It’s no longer enough simply to have a Twitter profile and post occasionally. To really be a star professionally, experts say, you need to plug into a social media community.
A strong digital presence can raise your visibility, helping you catch the eye of higher-ups at your firm, job candidates, recruiters, and even prospective business partners. “Being visible in social media provides ‘social proof’ that you are up to date,” says Susan P. Joyce, an online-job-search expert. It allows you to demonstrate “what you know and, to some degree, who you know,” she adds.
If you’re still treading lightly, take these steps to upgrade your social strategy and advance your career.
1) BRAG (A LITTLE)
You probably have a LinkedIn profile, but unless you’re job hunting, you also probably ignore it. “As your career progresses and changes, so should your profile,” says Catherine Fisher, LinkedIn’s in-house career expert. If you’ve been promoted or won an award, add it to your profile.
Also add a background image. Be strategic: If you’re over 50, for instance, choose a photo that shows how energetic you are; if you want a reputation as an expert, use images of you speaking at events. You can use a web tool like PicMonkey to upload several images and create a collage.
2) PICK YOUR PLATFORMS
Ask peers which networks they use professionally. “Some will be better than others based on your job,” says Dan Schawbel, author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success.
Go beyond LinkedIn, Twitter, even Facebook: Photographers tend to showcase their work on Instagram, he says, while Pinterest is better for fashion and retail pros “because the focus is on clothing and other consumer goods.” And some social networks are even more specific. Stack Overflow, for example, lets programmers ask questions and share information; Doximity connects physicians with other health care professionals.
Schawbel also cautions that if you’re going to use a personal profile (say, on Facebook or Instagram) professionally, be careful to portray yourself as you’d want colleagues to see you.
3) BUILD RELATIONSHIPS
Identify the individuals and companies you want to connect with; these might range from close colleagues to industry leaders.
Again, ask co-workers for a few suggestions, then watch to see who those people interact with. Donna Svei, an executive search consultant, says she found Facebook groups for recruiters just “by seeing where my colleagues had joined on Facebook.”
Engage politely, Schawbel says: “The best way to [approach] people that you don’t know on social networks is to follow them, retweet them, and respond to their comments.” And don’t be selfish: “Always connect based on their interests first and your motives second.”
4) MAKE THE TIME
Carve out time at least twice a day to engage on all the platforms you’ve committed to—perhaps an hour in total. (Set a timer if you think you’ll get sucked in.) Read updates and comment where you have something of substance to add, and try to post, share, or retweet a handful of items each day. Just make sure that the content you’re sharing (or even clicking as “Favorite”) supports the image you want to convey; never retweet without reading first.
5) BE CONSISTENT
As you build your online reputation, make sure people can find you when they search. Use an identical form of your name in all professional communications, says Joyce: social media accounts, business cards, blog posts, and résumés.
You can’t be called John in one place and Jack in another, she says. The same goes for middle initials, maiden names, hyphenated surnames, and suffixes. If you want to be known as John W. Smith- Jones Jr., use it in all contexts.
6) FOLLOW THE RULES
One final note: Check with HR to see if either your company or your industry has rules about what you can post. Never reveal confidential company information, like products in the works or financial performance. Identify yourself as an employee when commenting about your company. Make clear that your views are personal.
And, of course, always do a gut check before you post anything.