Unless you’re an aspiring influencer, you probably wouldn’t try to find a job on social media. But these days, Twitter can double as a job-hunting site and networking platform. For better or for worse, using the app can help establish yourself in your field, make connections and maybe even introduce you to your future boss.
It did for me. A few years ago, I followed a magazine editor because I liked her stories (and her tweets). Eventually, she left that outlet to start a business helping launch new editorial projects. One day, she tweeted about needing an editorial assistant. I emailed her my resume. We’d interacted once before over email when I’d pitched her a story. She remembered me and opened my email. We interviewed for an editorial assistant role at a website that she was consulting on called…Chegg Life. Today, I’m an editor here. I never would have found this role without Twitter.
If the word Twitter or the mere sight of that little blue bird makes you want to tear your eyeballs out, there’s good news: You can absolutely thrive in your industry without exposing yourself to its toxic stream of garbage. If you can stomach the site, there’s also good news: You don’t need to scroll your life away to make career inroads on the app. There can be big payoffs for using Twitter for your career in streamlined, strategic ways.
Here are some tips and tricks for networking on Twitter.
Follow cool people
This is the fun part. Seek out people who work in your industry, and follow them: people whose work you admire, who have the kinds of jobs you’d want to have in five or 10 years, who manage the roles you’d want to have. Plus, anyone who seems funny, insightful about your field and active online (if they haven’t tweeted since 2015, don’t worry about following). Then, start paying attention to who they follow and interact with, and follow those people, too. Once you’re following enough people in your industry, you’ll start to understand who’s who and how things work.
By following someone, you gain access to their professional insights, career story, and occasionally, job opportunities. Many industries have a culture where executives or higher-ups call for applicants for jobs that might never get posted to LinkedIn or company websites.
Don’t just follow the CEO at a company you admire. Follow everyone from executives to interns to freelancers if they seem interesting, even if they don’t have a million followers or a blue check. Remember: Those people might one day get promoted, branch off to start their own business or be able to give you a reference or the low-down on a company’s work culture or interview process.
Renée Reizman, an adjunct graphic design professor at Pepperdine University, followed a fellow artist and professor after coming across her work. “I definitely followed her first. I don’t think she knew who I was. For whatever reason, she followed me back, and we became online friends,” she said. The two started replying to each other's tweets. It was a social relationship, with professional implications. A year into their online friendship, this professor posted, asking if anyone knew a graphic design professor.
Reizman replied to the tweet, interviewed for the job and got it. The job was a reach for her: She had TA’d classes during grad school but never taught her own. “It’s really hard to break into teaching,” she says. “There’s not a lot of jobs, and it’s really competitive. I would never have gotten this job if I didn’t have that connection. I probably wouldn’t have heard about it, or I’d have put my application into a void and never heard back.”
Similarly, Mark Yam, the features editor at Input magazine, also got his job via Twitter. “My now boss posted that he was starting a new tech magazine and needed a features editor, and I slid into his DMs,” he says. “We did a real-life interview and then I got the gig. I didn’t have to deal with the application process or HR or all those layers of nonsense that get in between you and the person who’s actually doing the hiring. It took out additional gatekeepers.”
Engage with people in your industry — but keep it organic
You can be intentional about who you engage with: replying to, liking or retweeting their tweets. But it’s important not to be too aggressive or calculated. Easier said than done, but don’t think too much about whether the person is going to employ you when you’re trying to network on Twitter.
You’re not targeting future employers. You’re building a network of people who you want on your radar and whose radars you want to be on. Networking isn’t just about getting jobs; it’s also about finding information, advice, insight and comradery. That said, if you actively put yourself out there and connect with people in your field, there’s a good chance you’ll come across an opportunity or connection you might have never found elsewhere.
“I never thought, ‘Oh, this person’s gonna get me a teaching job,’” says Reizman. “That wasn’t my intention when I followed her. But it worked out. “
”Don’t try too hard or at least look like you’re trying too hard,” adds Yam. “You’re more likely to get noticed if you respond to someone because you’re interested in the topic at hand or have a take or you like their work.” He admits: “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t follow people who I want to work for or with. But it’s pretty organic beyond that. If I’m going to interact with someone, it’s because I want to interact with them, not just to get their attention. Everyone’s networking on Twitter, but people can tell when you’re not being sincere. You don’t want to be gross about it.”
You don’t need to have a million followers — or a blue check — to network on Twitter
Say what you will about Twitter, it removes the gatekeeping around professional networks — anyone can follow and interact with anyone, even if you have 100 followers and they have 50,000. If your Twitter presence is smart, savvy and professional (or, at least, consistent with the norms of your industry), and you engage positively with people, you can get noticed and followed.
Make it clear who you are on your profile and share your work on Twitter
If you can get a follow back from someone in your industry, that’s basically getting your resume and portfolio on their desk, if you design your profile right.
It should be easy to tell exactly who you are on your Twitter profile. While you don’t want to be too LinkedIn on Twitter, find a way to get your profession and focus into your Twitter bio. Bonus points if you make a website and link to it in the Website section of your profile. When I end up on someone’s profile, their website is my first stop. Sharing a website allows you to help communicate more about yourself without cluttering up your bio.
It can also be good to have a pinned tweet (you can choose what to pin by tapping the three dots at the top right of a Tweet and choosing “pin to your profile”) that’s about or links to a project or professional accomplishment you’re proud of. This helps communicate who you are and what you do or specialize in for anyone who even glances at your page.
Make use of Twitter lists
A handy tip for streamlining Twitter networking is to create a “Twitter list” for professional peers and contacts. You can essentially create a Twitter feed just for people in your industry. This can be helpful if you want to limit the amount of time you spend scrolling, but you don’t want to miss out on professional opportunities. Maybe you give yourself 30 minutes a day on Twitter. Skip your main TL, and just spend time on your networking one. That way, you’ll never miss a job call or relevant article. You can fairly call that “work” — learning from your peers, industry leaders and making networking connections for the future.
“Twitter lists can help you filter through an overwhelming feed of random junk, and turn it into a highly targeted feed of pure gold,” Emily Carrion, the VP of Vesper, said in her Ignite Seattle lecture about finding mentorship with Twitter.
After you lay the groundwork, take the relationship offline
The first step to a networking relationship is to become “mutuals” (i.e. you both follow each other). The second step is to start interacting organically online. As mentioned, this can look like replying to someone’s tweet or engaging with their work online, like re-tweeting something they post or shouting out a project they did. Once you have an “online relationship,” it’s good to have a particular, concrete reason to meet (you’re starting a new role in their field, working on a project relevant to their expertise or want to learn more about their niche). You can go ahead and shoot them an email or a DM asking them to get coffee or hop on a Zoom. (Email may be preferable here if they have a lot of followers and don’t check their DMs often).
I’ve found this process to be surprisingly painless — use your intuition about when the timing is right and who’d probably be interested in talking. (Have they re-shared your work? Responded to your tweets?) Carrion shared a story where she replied to an article by Dona Sarkar, director of technology at Microsoft, and Sarkar actually asked her to get a drink to discuss her point more.
When it comes to the actual IRL or virtual meeting, come prepared with questions you actually want to know the answers to, listen closely to their story and let them take the lead as far as how long they have to chat or how deep they’re willing to go. Don’t expect a job offer — this relationship is a long-term investment and a job offer isn’t the only thing to be gained. Also, don’t be afraid to ask a mutual who’s at your own level to get coffee! Friends are important to have as well as mentors — and they can get you jobs as well as higher-ups.
This probably sounds annoying, but be confident but not too confident. Be intentional but organic, bold but not demanding. Networking is a bit of a ballet dance. But practice makes perfect, and you can’t screw it up if you’re curious, modest and considerate while you do the dance.