you're in that last 52 percent looking for like-minded women. If not, you're probably in a large minority regularly surfing Facebook, uploading photos and commenting on your friends' and family's status updates. But beyond that, you haven't tapped into the huge potential for social media to grow your business, extend your professional network or find new people who think and live like you do.

"Social media networking is powerful and so new to the marketplace," said Dabney Porte, co-founder of Social media Girlfriends Productions, LLC. "None of my friends or neighbors could relate to my work and so it was easier for me to find meaningful connections and networking online with other women doing the same thing."

Porte, along with Britt Michaelian,created their company to help women and businesses build stronger online connections. They met online via Twitter and became friends and business partners. Together they have helped thousands of women connect by virally sharing videos and positive messages that help promote community andresource-sharingto help one another.

For the last two years, I have successfully utilized social media to find members for my Iron Moms Triathlon team on Facebook and Twitter. After asking all of my friends and family -- with no takers -- it was much easier for me to seek interested team members using social media. The best part of this process has been the new friendships that I formed with other individuals interested in the exact same things as me.If you are like me, sometimes it is exhausting to continue to ask the same group of friends to join in and participate.

Here are a few strategies that you can use to enhance your online connections:

1. Be clear about the kind of connections that you want to establish using social media. You might be interested in meeting other women working in your profession, or women interested in losing weight, or those seeking certain types of hobbies of interest to you.

2. Get in the conversation and be an active participant on your wall and page. Instead of waiting to see who is talking about what is interesting to you, lead the discussion by posting question of interest on your feed.

3. Expand your view of social media. It is hard for some of us to make the leap and accept the idea of using this resource as a resource for making friends. Try it. I've made 14 new (non-virtual) friends using social media.

4. Explore all that social media has to offer. Don't stop at Twitter and Facebook. LinkedIn, for example, is a site for professionals in a wide range of fields to find networking opportunities. And there are many more sites. There are blogs for every possible topic that interests you. Blog writers are usually happy to interact and respond to your questions and comments. And, if by chance there isn't a blog about a topic of interest to you, start your own!

And if you're new to social media or you're just looking for a place to start expanding your social media presence, give Social Media Girlfriends a look. It's a good jumping-off point and a great organization that has thought of smart ways to engage their audience and to serve women online.

Connect with the Girlfriends at,on their radio show at, on their weekly blog at or on twitter at #smgirlfriends