How to Use Social Media in Your Career
By Sree Sreenivasan
Illustrations by QuickHoney
Do you think you should be on social media but don’t know where to start? What should you post, and how often should you post it? What’s more powerful, a like or a retweet? Here’s what you need to know about the most popular social media platforms for professional settings, whether you are looking to expand your network, build a business or find a new gig.
Social media was once mostly just for fun, but not any more.
Social media is now a critical part of the way people in most walks of life communicate and a key part of how work gets done — from corporations to government. Reflecting how important social media can be, .
Social media allows you to do at least four important things:
As social media has become more popular — an estimated — there are also more instances of people who have gotten in trouble for their social networking habits. The fact is that it’s impossible to separate the personal use of social from the professional, and everything you say online can and will be used against you. There are ways in which you can try to safeguard your privacy and control who sees particular content, but the onus is on you to be vigilant. So, the more seriously you can take your social media activities, the better.
Social media changes all the time, so it’s important to keep up with the evolution of the platforms and to keep looking for ways to optimize your use of the available the tools. (Twitter and Snapchat, for example, recently announced major changes that are described below.)
If you don’t work for yourself, be aware of company policies about the use of social media — are instituting or revising their policies.
This serious, professional social networking should not be ignored by individuals or businesses.
LinkedIn, with its 500 million members, is the quintessential professional network and one that’s not used as optimally as it could be. When I teach classes on social media, I ask “Who’s on LinkedIn?” and almost all the hands go up. But then I ask, “Who knows what they are doing on LinkedIn?” and most of the hands fall.
Most people just take it for granted and start using it in a panic when they have to change jobs. It’s often too late at that point. You are better off learning to use it when you don’t need it. LinkedIn works best when you use it as a career management tool and not just for job hunting.
LinkedIn offers a variety of ways to expand your network by finding and connecting with relevant professionals in your industry. The key is to find, approach and connect with folks you already know, folks you’d like to know and folks you should know. You should also post your own content, showing off your expertise on a regular basis.
Learn to use to give and receive recommendations for people you have worked with in the past. You should give recommendations only to people whose work you are willing to vouch for. I’ve heard of employers who take recommendations on LinkedIn almost as seriously as ones received in more traditional ways. So if anything gives you pause, you should find a gentle way to turn down a request for a recommendation.
Depending on your business, LinkedIn offers a variety of ways to deploy it for companies — from to . As with the other platforms, you should see if make sense for you.
On LinkedIn, you can create a company page and build an online community around it, getting customers and potential customers to follow you. To learn more about LinkedIn for business, see .
Finding jobs is the most important part of LinkedIn for individuals, and you can use the network to track specific companies, people and job openings. Spend time getting to know, in detail, the search features that let you drill down into networks of people, companies and job postings.
When you’re looking for a new job, numbers matter, so take time to build your network. But be sure to do it in a smart way: Blasting invitations at complete strangers in the hopes of connecting with either them or people they are connected with is not a good strategy. Instead, look for legitimate connections you have with people — your alma mater, for example — and reach out with an invitation to connect that includes a personal note.
LinkedIn’s free account works well, but you may want to experiment with the premium version. It comes in many price points, starting at $29.99 a month. That’s serious money, but if you’re job hunting, it’s worth paying for the features that include the ability to email people you don’t know yet through the site, and connect in new ways with recruiters.
July 28, 2015
July 31, 2015
November 5, 2016
The number of characters may have changed, but Twitter remains all about instant connections and sharing your ideas.
Twitter, with its 328 million users, has recently changed its most famous and infamous feature, the 140-character limit. By doubling the limit to 280 characters, it offers more room to express your thoughts and ideas. But keep in mind that brevity, along with strategic use of photos and videos, will continue to help you stand out; there’s no need to use all 280 characters in every post.
Twitter can be more conversational than other platforms, but be sure to understand the difference between your retweets, replies and your DMs (direct messages). Retweets (RTs) are ways for you to share, and optionally comment on, others’ posts. Choosing “quote tweet” means you add a comment above someone’s post; just hitting “retweet” means it gets sent to your followers without any commentary from you. You should quote tweet whenever you can, so people understand why you are sharing something.
Replies are a public way to respond to posts by others and carry on a conversation that others see, while direct messages are a way for you to connect privately with someone. In order to be able to DM someone, they have to follow you; or they have opted for the setting that allows anyone to DM them. Group DMs are an effective way to have more focused conversations among a larger group. Twitter allows you to have a private account (“protected” in their parlance) — but if you are using Twitter for business, having an open account makes more sense.
The instantaneous nature of Twitter means you are able to:
tool lets you share video and interact with those posting videos that matter to you. which lets you provide users with up to four answers to choose between and see the results in real-time, can be another way to engage with, and expand, your network. You’ll often see businesses running polls about specific products to gauge reactions from customers and potential customers.
Smart, relevant, timely posts can help you raise your company’s profile, especially when you . Participating in popular hashtags when they are relevant to you works well. As does occasionally using hashtags around your products or services. The key: Keep hashtags simple, clear and unique, so that your hashtags aren’t hijacked by some other brand with something similar.
allows you to target particular audiences and reach them so they learn about your business and have an opportunity to become followers and engage with you. Take a look at to see how it can be part of your online business efforts.
Everyone’s obsessed with getting more followers, but for job hunting, who you follow is more important. by industry and topic (these lists can be public or private) and you’ll be able to see what they are interested in, what they’re thinking about and get ideas on how to reach out and connect to them. When someone in your industry asks a question or requests assistance, you can participate and show how relevant and useful you can be. There are numerous instances of Twitter conversations turning into face-to-face meetings.
Following good grammar, spelling and punctuation rules will help you stand out and create a good impression. Also helpful: A clear bio that explains who you are, along with a recent, recognizable, headshot.
November 7, 2017
March 30, 2017
February 12, 2015
September 19, 2017
With the largest number of users, Facebook is a worldwide phenomenon beloved by both companies and your cousins.
Facebook, with more than two billion users worldwide, is the most powerful and influential of the social networks. It is a great way to connect with family, friends and friends of friends. It remains mainly a personal network for most people, but it is useful for business and professional outreach as well. As , the platform played a critical role in spreading information and disinformation.
Facebook Live, which allows you to broadcast instantly around the world, can be a useful tool. In addition to journalists, businesses have been using Live to share behind-the-scenes content, do employee Q&As and other events.
Like most platforms, Facebook so you can decide who gets to see what. Settings include content that can be seen by everyone online or by just your friends, or by customized groups you create (coworkers, for instance, family or your high school teammates). Most people don’t pay attention to these settings and are sometimes surprised by, say, who saw photos that weren’t meant for their eyes.
Facebook can be used to:
Of course, just because you post something doesn’t mean everyone will see it. Facebook’s algorithm determines what content is shown to particular folks and depends on your own settings, plus an evolving array of factors. These can include how relevant the content is to your audience, predictions on whether people will comment or share it and judging it against the other content that is available to show at a particular time.
In addition to a personal profile, creating a business page lets you connect with people who want to know more about your work. You can share updates, progress reports and ideas with a wide range of folks who may not visit your website on a regular basis.
can take your viewers behind the scenes of your business, and Facebook’s robust ad tools allow you to target potential customers and clients based on specific criteria. is essential for your digital marketing plans. Given how hard it is to get your content out to everyone, you’ll find yourself under pressure to pay to boost your posts.
For a business to succeed on Facebook, it’s about connecting with a community that engages with your content. Just like in the offline world, if your product, service or idea is something people like and want to connect with, they will want to do the same on Facebook. To learn more about using Facebook for business, take a look at .
Use Facebook to follow companies you are interested in and to get ideas about openings and opportunities. Put your personal network to work to help you identify client or employee leads. Your friends and family can be helpful if they know what you are looking for.
Facebook offers an unusual feature called . It allows someone that you designate to handle your account when you pass away, without giving them access to your account while you are still alive.
Everyone, regardless of their business or career goals, should follow .
October 12, 2017
October 20, 2017
September 21, 2017
More than just pretty pictures, Instagram is increasingly a place for business.
Instagram, built around photos, videos and captions, has grown to 800 million users and is increasingly part of the business world. If you and your work are visually driven, Instagram should be part of your business toolkit. Any company aimed at consumers, including travel, beauty and more, can do well on Instagram, but we are also seeing older, B2B companies like and using Instagram.
Instagram’s obsessive audience loves great visuals, and you can use your content to build an audience here.
Patience and experimentation is key as you find the right formula that works for you. For example, spend time looking through popular hashtags to see if your post is a fit; so that more people can discover you. Same thing goes for tagging other relevant accounts with an @ sign. You can find more tips in this .
Features like , which allow you to tell, well, a story, using multiple photos and videos, are ways to use Instagram in a business environment. These stories last for 24 hours, which means time frame should be something you have to factor into your decision to make them. Most of the time, you are better off creating visuals and graphics you can use on multiple platforms that will also have a longer shelf life.
You should also explore Instagram’s and see how they fit in with your overall strategy. Instagram is all about getting existing and potential customers excited about what you do, so be sure to explore it. To learn about its business potential, take a look at .
As with many other platforms, job hunting on Instagram is about listening and interacting with relevant companies and individuals. You can use Instagram to learn about particular companies and their culture, as well as find out what’s influencing decision-makers in different fields.
A lot of what you see on Instagram is heavily produced with professional help, and your ability to replicate their scale and success is unlikely if you are working on your own.
September 26, 2017
August 10, 2017
October 2, 2017
July 14, 2017
This hot social network is undergoing major changes.
Once the hottest of the networks — thanks to its 250 million users and a big I.P.O. in March 2017 — Snapchat has cooled off lately as Instagram has emulated some of its biggest ideas and a major redesign was announced.
Depending on your industry and who you’re trying to reach (especially millennials and younger), Snapchat may make sense for you. Otherwise, you may want to wait and see how the “Insta vs Snap” war shakes out.
Snapchat offers a variety of tools and tips for businesses, mostly built around paid ads. Snapchat promotes and also has an.
August 10, 2017
December 2, 2016
November 30, 2016
… nothing stays the same for too long.
These are just general guidelines for these five social media platforms. (There are many others, with more niche audiences). Each person’s experience and success rates with using social media in his or her career will vary. It’s more of an art than a science, and changing algorithms and technology (and whims of other users) are in constant flux.
A word of caution: Just keeping up the various platforms — and coming up with multiple things to post every day — can be exhausting. Sometimes, taking some time to lurk and analyze what other people and companies are doing can be a refreshing way to reevaluate what types of posts are most suitable for you and your business.
The best way to ensure success is to think carefully before you post, and constantly evaluate what you are posting and your overall online activities. You are unlikely to have time to dedicate to all these networks — and whatever comes along next — so you should pick and choose the ones that make most sense to you, your subject areas and your schedule.
The bottom line is that I always remember a piece of advice I heard during the early days of Facebook: What’s common sense in real life is common sense on social media.
December 3, 2016
January 18, 2017
March 26, 2016
August 23, 2017
Sree Sreenivasan, a digital and social media consultant, is a former chief digital officer of Columbia University, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the City of New York. He’s ending a social media posting hiatus with the publication of this guide.