Article for the MPISCC Intercom

Planners and suppliers can benefit from social networking, just as you can benefit from networking at face to face events. Like face to face networking, social media is best used as conversation, not direct selling. LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are three of the most commonly used platforms. I will be bringing you a series of educational articles on each of these applications. Let’s start with LinkedIn! Whether you are just getting started, or you have 500+ connections, review the steps here to make sure you are getting the most out of LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is the preferred professional network. The one thing I like most about LinkedIn is the ability to stay in touch with friends and colleagues. If you are only using your rolodex, half of those business cards are most likely obsolete.
Complete your profile. Your profile is your online resume which contains valuable information for either recruiters or potential clients. People do business with people they like! Make sure your expertise shines on their screens. Consider hiring a resume writer to make your accomplishments stand out. Don’t forget to ask for recommendations from people you have worked with or for.
Build your network. The more people you are connected to, the more valuable you become. First, connect with everyone who has already sent you an invitation to connect.  Every time I go to a networking event, I send connection invitations to everyone who gave me a business card. Note: many of you are afraid to connect to your competitors, but you never know when they might refer business to you that they can't accommodate. Savvy planners understand the value of a large network. You never know when you might need to find a vendor on the fly.
LinkedIn has expanded the functionality of Company pages. If you are a business owner, you should complete your company page so that all of your employees are connected and you are listing the products or services that you provide. If you are searching for someone at a particular company, it is easy to see who you are connected to at any given company. Don’t forget, the larger your network, the more people you can see. Use the Service Providers Directory when you are looking for a supplier.
Build your professional reputation by engaging your network. Update your status. Talk about a current project, useful information, "like", comment, or share updates from your connections. Even if you only log-in once a day, scan your network’s activity so that you can reach out to your friends in the industry. Join groups and interact with people in your industry that you have never met in person. Don't advertise your business; simply answer questions when you have insight. You can also do this on LinkedIn Answers.
Connect your professional friends to each other when you see a mutually beneficial relationship. LinkedIn is an excellent way to refer your professional contacts to each other. If someone asks me if I know a good caterer, I can do a search to see who I am connected to and forward their profile to the person who is looking. This way, they can view the caterer’s experience, skills, recommendations and even click over to their Web Site, blog, or twitter account to research them before hiring them. I have my professional network with me at all times, without having to search through my business cards.
Expand your network across the country and around the world in the hospitality and events industry. Join a few groups and join in the discussions. If you are getting too many e-mails from the groups you have joined, change your settings. You can start to connect to people that belong to the same groups. People you want to invite to connect: someone you engaged in a meaningful discussion with, someone that appears to be an expert in an area that you would like to learn more about, someone you share something in common with.
Contact me with any questions you have on social media so I can help you bridge the gap between traditional networking and the brave new world of web 2.0. or If you have a specific question about Facebook, Twitter or social media for events, I would love to include it in an upcoming article.


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