This article originally appeared in the April 2011 issue of FORUM magazine, published by the Association Forum of Chicagoland. Fast forward to today, strategies still apply and even more so due to social media’s impact on how people communicate nowadays.
These days, it seems, everyone is using social media. And there’s a good reason why: Using social media correctly can go a long way toward advancing the careers of association professionals.
Social media is just as “strategic” as it is “social.” For instance, social media makes it easier for you to:
- Network with Colleagues: It’s never been easier to network with industry leaders. Looking for the CEO of a national association? Chances are they’re on LinkedIn. Do you want to get in touch with the local branch’s human resources director? They may be on Twitter.
- Find Job Openings: Many associations use social media for recruiting. Although it may be just one piece in a larger recruitment strategy, many rely heavily on social networks to find candidates. In smaller organizations, especially, budget constraints encourage human resources departments to use as many low-cost avenues as possible – and social media is free.
- Establish Yourself as a Subject Matter Expert: Establishing yourself as a subject matter expert is easy when you regularly post and comment on relevant topics. Although the methods differ by platform, the principles are the same. When you repost a status, add a link to an article or contribute to an online conversation, you enhance your brand and become known as a “go-to” person. Building this reputation can take awhile, but will ultimately increase your visibility.
Of course, social media can damage your personal brand just as easily as it can enhance it – especially when you’re not following the “rules” of the game. With that in mind, consider the following when you are using social media as a part of your career management plan:
1. Post Only What’s Appropriate: The cardinal rule in social media is this: If you wouldn’t want your grandmother or religious leader to see it, don’t post it.
2. Keep It Professional: Although there’s more wiggle room at social sites, such as Facebook, than professional ones, like LinkedIn, it’s a good idea to keep “personal” posts to a minimum. Although there may not be anything objectionable or inappropriate about your personal posts, being too personal too often can dilute your individual brand.
3. Commit to Your Personal Brand: In an ideal world, if you wanted to establish yourself as a marketing expert, you would post strictly information and opinions on marketing topics. Posting leads for IT jobs, commenting about health care reform or responding to others’ posts about the financial industry are all “off brand.” Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t ever veer from your topic of choice; it just means that you should do so sparingly and keep most of your posts on-topic.
The cardinal rule in social media is this: If you wouldn’t want your grandmother or religious leader to see it, don’t post it.
Although there are countless social media sites to choose from when you’re trying to build your career, it’s important to invest your time in a few instead of spreading yourself too thin. If you’re not sure which to use, consider the following tips for using the most popular social networks:
If you choose just one social network, it should be LinkedIn. The statistics speak for themselves: Some estimates show that as many as 70 percent of recruiters will turn to it first when filling a position. Before getting started with LinkedIn, make sure your profile is 100 percent complete, which requires you to include your current position, two past positions, your education, a summary, a photo, specialties and at least three recommendations. These extra steps are worthwhile because completed profiles are more likely to be viewed than incomplete profiles. If you are interested in viewing open positions, go to the “Jobs” tab at the top of the page. You can search by a variety of criteria and positions may even be suggested for you based on the keywords in your profile.
Using LinkedIn’s “Groups” feature is one of the best ways to actively manage your career, regardless of your current objective. If you’re looking for work, you can build relationships with decision makers. If you’d like to build your reputation, people will get to know you when you participate in discussions. You can choose from thousands of groups that align with your interests, such as your job function, industry or alma mater. Some, such as the Association Forum of Chicagoland’s group, are available only to members.
Whichever groups you sign up for, it’s not enough to join; you also must participate. Asking questions and responding to inquiries are all great ways to do so. You also can leverage this feature to build relationships with people in your industry. Use a conversation within a group as a starting point from which to move the relationship forward. You can send a “connection request,” possibly even following up with a phone call.
Twitter is an excellent tool for managing your career, and more people are catching on to it. Unlike LinkedIn, you can “follow” – or connect to – anyone on Twitter without their formal approval. You can then read what they post, reply to their comments and even message them directly.
Twitter’s potential as a networking tool is obvious, but you also can use it to search job openings. There are countless associations that list vacancies, but a couple feeds worth following are @AssociationJobs and @GetAssociateJobs.
Establishing yourself as an industry expert here is just as easy as it is on LinkedIn. Posting relevant status updates, including links to industry articles and having an on-brand bio are a few of the ways you can start developing your reputation as a thought leader on Twitter.
Facebook is the most “social” social network. Your “friends” – those connected to you on Facebook – expect to interact with you on a less formal level. Certainly, you can post relevant articles, statuses about your industry and even job leads, but professional status updates should be balanced with more personal ones.
Although you don’t need to be as strict about your personal brand on Facebook, and there’s no area to search for open jobs, many have used it successfully as a networking and lead-generation tool. Linda Woody, for example, who is communications manager at Association Headquarters, used Facebook in her most recent search. She reconnected with former classmates and co-workers, then set up networking meetings. She didn’t need to mention her job search in her status; the subject came up organically.
Clearly, every social network is different. In general, however, each provides at least one of the following opportunities: open jobs, networking and the ability to establish yourself as an expert. If you approach social media with realistic expectations, tend to it regularly and maintain your brand, you’ll have a new tool that will continue to offer benefits throughout the course of your career.
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