So the important first step for any social media newcomer is building a network. You can do this several different ways, but there are some effective best practices which will help you make sure you’ve crafted the kind of audience you want.

Build from Existing Contacts

First, create a foundation from your existing contacts. If your business connections are important, you will want them to know you’ve launched a Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn account. Many sites allow you to upload your email contact list and cross-check to see if they are on a social networking platform. If they are connect and follow them.

Investigate an Audience

Next, think about the type of people you want listening to your message, then search to see who is talking about your area of expertise — or more importantly, who is asking questions that you can answer. Use the search function on Twitter and Facebook to find those conversations and follow those users. All check out sites like and, which allow you to search user bios. Follow those people and they will follow you back and grow your network.

Find Friends of Friends

Then you should dig deeper into your social networks to see who the people you follow are following or friending. Anyone there you are connected to that you’ve missed? Anyone you’ve always wanted to be connected to? Twitter allows you to follow them with the click of a mouse, while LinkedIn allows your shared connections to introduce you.

Don’t worry about the size of your network when you are starting out. Your goal needs to be a quality, not quantity. Your goal is to have the right people listening to your social media updates as well as the right updates for you to be listening to yourself. If it works right, your network will bring the world to you, aggregating the Internet with the best Web sites and blogs they are reading, as well as advice and interesting observations. Your job is to do the same for your network. Send them to your blog, your business or the info that raises your eyebrows. Sharing is the backbone of social media and with the right partnerships and audiences, it works for both ends of the conversation.