Imagine that anytime you were looking for an apartment, or a job, or…. a plumber, or whatever, there was a way to send a message to hundreds of people for help- all with a single click.  Well, my friends, you do not have to imagine it, because it already exists.

It’s called social media.  As in, Facebook, or LinkedIn.   And while everyone knows what Facebook is, many people do not use it to its full effect.

Used correctly, Facebook can be a powerful tool to help you build new friendships as well as maintain established ones- all with very little effort.  If you master Facebook, you will never find yourself short of friends when it is time to celebrate, or without support when it is time overcome a challenge.

Whether you are trying to spread the word about your totally sweet ‘ugly sweater’ Christmas party – or in desperate need of a place to crash for a few days because that awesome deal on an apartment fell through at the last minute, social media could be just the ticket.

But, making social media work for you is not as simple as posting pictures of the food you’re about to eat, or pics of poor spelling cats.  Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take that will help you cultivate a thriving colony of social media supporters (aka friends) ready to help you out in your time of need.

To build a social media safety net – You need to focus on two things

1) Building a network of new contacts

2) Strengthening established friendships

Building a Network of Contacts

Living in NYC- you should have a thriving social life, or at the very least, a thriving professional life- that affords you the opportunity to constantly meet new people.  You need to get in the habit of keeping an eye out for people that you ‘click’ with.

Maybe you meet someone from that same small town in Vermont, maybe you both really, really, like aged Gruyere cheese, or maybe are both into hard-core competitive rubrics cubing.  Whatever it is that brings you together, don’t let that magic slip away.

You need to add that person to your social network.  It is as simple as just asking to add them on Facebook.

Who should you focus on

As any avid runner knows, it is much easier to run with the wind at your back-  than to fight against it.   The same is true when it comes to making new social relationships in NYC.  People are busy here, and nearly everyone suffers from a phenomena that I like to call social ADD.

No matter how much you liked that person you just met, there is always someone else who is more fun right around the corner.  This is why you need to be smart about your social networking efforts in the city.   Don’t try to run against the wind.

You should focus on befriending people that you can include in the social activities that you enjoy.  For instance, if you find someone that shares your passion for playing basketball, or you both like pinhole photography, or you are both fanatical about [insert generic interest here] – that is a person you want to stay in touch with.

It is easy to waste time and effort on friendships that are doomed to fail before they ever really get off the ground.  Generally speaking, it is better to pick the ways that you want to spend your time and then build your social network around those activities rather than try and schedule social activities that you might not necessarily enjoy around specific people who you already have some kind of connection with.  Shared interests are the glue that keep friendships together.

Remember, this is New York City – you came here to be someone or something new.  You came here to pursue your dreams- don’t get hung up on social relationships are not likely to fit into your desired lifestyle.

Get out there and find those people that are living the life that you want to live- and friend ‘em on Facebook.

How you can strengthen your friendships in 10 minutes a day

Simply collecting a large number of Facebook friends is only the start.  Once you have them as friends, you need to interact with them and keep them engaged, lest they be lost forever to social ADD (remember social ADD? Bueller? Bueller?).

Obviously, an in-person hangout is the best way to strengthen a relationship.  But, with your hectic life in NYC- you won’t always have time to hang out with everyone that you want to stay in touch with.   Don’t worry, there are some quick strategies that you can use to help stay on people’s radar.

Post Interesting Content

Did you just read an interesting article that your friends might enjoy?  Don’t be greedy!  Share it!  See a funny photo somewhere?  Post that sucker on your wall! Sharing interesting content is one of the best ways to keep your name on people’s minds- you should post things on your own wall, or another person’s wall several times a week at least.

Liking and Commenting on other’s content

Don’t just share- you should also interact with content that others share.  Read a funny post by a friend?  Well then like it!  Have something witty to say in response to a friend’s post?  Say it!  People love it when you interact with them on Facebook.

Using these methods, you can keep relationships fresh with hundreds of people, even if you have not seen them in person for years!   All it takes is 10 minutes a day, which is well worth the investment; especially when it comes to those times when you really need a social safety net.

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