Networking and socializing offline is a pretty straightforward, well-understood process.
"Hi, nice to meet you, Sue Jones. I hear that you do great work at XYZ company."
"Fred Smith, have you met Sue Jones? She does amazing things over at XYZ."
What if there was a way that you could say hello to a person and start building a relationship before that first physical handshake? What if there was a way to help others build business relationships and give them public praise, to boot? What if you could walk into a room at, say, the DMAI annual conference, and already feel comfortable with and knowledgeable about many of the people there?
Wouldn't it be nice to never have to meet a stranger?
Networking online with social media can do that for you.
Perhaps you've heard all of this before, but are unsure exactly how to get started with social networking. No worries – we'll show you.
Suppose that you will be participating in this week's DMAI Media Influencer Rally, connecting with and learning from a variety of online travel media and bloggers through workshops and speed networking. Here's how you might say Hello before you say Hello...
Networking on Twitter
Find the blogger's Twitter profile name - the one with the "@" in front of it – by using Twitter's search engine, or looking for the Twitter symbol button on their blog homepage, or seeing if they've connected their DMAI conference app profile with their Twitter account.
Hit the Follow button on their profile, then send a tweet that says something simple and friendly - "Hi, @SueJones, looking forward to meeting you soon at #DMAI15."
To make public introductions, tweet something like, "Hey, @FredSmith, you should meet @SueJones at #DMAI15 – she has a rocking travel blog at [insert blog URL here.]
Bloggers, podcasters, photographers and other online media appreciate kind words and support as much as anyone; take the time to publicly show your followers where to find their work.
Networking on Facebook
Many bloggers have a business Page on Facebook just like you have a Page for your CVB, DMO, attraction, or hotel.
Look on their blog homepage for the Facebook button, or do some Googling to find the right Page. Give it a Like and leave a note on the Page Wall that you're looking forward to meeting them at DMAI (bonus points if you also tag DMAI's own page in your Hello post.)
Some media people keep their personal Facebook profiles small and focused, and some will connect with just about anyone, so to make connections to personal Facebook profiles, you'll need to find out what each person prefers.
Networking on LinkedIn
If the blogger you plan to meet is active on LinkedIn, go to their LinkedIn personal profile and hit that blue Connect button.
Don't send a generic connection request with the default "I'd like to connect with you on LinkedIn." Spend 15 seconds to replace that with something more personalized - "Hi, looking forward to meeting you soon at DMAI's Media Influencer Rally."
You can tag both people and Company Pages on LinkedIn. Perhaps after the conference you could post from your LinkedIn personal profile (similar to how you post updates from your Facebook personal profile) with something like, "It was a pleasure to meet Sue Jones recently [once you're connected, LinkedIn will automatically tag and hyperlink to her personal profile.] She has a rocking travel blog at [insert blog URL here.]"
You Got This
As you can see, you already know how to do social networking; it's much the same language and process that you already use offline, with some social media twists like tagging, sorting out the "@" from the "#", and the opportunity for public interaction instead of one-on-one.
Twitter in particular is very popular with media people, but a friendly digital wave on any social platform will go a long way toward helping you build the kind of online network that means more attention for your destination.
The Tourism Currents team specializes in social media training for tourism. Co-Founder Sheila Scarborough is also a travel blogger and will be participating in the DMAI Media Influencer Rally – say Hi to her at @SheilaS.
Cheers photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.