Odds are, you’ve been using social media for a while now. And if you’re anything like billions of other business professionals, you may have considered using social media and professional networking sites to promote yourself online.
While these sites have become popular for professional networking, many people struggle to reap their benefits. Of the 660 million users on LinkedIn, currently the largest professional networking site, only between 25-47% of its users are active, with the majority of these users only being minimally engaged on the site. The biggest mistake people make with social media networking is assuming that simply having a thrown-together profile or posting something once every six months is enough to benefit them. The reality is that for a site like this to work, you must have a well-designed, updated profile and you must engage with the site by sharing, posting, and reacting to what other people share.
However, engagement can be another pitfall. It can be difficult to know what kinds of things you should (or should not) share. It’s tempting to share anything that appeals to you, which is fine for your personal social accounts. But if your goal is connecting with professionals in your field and opening up job opportunities for yourself, it’s important to share things that will show you in your best light and appeal most strongly to your audience.
Read on for TracSoft’s best tips on making online social networking work for you.
Are Professional Networking Sites Worthwhile?
Earlier I wrote that fewer than half of the users on LinkedIn are active. However, engagement has been increasing by around 50% year after year. Additionally, more companies are using networking sites both to promote themselves and to recruit quality employees. In fact, around 57% of businesses worldwide have a LinkedIn business page. Although not all of those companies use LinkedIn for recruiting, 90% of recruiters use LinkedIn regularly to find candidates.
But does this equate to people actually getting jobs? Again, yes. According to one 2017 study, 122 million LinkedIn users have received an interview through LinkedIn, and 35.5 million have been hired by a person they connected with on Linkedin. Real people do get real jobs from professional networking sites.
Part of the reason people do find jobs on networking sites is that the companies who are hiring like these sites. Not only will their jobs be seen by more candidates if they are shared through social media, but these sites tend to attract higher quality candidates and allow for more effective screening of candidates. Professional networking sites work because they offer benefits both to job seekers and those who are hiring.
How Do I Make A Strong Social Networking Profile?
Social media is a very visual medium, so it’s important to consider the appearance of your profile. Instead of using your pet or a favorite football team as your profile picture, use a clear, high-quality image of yourself looking professional. Of course, “professional” can mean different things in different fields; if you work in construction and want to use a picture of you wearing jeans and a work shirt, that’s fine (but lose the hard hat so your face is visible). However, if you work a white collar office job, use a picture where you’re dressed in office attire. Remember, you’re presenting your work self, and the old adage “dress for the job you want” is applicable here.
Next, think about the kind of people you want to connect with. What about you, your abilities, and your work experience would be relevant to them? What do you offer them? You should answer these questions in the text of your profile. Be extremely clear about what you do professionally. While it’s fine to list hobbies elsewhere on your profile—after all, you’re a human, not a robot, and that can appeal to potential contacts—the summary or “about me” section should primarily focus on your professional life: your skills, your experience, your accomplishments. These are the things that make you an attractive connection to someone else.
If you really want your profile to draw in connections, use keywords. LinkedIn operates through a powerful search engine that relies on search terms just like Google. Using the correct search terms on your profile will help other people find you. Jessica Foster, an SEO content writer, suggests performing keyword research to determine which search terms are the most useful for your profile. If you’re familiar with SEO then this is great advice. However, if you’re not familiar with keyword research and SEO, a simple alternative is to play around with search terms on your social networking platform. For example, if you type in “sales associate” then you’ll get certain results. Do you get more or fewer results if you type in “salesperson”? “cashier”? “retail associate?” Look at the profiles of people who come up in your search and use their profiles to determine if you’re using the right search terms on your profile and which search terms are the most productive.
Finally, be clear but concise when describing your past work experiences. There are three general things to focus on: what you did in the job, what successes you had in the job, and what you learned from the job. You want to give the impression that your work history is indicative of what you will do for your future employers.
What Kind Of Content Should I Share?
Swapping content is an important element of social media. This means both sharing content you’ve found as well as responding to content that other people post. On a personal social media account, you have a lot of flexibility in what you share. Your friends and family may love the videos you share of your dog in a lion costume. However, on a professional profile, what you choose to share says something about you.
Sharing articles about the state of your industry, innovations in your field, or serious issues impacting businesses like yours will show that you are staying current with relevant trends. And if people benefit from the content you share by learning something new or seeing a new perspective, they’re more likely to want to connect with you and consume your content. In contrast, reposting old articles that are no longer relevant or pictures of your last vacation won’t be relevant to people who don’t know you. Similarly, sharing political or religious content may be fine on your personal profile with friends and family, but it may make strangers hesitant to connect with you. (The exception, of course, is if you actually work in a religious profession or politics.)
It’s perfectly acceptable to simply repost other people’s articles and videos, however, original content is a great way to set yourself apart from other users on a site. On most social networks, a small percentage of people are responsible for the majority of online content. So if you post original content that can be shared, that positions you as an industry leader. Just make sure your content conforms to the expectations of your industry. For example, you may need to give credit to sources you used in creating your content and you want to make sure your content is in the appropriate format for your industry.
Can I Use Sites Like Facebook And Twitter For Professional Networking?
It’s possible to make connections anywhere online. However, depending on your industry, you may have better luck making connections on some sites than on others.
LinkedIn is specifically designed for professionals and its profile templates are designed to showcase your experience. However, the flexibility of social media can sometimes make it easier to connect with people you might not have encountered on a more structured site. For instance, Chaim Shapiro explains that he likes the freedom of Twitter for making that initial connection. Whereas on LinkedIn someone needs to be in your industry or network for you to reach out to them, Twitter allows you to connect with anyone. And as Pamme Boutselis points out, using different social networks together can be beneficial. She gives the example of making initial contact with someone on Twitter and then seeking out that person on LinkedIn if the connection seems promising. Different social networks also tend to draw different demographics of people, so using social networks together is a great way to diversify the contacts in your network.
And as Facebook’s initial users have grown up and older age groups have adopted it, the platform has rolled out new features that make professional networking easier. Facebook Business Pages, for example, lend credibility to businesses, and profiles now allow users to include more information about their current careers (even linking to their company’s page) and work history. Similarly, Facebook Groups provide great opportunities to meet people outside your existing network who share your interests, whether those interests are Netflix-related or job-specific. As more users rework their personal profiles for professional use, the possibilities for networking there expand. If you’re thinking of using Facebook as your professional networking tool, Alison Doyle of The Balance Careers has a great article about how to do this effectively.
If you’d prefer to stick to sites that are specifically for social networking, but you’re looking for something other than LinkedIn, there are some solid alternatives. One option is Sumry, a site that works similarly to LinkedIn by allowing you to build an online resume or portfolio that includes your education, skills, certifications, achievements, and even testimonials. One nice feature of the site is you can choose from multiple templates to create a very customized page. This is a great feature for people in creative industries, or people who are looking for a creative way to present themselves.
Another novel site is Epilogue. Rather than leading with job titles or education, this site focuses on what you are working on right now. You can share articles you’re reading or papers you’re writing by linking or uploading them. You can also present them in a multimedia style, and you have the option to credit co-authors on your projects. Rather than a traditional work history, you create a history of work produced. The advantage here is that Epilogue enables people to connect over their shared interests rather than a shared industry, bringing together people with complementary skills. The nature of work is changing, and as the work we do and the way we do it transforms, this cross-industry collaboration will become more important if we want to remain relevant.
If you’re looking for some networking you can take offline, MeetUp is another great option. Users create online groups formed around a specific interest or skill. Participants can then post to a shared newsfeed about upcoming events or interesting media they found. What sets this apart from a Facebook Group is that you can search meetup by location, making it easier to find groups in your area. This is a nice feature in that active groups can actually host dinners with speakers or members can take turns doing demonstrations or training for the group. It combines the best of old school and 21st-century professional networking.
Social Networking: An Essential Component Of A 21st-Century Career
Regardless of the platform you choose, social networking is becoming increasingly important. While older Baby Boomers expected to spend much of their career with the same employer, for Gen X’ers, Millennials, and the emerging Gen Z, it’s more likely their career will constantly evolve throughout their working lifetime. According to a 2019 Bureau of Labor Statistics survey, the average worker today stays at a job 4.4 years, and the average person will change careers 5-7 times during their working life. This turnover is driven by many factors such as few or small raises, layoffs, economic issues, seeking better benefits, better work-life balance, or seeking a better work environment.
With continual turnover in the workplace becoming the norm, it’s more important than ever to take networking seriously. Thankfully, many platforms are emerging to make networking easier.
Do you have a favorite networking site we didn’t mention? Post it below and tell us what you love about it!
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