With the exponential growth of Facebook (presently over a billion users), Twitter and LinkedIn, in the last decade social media has become touted as the way to do almost everything, including finding new relationships, advocating for political change, driving sales and (of course) finding work. What do these activities share? all of them: romance, political change, sales and employment, are social activities that rely on leveraging networks of people. This means that the more you are able to connect with people and build positive ongoing relationships, the more successful you will be at meeting your goals.
While these tools work well for many, not everyone is equally successful at using them. Just like in real life, there are certain behaviours and activities that are more successful at achieving social goals:
1. Know your goal and choose the social media tools that are best suited for it
Don’t sign up with too many social media tools – be selective and do a few well; the Internet is littered with incomplete profiles which were started by enthusiastic, well intended users who never completed them. Remember that incomplete, never updated blog you started in 2008? It might still be found by that next employer when they get onto Google to gather more information about you! In the case of job search, I recommend starting with LinkedIn. Twitter can be a good job search tool, too. As far as Facebook is concerned, it’s a bit trickier, though it can also be highly effective.
2. Be open to learning about new social media tools
Don’t be intimidated by social media — just as all the millions of other users out there have mastered the tools, so can you. Don’t be afraid to experiment: try things out, ask questions and search for tips online. Google is an excellent source of answers to any questions, all the more so for social media; there are many experts and users online who are happy to share how they solved the specific problem that you encounter. One of my favourite sources of social media information is Mashable, an online resource which describes itself as covering “the top social media news on topics like Facebook, YouTube, Gmail, Twitter, Amazon, Pinterest and More”.
3. Be social
Many people express concerns about the possibility over exposure and invasion of privacy when they are learning to use social media, worrying about connecting with strangers and sharing too much personal information. While these concerns are (and will always be) valid, it’s worth challenging those notions a bit and really considering what there is to be gained if you share more information, and weighing it up against what may be lost.
To benefit from social media, you have to give up just enough personal information to be interesting, human and authentic. For example, LinkedIn profiles with a photo are reported to be 7 times more likely to be clicked on and noticed.
Keep an open mind when meeting someone new and consider the benefits of adding them to your network. Of course, on Facebook, it’s probably better to be more cautious, because Facebook friends do have access to a lot of personal information. However, on LinkedIn and Twitter, your information is supposed to be public; for most people — there’s really nothing to hide.
In particular, LinkedIn is much more effective if you have more connections; you are more likely to be found in searches and noticed by recruiters. You can always disconnect from a contact who spams or annoys you; users find most contacts to be benign at worst, and surprisingly useful at best.
4. Be sociable
It’s easy to gather contacts and add them to your networks, but for social media to work, you need to interact with them on an ongoing basis.
Share information and join discussions; offer your expertise and even offer your time. Be positive, conversational and thoughtful in your interactions. Generosity can be a very useful behaviour in social media. ‘Paying it forward’ can strengthen your position, so when you need help or information, people are available and motivated to help. ‘Like’ your contacts status or comments, offer information and resources, endorse skills and provide recommendations on LinkedIn, and consider introducing your contacts to each other, when relevent.
Don’t expect quick results. Social media might be fast-moving, but it is also very busy and crowded, and it’s easy to be unnoticed — unless you persevere. Get into a grove of checking and updating on a regular basis, and continually working on extending your network. It does pay off eventually.
6. Step away from the computer – go out and meet people face to face
I have discussed this in previous posts — don’t get too comfortable behind the computer; make sure to reach out and meet people face to face. This activity applies equally for dating, selling, political advocacy (and job search, of course). Call people and arrange to meet in person; that will be the one activity that will enable you to be that one tree that stands out from the forest of job seekers out there.