We now live in a world dominated by social media, and it has dramatically changed how we as humans communicate.
There are many advantages to social media. It has allowed us greater access to the thoughts, opinions and experiences of people and groups we may otherwise never have heard from; it has provided faster news coverage than ever before; and made it possible for us to connect with and maintain relationships with friends and family all over the world, to name a few.
Social media dominance presents opportunities for businesses too. For example, it has created new advertising opportunities, boosted website traffic, changed the mere concept of brand loyalty, and created many jobs.
There are, of course, many disadvantages to social media that we are all aware of, such as its impact on mental wellbeing, the license it gives people to be hurtful, and how it risks decreasing face-to-face communication skills.
However, this article is not here to weigh up the pros and cons of social media, because whether we like it or not, it’s not going anywhere. With technology playing a massive role in businesses today, especially since remote working took so many practices digital, it’s virtually impossible to avoid having some form of digital footprint. This means there are, to varying extents, digital versions of all of us online.
This doesn’t have to be a bad thing, whilst social media can harm your professional career if handled poorly, it can also help you build a professional online presence and enhance your career. We’ve compiled a handful of tips to help you evaluate how you use social media and make positive changes.
What are the benefits?
Firstly, it’s important to understand some of the main benefits of a positive professional presence online so you know what you’re aiming for.
Staying up to date. Nowhere do new ideas, new content and news itself travel faster than on social media. Being present in the right social media spaces allows you to stay up to date with trends, opinions and other news in your industry.
Building a network. Professional growth and success is always enhanced by having a strong, diverse network of industry peers. Creating connections online not only encourages the previously mentioned point about staying up to date with what’s new, but it also allows you to connect with people all over the world.
Raising your profile. Building a network allows you to raise your profile in your chosen industry. If you use your platforms to share your own impressive ideas, bring attention to your professional accomplishments and build a personal brand, you have the opportunity to impress those who may be able to enhance your career.
Below are some key tips to keep in mind as you navigate various social media sites…
Understand the sites you’re using. Social media is constantly evolving, meaning new platforms are emerging often, whilst existing ones change. It’s important to recognise these changes so that you can optimise your usage of the tools that are available to you. Where LinkedIn revolves around professional networking and employment opportunities, Twitter is much more conversational and allows you to connect with people from all walks of life.
Be respectful. One of social media’s biggest issues is how people hide behind their keyboards. Remember that others will have different opinions than you, and how you respond is a reflection on yourself. Once something is on the internet it is there forever, meaning your actions and comments may follow you for a very long time.
Discuss. Building a presence online can be difficult, especially if you want to establish yourself as a thought leader. Getting involved in conversations on LinkedIn and Twitter elevates your personal brand and helps you connect with others in your industry.
Remember that your opinions are your own. When joining discussions or posting anything at all, it is advisable not to be too controversial. Whilst standing for your beliefs can be positive, sometimes we respond or react to things we disagree with without evaluating if it adds any value to the conversation.
Anyone can see what you post publicly, and that includes current or potential future employers that you may not wish to ostracise yourself from. Discrimination and bias still exist, and your opinions, even if not harmful, could affect a future hiring decision.
If you do decide to post strong opinions online, ensure that you disclaim that opinions are your own, and not reflective of the company you work for. This may not always protect you or your business, but it does set out your boundaries.
Don’t overshare. Maybe you maintain a very professional presence on LinkedIn and Twitter, but use Facebook to post about your personal life. Just like opinions, your personal choices can affect hiring decisions, customer opinions, or perhaps affect a peer’s attitude towards you. Make sure that anything on your personal pages is a positive reflection of you should it be stumbled upon.
Check your privacy settings. Continuing the above, it’s important to check your privacy settings regularly across different platforms. Think about what you want to be seen and by who and adjust each platform accordingly!
Consider when you’re posting. Perhaps you should avoid posting during the workday. Or it may be better to save your scrolling and commenting for your lunch break. Your habits reflect back on how you’re viewed as a professional.
Ensure legal compliance. This should perhaps go without saying but sharing any company data is typically an offence that could get you fired and can put people at risk. You should know what is meant to be kept within the business and should take extra care to ensure it stays that way.
Update, or delete. The internet is forever, but you can take measures to protect your image by keeping accounts up to date. We all change and evolve, much as these platforms do, and your profiles must reflect who you are today. That means everything from keeping your LinkedIn job history up to date, to changing your Facebook header.
If you don’t use a platform anymore, delete your profile! You probably don’t want a frozen-in-time version of yourself from 5 years ago existing on the internet.
Import contacts. Importing contacts is a great way to start building your network. Find and approach people you already know, then those you’d like to know and people you should know.
Consistent personal branding. You don’t need to post constantly, social media is probably not your job, but rather an extension of your personality as a professional. You don’t need to be on it all the time but try to maintain consistency on each platform in how you present yourself.
That said, if you are seeking to raise your business’ profile, or sell yourself as a self-employed individual, timely, scheduled posts may work to your advantage.
In the end, thinking of your social media presence as an extension of yourself is key. Different platforms represent different parts of your life, but they all speak to you as a person, and a professional. Things like grammar could make the difference in you being scouted for your dream position.
Clear bios and high-quality photos help you build a clean online profile, especially on sites like LinkedIn and Twitter. Don’t be afraid to insert yourself into conversations where appropriate and highlight how useful and forward-thinking your expertise is.
In a highly connected digital world, having a positive and effective online presence is key to success. So long as you ensure boundaries, remember that something being public means absolutely anyone anywhere can see it, and regularly assess how you’re using different platforms, there are no bounds to the opportunities that can arise from being active in online spaces.
If you need to help ensure your employees get the best out of their interactions on social media, why not provide them access to our Social Media at Work E-Learning Course, which is aimed at ensuring learners get the best out of their online interactions. Contact us today to find out more.