Google yourself – don’t worry, no one’s watching and I won’t judge you! Were you pleasantly surprised, alarmed or was everything just as you expected? Most of us think we have no social presence online because we do not have any social media accounts but that can be far from true. If your search yielded no results, is that what you really want? Whether you work in sales or not, we are all in the sales business. We are constantly selling our services – skills, expertise, experience – or products and to do this we need to NETWORK. Think of social media as networking with the biggest audience possible – the whole world. In this article, Amara shares how some of these social tools can be used to boost your professional presence and develop your unique and personal brand.
I like to think of my social presence as not just how I present myself as a professional (and as a person) to the public but also how I am perceived by that public as well. Every time we interact with individuals or organisations, we create an impression whether we are immediately aware of it or not. This is true whether this interaction occurs face to face or online. Social media has become a powerful connection tool and I am constantly reminded of this by the number of guest articles we have received by people I have never met in person but have had the opportunity to connect with online or have just found The Aspiring Professionals Hub through Facebook or Twitter.
So where to start? For ‘digital visitors’ like myself, I’ll share some examples of some tools and how we can use them to build an online social presence.
Do you have a LinkedIn account? If no, why not? In my opinion, LinkedIn is the most important ‘place’ for aspiring professionals to be ‘seen.’ Think of LinkedIn as a Facebook for professionals. Your profile is akin to a CV and you are in control of what you choose to reveal or not. Establish a professional image by using an appropriate picture in your profile – no holiday snaps from the beach please! LinkedIn can be used to build connections with other professionals but just as important, you can follow organisations and join groups relevant to your field. There is virtually no discipline that is not covered by a group and if there isn’t one for you, why not start one? Are you naturally shy and find it difficult to walk up to someone at an event and introduce yourself? Look them up on LinkedIn and invite them as a contact. I always recommend adding a short note to the basic LinkedIn invite message introducing yourself. Be professional.
There are many recruiters on LinkedIn so your dream job may just be a new contact or updated profile away. Remember that all recruiters have to work with is your profile, so ensure you update regularly and truthfully. Joining your alumni’s LinkedIn group can help you develop relationships with alumni working at your target organisations who may be willing to offer advice and mentorship. Don’t ignore your LinkedIn page, share posts that you think are relevant to your contacts and within the groups you follow.
Twitter could very well be one of the easiest and quickest ways of establishing connections and developing your online social presence. Using 140 characters at a time you can share what you’ve written, information you find insightful or you can follow that company you really, really want to work for, learn about different industries and global brands. For your professional Twitter account, I would recommend using your name in your handle, for example – @amaratweets, @emmanueladukwu, @AspProfHub) – so people associate your handle with your person. I have been pleasantly surprised when someone I have not ‘met’ before has walked up to me and said hello because they recognise me from Twitter. When writing a bio for your profile, make sure that people can understand what you do and not just who you are.
Whenever I attend a meeting or conference, I use hashtags to share information from speakers as well as connect with other attendees. Another way to interact with people in your discipline is to attend webinars and tweetchats. Don’t be shy, contribute to the conversation. Be nice, reply when people ask you questions or send direct messages, retweet what other people are saying. Don’t worry if you do not have many followers in the first 3 days, it takes time to build a network. This rule applies whether building a network face to face or online. You are building your brand – be careful what you tweet especially if you are tweeting on behalf of an organisation.
A lot of us are already using Facebook to connect with our family and friends but it can also be a powerful professional networking tool. As of the first quarter of 2015, Facebook had over 1.44 billion active users and with this, the world can really be your oyster. I would advise that if you want to project your professional social presence using Facebook you maintain two separate personas. I do not think there is anything suspicious about doing this. If potential employers are going to be checking job applicants on networking sites, it is in your interest to find a way to keep private things private. Alternatively, set your privacy settings to manage what you share with your ‘friends’ vs. your professional contacts.
Build your network by adding contacts, joining relevant groups and liking pages where you can connect with like minded professionals. I am learning how important it is now to not just be a silent observer but contribute meaningfully to conversations.
Of course, I hadn’t forgotten. Blogging is a communication tool that can really allow you share your story. Everyone loves a good story, it doesn’t matter if you are sharing something personal or communicating your point of view on recent events. If you are a creative person, you can showcase some of your products on your blog. We all know people who have made millions off blogging. Like I said earlier, online, your potential audience is the whole world!
Know your audience and write for your audience. Don’t be afraid to mix things up on your website. Keep improving. Link your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts to your blog and use social media to disseminate your work.
There are other tools like Google+, YouTube, ResearchGate. You don’t have to be involved with all of them. Find out what works for you and work it!
My rule when it comes to developing my social presence online is to be authentic and true to my values as well as being professional at all times. I try and practice #netiquette. Always have at the back of your mind that when it is online, it is forever. My mantra is, ‘if you don’t mean it, don’t post it!’ Project an image that you are proud of. It can be intimidating living in the ‘socialsphere’ but you can manage how much you put out there. In my next post, I will discuss some tips for managing your online social presence.
I am left wondering what the next decade will bring. Do you think a day will come – if it isn’t here yet – when our online social presence will mean just as much, if not more to employers than our CVs and personal statements?
About our writer – After completing a PhD in Microbiology and Food Science, Amara is developing her career in academia – providing teaching and learning solutions in UK FE and HE Institutions as well as conducting research in Food Microbiology. Amara believes in the combined power of education, mentoring and productive relationships as essential tools for building successful careers.
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