How to win friends and influence people through your social network

– or – How to meet people through your social network that you wouldn’t mind hanging out with…

I’ve embarked on a year of travel around America, one month at a time. I’m lucky enough to be able to work from any where, so I’m not in need of employment, but as these cities are what might be my future home, I am looking to get a feel for each. As a fan of social media, I took it upon myself to figure out how to meet people in each city, through the Internet (Internet friend dating never really took off, despite my million dollar idea from a few years back,

Have you ever looked at the top users for a city on any social network? Whether you sort by volume or by perceived influence, the list doesn’t often yield good sources for connecting with like-minded people.* The trouble is the most active user, even the most popular user isn’t necessarily the person you want to go for lunch with. How do you find people that matter to you?

3 ways to connect with people that matter in your area:

1. Follow people that check into places you enjoy. Some of you like Foursquare, some of you aren’t sold yet. Regardless, when you go somewhere interesting, it is a great way to meet people like you. Check-in somewhere you like, find out who else checks-in there. Follow them. You’ll quickly learn about other places to enjoy, without having to do so much trial-and-error. If you’re comfortable with a little Internet stalking (and what social media fan isn’t?), you can investigate what other social networks your new Foursquare pals are on and follow them there as well. Note: This goes from helpful to creepy fast, so I recommend not showing up like a crazed Justin Bieber fan everywhere this person goes.

2. Look for event organizers in the area, see who they interact with, follow them. If you enjoy events like DemoCamp or TEDx, look up event dates to see what is happening while you are in town. If the timing is off and you miss everything, try to find out more information on the event organizers. The people putting these events together tend to engage with other smart people. A quick scan of an event organizer’s Twitter feed should yield great suggestions for who the influencers are in town.

3. Ask. Tell your network ahead of time where you are going and ask them if they know anyone you should connect with. It’s like word of mouth marketing with you as the product. Going the old fashioned way is good, but networking a crowd of strangers is difficult. It’s also a fine line to walk – you want to meet new people, but you don’t want to come across as the aggressive salesman. You’ll have better luck if someone you know introduces you as someone people should know. It adds a layer of credibility to your claim that you are a worthwhile connection.

I’ve just started this trip, in fact, I’m only one month in but so far, it’s been working out for me. How do you put your social network to work for you?

* Unless you’re really into weather, traffic information or porn.