The Power of Social Media
In all likelihood, you understand how social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook help connect you with people. You also understand that connections to people can turn into all kinds of opportunities such as job offers or an expanding audience of customers for your business. The Internet didn’t invent this kind of “networking”; it just made it easier.
Of course, easier networking doesn’t mean challenge-free networking. Social media exposure works both ways. Done carelessly, it can backfire and sabotage a job offer, your current job, or your new business. It’s important to be careful and understand what you should and shouldn’t do when using social media to create a brand called “you.” Here are some basic dos and don’ts to think about:
Do . . .
Establish a Mature Online Presence: With over a billion combined active users of Facebook, Google+, and Twitter, social media is impossible to ignore in terms of potential reach. And study after study bears out the reality—marketers and companies report significant lead generation and customer acquisition through participation in social media.
But it’s important to remember that social media sites are not one-size-fits-all, and neither is your presence on them. Many social media platforms are specifically designed to connect businesspeople. LinkedIn, for example, lets you introduce yourself to business professionals. While Facebook and Twitter draw most of their revenue from advertising, LinkedIn makes money by selling upgraded services to job seekers and job recruiters. If you’re intent on career placement, you may want to consider using services there beyond what they offer for free. Be advised: The average age of a LinkedIn user is 44—it’s a place for people who are serious about careers.
That’s where maturity matters: Career connections mean adding people like schoolteachers, mentors, coaches, and adults you work with in volunteer organizations or at work-placements to your network. Hopefully, you’ve made a good impression on some people over the last few years and they’d be happy to recommend you to others. This brings up the most critical aspect of creating your brand: having something worthwhile to offer. That requires actually being someone with relevant accomplishments, thoughts, and experiences that somehow matter in the world of gainful employment. That’s what has always mattered, even in pre-Internet networking.
Okay, so LinkedIn is important. However, it’s hardly the only game in town. For example, if you’re interested in starting your own business, consider joining these sites aimed at a younger crowd: StartupNation, PartnerUp, YoungEntrePrenuer, and Ziggs. These are just four sites; there are plenty more targeting career-minded people like you. Lastly, posting an online video resumé on the old standby, YouTube, can help give people a stronger impression of what you have to offer.
Maintain Your Account: Posting regular updates on what’s happening in your world is important. Don’t disappear for long stretches of time, or your followers might forget all about you. After all, new accomplishments in school or at your job are a big part of what you’re sharing, right? Well, share them!
Maintaining your account means more than just posting regularly, though—it also refers to maintaining the tone and personality you choose to project, continuous outreach to others encouraging interaction, and adding interesting content such as photos, videos, and links to your posts. Also, a big point: If your contact information or your resumé changes, be sure to update them in your social media accounts.
Listen to the Responses: The way people react to your brand should help you refine how you project it. Ask your community what they like and what they don’t, then take the time to personally respond to their comments. Leave your comments open-ended to invite people into a conversation. Pay attention to the days of the week and times of day that get the most interaction—and aim your posts for then!
On business networking sites, learn from the success of the experienced pros who post there. Look over their resumés, look over their career accomplishments, and join the groups whose interests match yours so you can speak intelligently on current topics.
Don’t . . .
The Power of Social Media Audience attention is distracted easily, and nothing does it quite like misspelled words, awkward grammar, or rambling sentences. One little mistake can limit the value of otherwise effective messaging. And let’s face it, correctible errors convey carelessness. Follow two simple rules: Don’t post anything you’re not 100% sure about, and when in doubt, have a friend proofread.
This is doubly true as it applies to business networking sites. Almost all of the people you’ll be interacting with there are professionals, so you’ll need to be as professional as possible while you’re there, too. If you’re not sure what that means, take time to explore the site and the professionalism of others. You’ll be sure to find good writing skills on display—learn from them!
Assume Everyone Has the Same Sense of Humor: You might be the funniest person you know, but it would be wrong to assume everyone is on your level. This is a good lesson beyond the world of social media: Be sensitive to different perspectives. All of those people you’re trying to reach out to? It’s a good idea to tailor your laughs toward antics that won’t offend them or come off as juvenile.
Here’s an even better idea—don’t post any humor at all on business networking sites until you’ve examined what’s acceptable there and truly understand it.
Share Inappropriate Information: We shouldn’t have to tell you this, but you don’t have total control over what you post after you publish it online. That means that once your content is out there on the Internet, there isn’t much you can do to completely remove it. Scrubbing systems like FaceWash can help, but they don’t necessarily catch everything. Even worse, search engines can find the stuff you wish you had thought twice about months or even years later. That includes photos of you at drunken parties, undressed, and looking kinda silly. Having fun is awesome, so is having boundaries.
So here’s a good rule: If you wouldn’t want a job recruiter to see your post, don’t post it! Recruiters regularly visit sites like LinkedIn and Google once they’ve reviewed you resumé to learn more about you. They search sites like LinkedIn before they post job openings, to prescreen potential recruits.
That’s an important thing to bear in mind: The access you get to useful networks comes with the agreement that you’re willing to give up some privacy. That obligates you to learn how to use privacy settings. It means that if you have a common name, you need to see if your university has a system for putting your best profile ahead of others, or it means using a website like BrandYourself to help put the actual and best possible you out there.
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