Networking hasn't changed just because of our ability to connect via social media. Seek to help first and foremost. In turn, when you need help, your network will be primed and ready.
Speaking of your network, the worst time to build one is when you actually need it. Social media tools help you build a network quickly—one that is far more wide and varied than in the past, but it's about the quality of your connections, not the quantity. Get started now—don't wait.
Once you do, you may want to follow these tips:
1. Pay Attention. Any connection you make—be it on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.—deserves a little attention. Take LinkedIn as an example. I investigate any connection I make on LinkedIn. Is there a Twitter handle listed? Check out what the connection is saying. Is there a blog listed? Go read the most recent article and leave a comment. It doesn't take a lot of time. What I find usually gets lost with networking in the social space is the personal touch. It's far too easy to hit the "connect" button and just move on. You wouldn't shake hands with someone, accept a business card, and walk away—would you? Don't do that in the social space either.
2. Set Up an Approval Protocol for Tweets and Live Communication. For instance, don't answer an angry tweet with an angry tweet. A good rule of thumb is to refrain from writing a terse response to someone you don't know. If you have any doubts, write your tweet or response and have someone else take a look at it before you hit the send or post button. Two heads are better than one. The irony in the LinkedIn story about the woman who responded so tersely to the Millennial looking for a LinkedIn invite is she was much more inappropriate in her response than the person who sent the simple request.