networking

Smart Social Media Strategies to Advance Your Career

Making connections are crucial for getting ahead in any career field. Reaching out to the right people can open all kinds of doors to new and exciting opportunities — and social media is a great way to find those “right people.”

Whether it’s on Twitter, LinkedIn, or even Instagram, participating in your industry’s social media community can help you make new connections and establish yourself as an expert, if you’re smart about it. Here are a few tips that have helped me network with other professionals via social media.

Follow active, engaging accounts. 

If you want to get the most out of the time you spend networking on social media, look for accounts that actively engage with their followers and share a healthy mix of content (i.e., not just their own article or product links). If you find that an account is posting too frequently and clogging up your feed with irrelevant items, it’s okay to unfollow or mute them.

Participate where you can. 

Unless you’re getting paid to manage social media accounts, you probably don’t have time to be checking and posting throughout the whole work day. However, if you have a few minutes to spare during your breaks or in between tasks, use that time to catch up on what people are sharing and commenting on, and when it’s appropriate, share or comment on something yourself. When done correctly, this activity will signal that you’re on top of industry news and have something valuable to contribute to the conversation. If you want a few more tips on this point, I wrote this piece about developing a good professional social media presence.

Keep it focused.

You should always look to inject a little bit of personality into your social media presence, but if you really want to use it as a tool for professional growth, try to keep the majority of your content focused on your industry, your career, and your work or side projects. The occasional tweet about your latest Netflix obsession or a great restaurant you discovered is fine (and welcome!), but without a clear theme or focus for your posts, people are unlikely to recognize your account as one of industry authority and expertise.

Don’t trash talk anyone. 

In today’s culture, it’s pretty common to complain on social media when you’ve had any kind of negative experience. As tempting as this is, it’s probably not a good idea to get too specific when you air your grievances. The most obvious example would be bashing your employer, but even bad-mouthing third parties outside your company can be detrimental. I see this happen a lot with journalists complaining about PR pros — who, as a reminder, spend a lot of time trying to help reporters chase down stories. I won’t pretend I’ve never vented about a frustrating professional encounter on Twitter, but it’s incredibly unwise to call out a person or agency by name. You never know who other people in your network know — a potential employer, business partner, or client might look at your feed and be dissuaded from working with you because of what they find there.

A version of this article originally appeared on LinkedIn.

Image credit: Syda Productions/Shutterstock.com

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How to Successfully Mix Personal and Professional Content on Social Media

In the early 2000s, when a pre-teen Nicole made her first foray into the digital world, the idea of “social media” as we know it wasn’t yet fully formed. We had AOL Instant Messenger, MySpace and LiveJournal — digital outlets for adolescent angst, safe from the prying eyes of adults. Facebook was still “college students only,” which meant that what happened at school, stayed at school. Above all else, most young adults on these networks went to great lengths to keep their digital presence on the down-low, lest their parents discover their accounts.

Times have obviously changed. Now, everybody’s on social media — not just your parents, but your friends’ parents, your former teachers, your childhood friends, your co-workers, your boss and maybe even your grandmother. This lack of boundaries has profoundly impacted how we choose to present ourselves on networks where our past, current and future employers see the same posts as the people we hang out with on the weekends.

Because your career and professional reputation are so linked to your networking activities, you want to establish yourself as someone who’s knowledgeable about their industry. But you also don’t want to seem like a robot who only posts about work. Especially for younger professionals, the ideal personal brand on social media offers a well-rounded view of an individual’s life, both in and out of the office.

If you’re looking to develop a single social presence that’s appropriate for all audiences, here are a few guidelines you can follow.

1. Know your network. 

Every social media channel is different and has its own best practices. You probably have accounts on multiple platforms, so it’s important to understand what makes each one unique and tweak your content, format and hashtags accordingly. A platform like LinkedIn, where people share articles and have group discussions, is primarily text-based. Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat, on the other hand, are all about images, and any captions or hashtags take a backseat to the photo itself. Words, pictures or a combination of both are all equally at home on Facebook and Twitter, but the main difference lies in each one’s brevity: A long paragraph is better suited to a Facebook post than a multi-tweet thread.

2. Look beyond self-promotion. 

A social media account that’s all about you can come across as narcissistic, and frankly, a little boring. Rather than only posting your own work, give others a chance to shine by sharing articles, infographics and photos from around the web. Be sure to give credit where it’s due and take time to tag the original sources, as well as one or two people you know who might be interested in it. This is not only courteous, but also serves as a way to spark a conversation. While we’re on the subject…

3. Engage with your connections. 

It’s called social media for a reason. People share content because they want others to engage with it, whether that’s in the form of likes, shares/retweets or direct responses. If you see something that resonates with you, let the sharer know. Following certain hashtags and participating in Twitter chats can be a great way to make new connections and find interesting content. If you find it difficult to keep up with the various groups of people you follow, try using filters and lists. You can also use a social media management tool like TweetDeck (my personal favorite) or Hootsuite to help you stay organized.

4. Think before you post. 

Be careful about how you address sensitive subjects with a mixed audience. For instance, in the current political climate, Facebook and Twitter have become soapboxes for many users’ opinions on politicians, legislation, etc. It’s great to stand up for what you believe in and show your support for social causes, but remember that not everyone who follows you shares your viewpoints. If you post a statement that’s highly polarizing and controversial, you may spark a debate that spirals out of control and ultimately diminishes your credibility.

Everyone has a right to share their thoughts, but before you send yours out, think about what your statement will add to (or subtract from) your public persona. Remember, just because you can post whatever you’re thinking, doesn’t mean you should.

A version of this article originally appeared on LinkedIn.

Image credit: creativecommonsstockphotos | Dreamstime Stock Photos (CC0)

How to Be a Great Twitter Chat Participant

If you’re an active Twitter user, you’ve likely come across — or maybe even participated in — a Twitter chat.

These public, hashtagged conversations are usually hosted by a brand or industry expert, and invite followers and strangers alike to participate in a Q&A session around a specific topic.  They are planned for a specific date and time, and are announced in advance to drum up interest. There’s chats about just about everything, from pop culture to media to finance (TweetReports.com maintains a thorough list of active weekly Twitter chats here, if you’re looking for one to join).

There are plenty of reasons to host and/or participate in a Twitter chat. For brands, it establishes them as an authority in their field. By asking fellow experts with large followings to co-host or join in, a company can encourage those individuals to reply or retweet relevant responses with its branded hashtag and expose it to a much wider audience. For individual participants with knowledge of or interest in the topic, a chat can connect them with other like-minded Twitter users. Finally, Twitter chats promote real-time interaction and conversation (and isn’t that the whole point of “social” media?).

I’ve participated in a handful of Twitter chats during my career, and it can be tricky to navigate what can sometimes be a confusing and chaotic stream of conversation. If you or your company are thinking about joining a chat, here are a few tips for making yourself stand out as an engaged, helpful participant.

1. Introduce yourself when you join. 

The main host will usually ask the co-hosts and participants to introduce themselves at the beginning of the chat. This helps users to follow along and understand where a person is coming from when they ask or respond to a question. Take this opportunity to share your interest in the conversation, and give a little shout-out to your brand.

2. Always add the hashtag and answer number. 

The whole point of a Twitter chat is to keep the conversation organized with the chat’s hashtag. If you forget to include it, your tweet will likely get lost and not make it to the appropriate audience. I love using TweetChat.com, which essentially turns a specific hashtag into a standalone chatroom. While you can follow an individual hashtag on Twitter’s website or third party programs like TweetDeck and HootSuite, TweetChat automatically includes the hashtag on the end of every tweet you send from the platform, and accounts for that when it displays your remaining characters.

Most Twitter chats are formatted Q1, Q2, Q3, etc. as the host asks the questions. To ensure your responses are properly tracked and seen, you should mark your tweets with the corresponding answer number when a question is asked (i.e., start your tweet with A1 when responding to Q1).

3. Add something unique to the conversation.

If you see a great question that you have a great answer for, it can be tempting to just spit it out immediately. But depending on the number of participants and the speed of their responses, you might just be adding to the noise with your answer.

Before you tweet, see what else has been said in response to that question. If someone else touched on something you wanted to say, reference that person and add your own contribution, for instance, “I agree with @SoAndSo, and also think that (…).” Make use of retweets and quote tweets if someone else’s response reflects your thoughts well enough.

4. Use self-promotional links sparingly.

It’s fine to include a link to your own website or article that perfectly answers one of the questions. It can shed more light on a subject than you can do in 280 characters, and as an added bonus, it will drive some traffic to your site. But if every tweet you contribute is another content link, people will start tuning you out for spamming the chat. Try to limit your use of links and instead try to formulate genuinely useful responses.

5. Thank the host(s) at the end.

At the end of the scheduled chat time, the host will usually send out a wrap-up tweet to close out the conversation. This is a signal for all participants to send in their final thoughts. When the host says it’s time to go, share a “thank you” tweet, tagging any relevant users you engaged with during the conversation. With any luck, you’ll have gained some knowledge and maybe a few new followers.

A version of this article originally appeared on LinkedIn.

Image credit: publicdomainphotograph | Dreamstime Stock Photos (CC0)