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Author: Ryan Hirsch, NASBA Multimedia & Video Services Manager
Posted: May 1, 2012

The rise of social media has revolutionized the way individuals interact with friends, family and even strangers. Websites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter have made it easier than ever to make connections with others and introduce yourself to the world. Though once thought of as mere social and entertainment networks, many individuals are now utilizing these sites to advance their career and professional goals. Below are several tips explaining some of the best practices for individuals using social media for business purposes.

Establish Yourself as a Subject Matter Expert

First impressions are often lasting impressions, so select your username and profile picture carefully to ensure it represents the image you seek to portray. Then, write a description about yourself that reflects your current job title or your professional goals and aspirations. After creating a polished profile, begin interacting with thought leaders or experts in your field by engaging them with thought provoking dialogue that is relevant to your industry. Over time, discussing topics of mutual interest will enhance credibility with peers and potential employers.

Post Consistent Updates

Creating a profile is a great start, but maintaining a consistent level of online activity is paramount. Blogger Mike Brown notes, "Nothing [is] worse than making a splash online, building relationships, then letting them evaporate after you disappear for weeks or months." It is also important to understand the appropriate amount of updates for each social media platform, especially if you are being followed by different sets of audiences. Too many posts on LinkedIn may annoy some of your business connections, while too few posts on Facebook could cause others to lose interest in your page. You must find balance; the appropriate number of posts may be different for each person based on their goals and objectives, the demographics of their connections and the social media platform being utilized.

Research Companies

Whether you are a student, job seeker or current employee, it is often beneficial to research companies that you are interested in, or companies who have expressed an interest in you. Following company profiles as well as the company's leaders can often give you a snapshot of the company's culture, leadership style and business philosophy. It is important to remember that although a company may be interviewing you for a position, you are also interviewing the company to ensure that it is the right fit for you and your career path.

Seek Recommendations

In today's society, word of mouth and customer reviews are some of the most trusted resources. Therefore, after establishing yourself as a brand expert and researching which companies you would like to work for, you will be in a position to obtain recommendations from peers who have developed confidence in your level of expertise. It is important to understand that when you recommend others or they recommend you, a certain amount of credibility is being put on the line for the other person. These recommendations should not be rushed or forced; the best recommendations generally come from those who have developed positive business relationships over time and genuinely believe the other person is highly qualified and capable.

Personally Reach Out to Your Network

In addition to seeking public recommendations, it is also beneficial to send direct messages to some of your professional connections. Despite the common misconception, there is no shortage of jobs in America. Companies are typically seeking individuals who fit a specific list of criteria, and they often leave positions unfilled until they find candidates matching a desired set of skills. Author, Rachel Levy says, "One of the best ways to use LinkedIn is if you have a very specific company you are interested in. You search on that company, and hopefully find people who are connected to other people you know. Then, you can ask your personal contact to connect you." This tactic yields the best results when used with genuine, long-term connections.

During a recent conference, NASBA's President and CEO, Ken Bishop said, "By the time you need a connection with a particular entity, it is typically too late to start the process of building that relationship." It is essential to develop relationships with key leaders in your industry now, in order to access those connections at a later time.

"What’s Your Personal Social Media Policy" Mike Brown 2/18/11
"How to Use Social Media in Your Job Search" Rachel Levy

Other Suggested Reading

"Confessions of a Social Media Expert" Giselle Abramovich 4/9/12

"Why Americans Use Social Media" Aaron Smith 11/15/11

"Managing Yourself: What’s Your Personal Social Media Strategy?" Soumitra Dutta 11/2010