I’m not good at networking. I seriously try to reach out to people on social media and on my blog, and it never leads to anything. I ask for advice, I offer advice, etc. and *cue crickets*. What are some good ways to network better and get more interaction online?

-Social Media Pariah Mariah

Well that depends on a lot of things, like who you’re reaching out to (if you’re trying to punch above your weight, they may not respond), the ways in which you’re reaching out, and whether you’re offering something that people actually WANT (sorry, it had to be said).

One purpose of social media is networking, absolutely, but treating that as the primary purpose is a fast way to turn people off; social networks have been around long enough for most people to recognize the signs of–and be annoyed by–someone who only uses them for self-promotion. Without more details, I can’t be sure that’s what’s going on here, but I have a sneaking suspicion that your real problem may be that your “connections” with people are very clearly about the networking that you mention, not about actually connecting.

It’s trite, but the best way to build a following, online or off, is to focus on doing whatever it is you do WELL. If you’re trying to make it as an actress, don’t just tweet at directors and post glamour shots all over your facebook wall, make a really GOOD webisode (or short comedic sketch, or whatever else) and share it with people you think will truly like it (not just people you think can help you). If you’re trying to get more brand recognition for the awesome new craft beer you’ve developed, don’t just post about how awesome it is; set up a tasting and use social media to get the word out (and maybe use online engagement as an enticement; a freebie in exchange for a page like/twitter follow is a solid strategy). Run a contest on your blog that people can participate in instead of just telling them you wrote another thing.

Basically, if you want people to be engaged, think about what they want, not what you want. If what you’re offering is worth their time, and you’re genuinely interacting with them, they’ll stick around.

If you’re treating them as another self-promotional vehicle…not so much.

Though if numbers are the only thing that matter to you, the #followback hashtag is a quick way to inflate your follower numbers…to absolutely no real purpose.

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