Whether you’re enrolled in an undergraduate- or graduate-level online degree program, you’re sure to learn more about the advantages, possibilities, and potential downsides of online communication.
In the U.S., 3 out of every 4 adults who use the Internet also use social media.* That makes social media a powerful tool. But there’s a big difference between using online communication casually and using it for a specific purpose. If you master social media, you can more easily build a professional presence and potentially enhance your career. Here are some tips to help you use social media more professionally.
Know Why You’re Using Social Media
You can’t build an effective online presence without understanding the benefits of doing so. From a professional standpoint, social media allows you to:
- Create a far-reaching network of peers and leaders in your chosen career area.
- Stay up-to-date on the latest ideas and trends in your field.
- Announce your accomplishments and present yourself as a thought leader in your profession.
- Share your knowledge and provide information that enhances your industry.
Know the Difference Between Social Media Platforms
Not every social media site is the same. Here’s a quick overview of the major sites and how professionals use them.
- LinkedIn: A professional network where you can establish your credentials through a résumé-style profile, post or share content relevant to your field, and connect with others who work in your industry.
- Facebook: A casual network where you can connect with peers and leaders on a more personal level and participate in groups focused on specific topics.
- Twitter: A sounding board where you can post 140-character thoughts related to your profession, follow other professionals, and share links to pertinent content.
- YouTube: A video-sharing site where you and other professionals can post clips of motivational speeches, product demonstrations, lectures, etc.
- Instagram: A photo-sharing site where you and other professionals can post images of new products, trade show displays, convention gatherings, inspirational ideas, and more.
- Tumblr: A blogging platform that allows you and other professionals to write essays, commentaries, and how-tos focused on your industry.
- Pinterest: An idea-sharing site where you and other professionals can share image collections, articles, and posts that you find interesting or inspirational.
Begin as a Follower
If you’re not familiar with all of these online social platforms, give yourself an education before you start participating. Many social media sites allow you to “lurk,” which is simply Internet slang for anyone who reads the posts of others without posting anything themselves. Observing in this manner allows you to see how other professionals are utilizing social media, and helps you identify those with whom you’d like to connect.
Establish Your Presence
Joining a social media network is a lot like walking in the door at an in-person social gathering. Yes, you can eavesdrop by standing in the corner all night, but the real point is to mingle and meet people. How do you do that on social media? There are multiple ways to participate:
- Like: Most social media sites allow you to click or tap a button to show that you “like” what another professional has posted. People find it gratifying to receive “likes,” and they’ll appreciate you for providing positive feedback.
- Follow Back: When you are notified of a new follower who shares your professional interests, follow them in return. It’s an important step to making connections.
- Comment: Write a response to what someone else has posted. It can be as simple as a note of thanks, or you can ask a question or make a respectful remark with the intent of starting a productive, positive conversation.
- Post: Share articles, personal thoughts, images, videos, and relevant content from credible sources. You don’t have to share much or share often, but posting is how you ultimately create your professional image. For your posts, share something you find interesting and think others in your profession would find useful as well.
- Hashtag: Hashtags (the # symbol followed by words) is a method of indexing. You can search social media sites by hashtags and get a list of all posts that use a specific tag. Tags don’t have to be registered; simply add a # symbol in front of a word or combined series of words—with no spaces—and anyone who searches for that tag will find your post. Specific events and discussions will often use a hashtag. If you join a conversation with a hashtag, use the hashtag to increase the chances of people seeing your contribution.
Behave in a respectful manner in all of your social media encounters, just like you have done conversing with others in your online degree program. Keep your posts, comments, and other interactions focused on productive conversations about your industry. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a personality or that you can’t disagree with someone. In fact, you want to show your personal side and well-reasoned ideas, because that helps make you more interesting and memorable. Just remember: You’re doing this for your career. Treat others as you would at your office or at a conference, and you’ll put yourself in a great position to benefit professionally from social media.
Walden University is an accredited institution offering online bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.
*Pew Research Center, Social Networking Fact Sheet, on the Internet at www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheets/social-networking-fact-sheet.
Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.