How to Use Social Media to Advance Your Career

Should you join LinkedIn? Does having a Facebook account help or hurt your career? Who should you follow on Twitter?

The more social media saturates American and global culture, the more ways people and companies have innovated to use social media to advance their career and workplace goals. Social media is a tool that can help and hinder your professional life, depending on how to utilize it.

Using social media to advance your career is similar to using any other tool. You want to avoid unwittingly allowing your personal life to bleed over into your working life. For example, if you were to take important clients out to dine, you would not likely take them to your favorite bar. Similarly, there are tactics you can use to keep your personal life and business life separate on social media. By doing this, you craft your career-focused social media presence into one that extends, exemplifies and amplifies your resume and portfolio.

Networking

Social media takes the age-old business concept of networking to a completely new level. One of the hardest leaps for many people to take when networking is going from collecting contacts to actually communicating with those contacts. You do not just want to reach out to someone on your contact list when you need something from him or her. If enough time has gone by since you met, the person may not even remember you, and certainly may not have the rapport or relationship with you to motivate him or her to do you a favor. Networking coaches frequently say you must stay in communication with your contacts if you want to create an effective network.

Social media makes this possible. Before social media, you had to have something to say to a person in order to communicate with him or her. Now, you can simply respond to an item he or she posted on a social media feed. Likewise, you no longer have to send the same message out to 100 people. You can post it once on your social media and have all your connections see it. The other networking advantage of social media is the algorithms they all use in order to help you develop your network. The friends of your friends, the contacts of your contacts, are likely to be worthwhile, compatible or appropriate people to befriend and contact yourself.

Business or Pleasure

Social media is often a fun tool for staying in touch, but the workplace is serious business. This distinction can lead to many missteps on social media when someone posts something socially that a colleague from work sees and takes offense to. When using social media to advance your career, keep your two worlds separate. Maintain two or more profiles at each social media site you use, or use some sites only for work and some sites only for fun. Avoid linking those accounts or content you post to one could still find its way to the other. Create separate profiles for the two or more aspects of your life and collect different friends and contacts accordingly. If someone from your work contacts wants to connect with you on your non-work social media profile, consider politely declining and explaining why. When your goal in using social media is to advance your career, you need to be careful and intentional about everything you post, like, share and reply to. Additionally, make sure to keep your social media profile professional when looking for a job, regardless of your current employment status.

Policies and Settings

Your company may have policies regarding its employees’ use of social media, so make sure none of your social media use violates any of your company policies. Find out from your company’s privacy policy if it monitors its employees’ social media accounts. Even better, avoid saying, posting or sharing anything on social media you would not want your employers to see. Make sure at every moment you are not betraying any workplace confidentiality or violating any non-disclosure agreement you have made.

When people from your career life make invitations or recommendations to you on one of your non-career social media profiles, you may not simply want to reject their invitation or request or ignore their recommendation, as this may end up offending them. Instead, go into your user settings in the given social media account and see if you can restrict how much of your profile and the content you post a person sees. Many social media platforms let you limit the interactions you have with various individual contacts.

Curate Your Profile

Just as you must maintain correspondence with your contacts to network successfully, you must actively provide valuable content on social media in order to use it effectively. Shaping content on your professional profile on social media includes responding to the posts of others and posting valuable content of your own. In responding to others’ posts, you want to acknowledge posts and comments you like or agree with or simply support the individual who made it by liking it or acknowledging the post in the ways allowed by the platform. If you really like something a person said or posted, or you really want to show that person your support, you can reshare it yourself. You also want to engage in the comments beneath posts you care about. Remember, you are responding with your professional profile, not your personal one. Keep your emotions in check as you write, read and reread your comments carefully before you post them. In posting content of your own, share content that you believe:

  • Provides value to your connections.
  • Demonstrates your expertise in a particular area of your career.

Remember, on social media, once you put something out there, it is out there forever. Even if you delete it, it may be too late, as all it takes is one person to like it, share it, comment on it or even to see it, and all your efforts to advance your career can take a backslide. Never forget the context of what you post or say on social media and where you post it, as your profile can greatly affect your career.

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