Instead of spending hours posting old prom pictures on social media, you might consider using that time to bolster your career, suggests Virginia Green, owner of The Biz Visions Group and an instructor in the MBA program at the University of Phoenix Southern California Campus.
Employers are paying more attention than ever to social media, Green emphasizes, so it's important to make your time online count if you're seeking a job or want to enhance your professional standing. According to the Jobvite Social Recruiting Survey 2011, 89 percent of companies planned to recruit through social media, up from 83 percent in 2010.
Here are Green's recommendations on the best social media options and how to use them to improve your career:
Why: Green says "absolutely everyone" should have a Linkedin® profile. With 175 million members, "it's the way people are getting jobs."
What to do: Not only should you fill out every aspect of your profile to strengthen your credibility by providing details about your experience, education and expertise, but you should scroll through your connections' contacts for people who work at companies you admire, and actively reach out to them.
"If you discover someone on LinkedIn with whom you have a second or third degree of connection, and they have your dream career, request to be introduced to them," Green says. "Once you make contact, ask to set up an informational meeting to learn more about their expertise and pick their brain." A professional's perspective also can add to your credibility in your field.
Why: "I think of Tweeting as micro-blogging, with a potential audience of millions," Green says.
What to do: On the Twitter® network, start by finding and following relevant people in your field, and then Tweet content of interest to your target audience.
"If you want to be respected as an entrepreneur, for instance, don't Tweet about your favorite ice cream flavor," Green says. "Instead, Tweet things that demonstrate your knowledge." This will garner relevant followers among Twitter's 500 million members, who could turn into business partners or lead you to more contacts who might help you in your career.
Why: With 45 million members in 226 countries, including the United States, the Viadeo® platform offers the opportunity to network worldwide, which is increasingly important in today's global economy. The Paris-based company plans to further expand internationally using $31.6 million the French government invested in it earlier this year.
What to do: Create a profile that gets you both national and international exposure with a base of professionals with whom you can seek business opportunities. Viadeo also has a portal where users can post their blogs by topic, and the site offers a vast job board.
"As with LinkedIn, seek out professionals working in companies that align with your goals," Green advises. "With a smaller user base, you have more opportunity to connect with higher-level professionals on this site because desirable contacts may not be inundated by requests."
Why: You may be familiar with the Facebook® site as a way of connecting with friends and family, but - if you do it right - this social sharing network also can be used to give your career a boost. Best of all: You've probably already built a community that includes work-related friends and acquaintances, as well as potential clients or employers, so you won't have to start from scratch.
What to do: Create a professional Facebook page where you only post information and links related to your profession. Facebook has almost 1 billion members, so you'll have the possibility of wide exposure. Green also suggests limiting your separate personal Facebook page to close friends and family by setting your privacy settings so no one else can find you.
Why: It can cast you as an expert and serve to expand your resumé.
What to do: Write how-to articles about different aspects of your work and post them on your blog. If you're a CPA, for example, you could explain new elements of the tax law. "Blogging," Green says, "can demonstrate to the business community that you know what you're doing and have the expertise to succeed in your field." For more exposure, link your blog to your Twitter profile and your LinkedIn and Viadeo accounts.
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Twitter and Tweet are registered trademarks of Twitter Inc.
Viadeo is a registered trademark of The Viadeo Group.
Facebook is a registered trademark of Facebook Inc.