Tip

Getting connected: How to use social media to become a software quality expert

Thanks to modern day social tools and technologies, we are now able to network with experts in any domain area we choose. In this tip, I will show you how to use three of the most popular social networking tools: LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, to learn and connect with software quality experts around the world. Beyond this, you will find there are countless additional opportunities such as blogs, niche communities and Web 2.0 social tools which will help you connect and gain new valuable relationships as well as a wealth of information. You will soon find yourself befriending those mentors, pundits and authors that you once thought were unreachable. And before you know it, you will find you have become one of them. Let's get started.

LinkedIn LinkedIn is one of the biggest and fastest growing professional networking tools available. Many people have thought LinkedIn is simply a tool for job searchers. Though it is true that job searching is one reason people like to keep their professional networks strong, there are many other reasons one would want to build a strong network of professional relationships. Partnering, collaborating, learning, sharing and keeping up on industry trends are all benefits of connecting with others in your field of expertise.

Many people are not aware of one of the most valuable functions in LinkedIn: Groups. Once you sign into LinkedIn look across the menu bar at the top and under the Groups section, select "Groups Directory." From here

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you will be able to use the "Search Groups" functionality. Currently, there are 123 groups returned when I search for "Software Quality." These are ordered by membership count, with those groups with the most members listed first.

Read the descriptions and join the groups that look relevant to your interests. You can also search for groups that are more specialized for your area of expertise. Read the discussions and news stories and find out who is actively participating. When you feel comfortable, start your own discussions or conversations. Once you join a group, you are able to ask for a LinkedIn direct connection with anyone in that group. This will allow you to have personal email conversations with others and really start to form relationships.

Facebook Though Facebook is much more of a social tool than LinkedIn, it is being used more and more for professional networking purposes as well. Like LinkedIn, Facebook has a Groups functionality that can be used in a very similar way as LinkedIn Groups.

If you have an account on Facebook, you undoubtedly have been asked to join a number of groups and fan pages that can range from bizarre to something you find incredibly valuable. The idea, like LinkedIn, is to find groups that are of interest to you.

To find groups that are related to Software Quality, you simply need to select the Groups page and do a search. A search for "Software Quality" here will result in over 500 groups. It turns out that many of these do not appear to be relevant, so you may need to do a little exploring to find the groups you're interested in.

Another way to find software quality groups is to type in the specific name of the group you're interested in. The Software Testing and Quality Control group is one worth joining. And, of course, our favorite is SearchSoftwareQuality.

Once again, by reading the information shared here, not only will you find links to other valuable content, but you will find people that you can connect with and get to know more personally.

Twitter Twitter is probably the most misunderstood social networking tool. Many people still feel like Twitter is a time-waster, claiming that they do not need, nor want, to know the trivial things going on in others' lives. However, what they might not realize is that Twitter can be used to share much more than what one had for breakfast. By following people in your field, you will be pointed to valuable up-to-the-minute content. Many people include links to blogs and other resources in the message that they post to Twitter. There are URL-shortening tools like bit.ly that will make it easy for people to create an SMS message that is less than 140-characters with a link that will redirect followers to a blog, an eBook, a photo, or any other piece of Web content.

So how do you find people in your field to follow? There are actually many different ways. Twitter Lists allow you to group the people you follow into categories. When you follow other QA professionals, you'll be able to see what lists they are on as well as lists they follow and find groups of similar people. There are loads of free Twitter tools that will help you find people that are in QA or Software Test including Twello.com, WeFollow.com, Lunch.com and TweepSearch.com. Naturally, we recommend that you follow SearchSoftwareQuality by searching for @SoftwareTestTT.

What's next? Once you start connecting, befriending and following others that are interested in software quality you will soon be pointed to blogs, niche networks, tools, discussions and plenty of valuable content. But even more valuable than the content will be the connections with people that you'll make. Take time to explore these tools and find people that share your interests and passions. Soon you will not only learn from the experts, you'll be able to joke with them and you might even find a bit of humor in hearing what they had for breakfast. The nice thing about social media is you can get whatever you want from it. Follow the people that share your passions. Learn from each other. Share with each other. You will soon find yourself with a virtual world full of mentors and friends.

This was first published in March 2010

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