If you’re a Generation X-er or older, you likely use social media to cut it in the real world. You may also use social networks for personal reasons, but it’s always with the understanding that you’re a professional.
But newer generations of college graduates began their social media experience as a very personal one. And the shift to using social media for career development may seem optional. But it’s a necessary evil at the very least, and can actually be quite beneficial to your future at the very best.
Here are a few things students should consider when starting to use social media professionally.
1. It’s Not the Same
Most teens and young adults have used social media to connect directly to friends and share personal experiences casual conversations with their networks. Yet interacting on social networks with an eye toward your career is different than doing so for purely personal reasons.
Using social media for professional purposes doesn’t mean you have to give that up. In fact, oftentimes it makes a person come across as more genuine and more approachable. But refining your language, highlighting content and information that’s more career-focused, and connecting and conversing with more people outside your immediate group of friends signifies that you’re interested in more than just the personal.
2. Power in Connections
Social networks offer endless ways to connect with a wide-range of people with little effort and to organize those connections — through lists, circles or groups — so you can use them more effectively.
Build each network to create relationships that can be nurtured through interaction and conversation. Bycultivating and organizing the network you create, you’ll be more effectively able to act upon professional opportunities.
3. It Can Help You Find a Job
Beyond the ability to connect and converse with people and groups from a professional standpoint, social media can actually help you find that job. Nearly every social networking site posts loads of job opportunities.
Less obvious, but perhaps more effective, is the ability to connect directly to the brands you’d love to work for, as well as the people behind those brands. While you keep your eyes peeled for job postings, take some time to engage with these brands and people, and establish a relationship with them.
4. Learning Is Still Good for You
By interacting with professionals, industry media outlets and experts in your desired field of work, you’ll be able to deepen your own level of knowledge of that field and stay on top of trends and current issues. It’s an excellent supplement to your in-class work and good preparation for the continuing learning you’ll need to do when you graduate.
5. You Can’t Hide Behind the Curtain
The speed and virtual aspect of social networks can tempt people to act less than professional. For instance, sometimes harsher or more sarcastic interactions are acceptable on social media. And some people believe that because social media is generally a public forum, they should be able to speak freely and openly.
No matter your stance, disrespectful interactions with others (strangers or colleagues) is a huge no-no. If you wouldn’t say something to a person face-to-face, it probably means it isn’t appropriate for social media either. The same social norms apply whether online or offline, and the same level of respect and collegiality is expected on these channels.
6. It’s Not Just About You
Constant self-promotion is almost always frowned upon in social media. Keep most of your posts (I suggest at least 80%) to conversation, third-party content, general comments and questions, and keep the sales pitches at a minimum. David Armano, EVP of global innovation and integration, discusses the overuse of the#humblebrag hashtag. You get the point.
Instead, think about what types of content will give your audience the most value, especially when it also suggests you’re open to educating yourself on a wide-range of ideas.
7. Strut Your Stuff
Social networking is a fantastic way to showcase your knowledge on your field of interest. Using many of the tactics suggested above shows you’re paying attention to your target industry and demonstrating a certain level of critical analysis.
By tweeting relevant articles, or commenting on industry trends on a personal blog, you can show your own level of interest and personal development outside of classwork and internships.
8. You Will Get the Once-over
Employers, future colleagues, industry leaders and other professionals do look at your social media activities. That being said, it’s a great opportunity to show your interpersonal skills, in addition to your own level of knowledge and interest in the field. College students sometimes get a bad rap, but by engaging with professionals, you can demonstrate your skill set and level of maturity.
9. What You Do Now Will Pay Off Later
Much like searching for a job, if you start curating your social media presence after you graduate, you’re already behind. By thinking about how to use social media professionally while you’re still in school, you can position yourself as forward-thinking, forge stronger industry connections, and strengthen your on-paper credentials, making you a much more attractive candidate to your future employers.
What other tips do you have for students to improve their professional social media presence? What can they work on and where do they excel?
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