Social media is like a networking event that’s open 24 hours a day, seven day a week. It gives you a chance to build your network, learn about new opportunities, and build your personal brand… if you use it effectively.
Follow these tips for building a strong and positive image on social media that will help you advance your career.
Professional benefits of having a strong social media presence
Position yourself as an authority
What you post on social media isn’t just meant for your colleagues and other people you know personally to see. It’s out there for anyone who might be searching for you to find.
What you post makes a statement about you and your professional knowledge. It’s a chance to spread information, share your personal take on issues within your industry, and act as an online leader in your field.
Stay in the loop
Social media’s capacity to share information has grown far beyond viral cat videos. According to Pew Research Center, Fifty-three percent of Americans now say they get their news from social media.
By following a selection of your industry’s top news outlets, blogs, and journalists, you’ll be first to know about current events and new technology that could impact your work.
Connect with movers and shakers
Social media gives us an unprecedented ability to connect with people anywhere on the planet, and that includes the top minds in your field. Where else could you send a direct message to entrepreneur Elon Musk or engage in casual banter with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson?
Connecting with like minds on platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn empowers you to gain knowledge from diverse sources and interact with people you’d otherwise never meet face to face.
Discover new opportunities
When you establish a professional presence on social media, not only is it easy to put the word out that you’re looking for opportunities like a new job; oftentimes, those opportunities come to you.
Recruiters regularly use LinkedIn as a tool for sourcing talent and opening conversations with prospective candidates. It’s a great way to hear about open jobs straight from the source and ask questions to learn more.
Make a positive impression
Sending a LinkedIn connection request has taken the place of exchanging business cards. In that context, your social media profile is the business card itself, with the added benefit of being able to convey a lot more information than can fit on a two-by-three-inch piece of paper.
How you position yourself online is entirely up to you, which gives you a valuable chance to make your first impression a positive one on whoever might happen to search for you.
5 steps to improve your professional social media
Pick the right platforms
There are so many social media platforms available: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest, YouTube, the list goes on. It’s impossible to have a meaningful presence on all of them.
Instead of spreading yourself thin, get the most from your efforts by zeroing in on one to two platforms that make the most sense for your job. We recommend having LinkedIn at a minimum and adding an additional platform if it’s beneficial for your industry.
If you’re a graphic designer, for example, Instagram would be a great choice. If you’re in marketing, Twitter is full of lively conversations related to your field.
Go private on the others
Once you decide which platforms to focus on, you don’t have to stop using the others. However, it’s a good idea to consider setting your profile to private on them, especially those for personal use.
But what if you don’t share anything controversial on your personal profiles? Do you still need to make them private? We say yes, and here’s why.
When you use a platform professionally, you should give some thought to everything you post, sharing content that contributes to your personal brand (more on this below). But on platforms that are for personal use, you don’t generally think very carefully before hitting ‘share’ on a funny meme or uploading a cute picture of your kid.
There’s nothing wrong with this kind of content, but when it’s not shared with intention, it can detract from or conflict with the professional brand you’re working hard to build. So, better to just set it to private so you can post what you want, when you want.
Refine your profile
Make your professional social media profiles shine by using a clear, smiling headshot as your profile pic and completing as many of the available fields as possible. Unlike your resume, your social media profiles aren’t limited on space, so you want to take advantage of every opportunity to put forth useful information that supports your credentials.
Come up with a posting strategy
Try to post regularly. This doesn’t have to mean daily, if you’re not up for that much sharing. The goal is to keep your feeds from going stale. Once a week is a good benchmark if you’re just getting started.
You can share content you’ve created, like blog posts and images, or a curated selection of content from others. Just be sure to be consistent in the type of content you share and the tone you use. For example, if you usually share motivational quotes, it would be jarring to suddenly share a controversial political piece.
Before you hit ‘publish,’ it’s helpful to ask yourself, ‘does this contribute to my professional brand? How?’ If the first answer is no or the second answer is unclear, you may want to think twice.
Here are some examples of the types of content that can help develop your personal brand:
- Educating others with informational posts
- Explaining complex topics on which you’re knowledgeable
- Answering frequently asked questions
- Commenting on current events in your field
- Sharing your latest work
- Sharing others’ great work and why you like it
- Spotlighting customers and clients
- Giving a behind-the-scenes look at your work
- Asking for feedback
- Calls to action that help people learn more, get involved, etc.
If you need assistance creating content, we suggest using Canva to edit pictures, create graphics, and make videos.
Make strategic connections
While you can (and should!) like, comment on and share posts organically, you also want to make a concerted effort to connect with the right people and forge mutually beneficial relationships.
Think about real-world friendships. You don’t just say ‘hi’ to someone one time and become best friends. Instead, the relationship is built over time–you check in on one another, listen to each other’s stories, support one another, and so on. Meaningful social media relationships develop the same way, so dedicate some time each week to interacting with other users you admire, enjoy and want to get to know better.
3 professional social media mistakes to avoid
1. Sharing content without credit
It’s a major professional no-no to share someone else’s content without making it explicitly clear they created it, especially in creative fields.
Giving credit is easy; just tag the original creator with the ‘@’ sign. Better yet, add a few words about why you were inspired to share their work.
2. Taking a ‘me first’ approach
One of the downsides of social media’s ultra-easy connectivity is that people often abuse it, asking for the time and resources of people they have no prior relationship with (i.e. cold messaging an experienced leader in your field and asking for a meeting to “pick their brain”). Don’t do this.
If you take the approach we mentioned above and focus on building relationships first, beneficial opportunities will naturally follow.
3. Bad-mouthing your employer
Never, never post a negative statement about your employer on social media, even on your personal profile that’s set to private. In fact, you should stay away from sharing negative content about competitors and previous employers, as well.
It’s a good rule of thumb to pretend that everything you post online will be around forever, (because a lot of it will, even if you later delete it!). Don’t post when you’re angry, upset, or share potentially sensitive information.
By making a conscious effort to establish a knowledgeable and professional presence on social media, you’ll meet helpful people, develop a strong reputation and maybe even land your next job.