I'm here at the Social Media Optimization Conference in San Francisco, and while it has certainly been interesting from my own perspective as a communications professional, I was trying to think of what nuggets there might be for people in IT.

One thing that came to mind is personal networking and career development—people in the tech industry, as a whole, are often not very focused on career development, which offers a real opportunity to those of you who are proactive in this department. So, with that in mind, here are a few ideas for how to use social networking to secure your next job.

1. Follow influential users talking about what interests you. I've already talked about how it's best to have a niche or a passion, be that SharePoint, mobile development, Exchange, or something else. Using Twitter and a client such as TweetDeck, you can follow what people are saying about a specific topic, learn who the influential speakers are, and build relationships with them. This will serve both as a source of insight and information, and a way to network with the top people in your specific topic of interest.

Related: Ten Must-Follow Twitter Tech Feeds 

2. Follow the companies that you dream of working at. Start engaging with these organizations and learning about what they're passionate about—what makes them tick. When a career opportunity does come around, you'll already be networked with that organization and know more about that company's philosophy.

Related: 10 Career Development Tips from IT Experts 

3. Join a LinkedIn group. LinkedIn groups are one of the best ways to meet people with a niche interest. As you build up contacts in LinkedIn, you can use that network of people to find opportunities that you're excited about. Just go to LinkedIn and do a search under 'Groups' to find a group to follow. And don't just follow the group, but participate regularly in discussions.

Related: LinkedIn: IT Pro Friend or Foe? 

4. Follow recruiters. Run some Twitter searches for #itjobs and #techjobs to find recruiters in your industry, and you'll have a constant stream of new and interesting jobs. Remember that job boards are the one of last places recruiters search for potential candidates.

Related: Notes from the Hiring Table, Part 2: The Recruiter Perspective 

Follow Brian Reinholz on Twitter