Making the Most of Social Networks for Your Job Search

Miriam Salpeter

When research shows 93 percent of recruiters use social networking tools to help them identify and hire qualified applicants, it makes sense to create profiles on networks where you expect people in your industry to spend time. This raises the question: how can you really make the most of time you spend using social media?

Identify the Best Networks for Your Industry

Choose social networking tools your colleagues and potential contacts already use. Unless your industry is slow to adopt these tools, you should be able to find online communities, or at least pockets of communities, where people in your industry gather. Talk to a friend who is already plugged in online to learn where people post useful resources and engage in online conversations. If that doesn’t give you a head start, go to each network that interests you and use the available search tools to find the best conversations.

LinkedIn

The most obviously professional network likely has a number of groups that cater to your industry. Visit LinkedIn and type a keyword into the top search bar relevant to your industry. For example, if you’re a sales professional, type “sales” and select “Groups” from the drop down menu on the left of the search field. LinkedIn will provide more than 25,000 results. You can filter results using various search terms on the left to try to narrow things down. It’s easy to visit the open groups and explore what types of conversations they have. Look for groups with no “lock” icon near their names. See who else in your network are members of the groups, how many members they have, and how active they are. Don’t forget to review the group rules so your posts will be compliant with their guidelines.

Twitter

If you haven’t considered Twitter to be a professional network, think again! A lot of useful information and resources are shared on Twitter. All you need to do is find it. One great way to assess if people in your industry are using Twitter is to find if there are Twitter chats relevant to your business. A Twitter chat is a time when people who have similar interests have conversations via Twitter by tweeting using a hashtag. You are likely familiar with hashtags, since many television shows and sporting events employ them to help people engage about a particular topic. A hashtag is a # along with a word or acronym that helps everyone interested get in on the conversation. For example, #JobHuntChat is 10-11 pm ET on Monday nights. It’s the longest-running job search related chat, and it attracts all type of experts in human resources and recruiting, as well as job seekers in various industries.

There is a Google spreadsheet that lists Twitter chats (https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AhisaMy5TGiwcnVhejNHWnZlT3NvWFVPT3Q4NkIzQVE#gid=52). Click through to visit it, and you’ll find chats in various industries, including everything from event professional chats, to children’s literature, PR, and science. Once you find chats of interest, click through to see who else participates. You can follow them and engage with these new contacts via Twitter.

Facebook

While everyone advises you to lock down your Facebook profile so no one can access your information, it’s a good idea to make some details on your Facebook profile public. For example, consider making your “Work and Education” section public, as well as your “Contact and Basic Information.” That way, anyone using Facebook to find skilled individuals will be able to find you and contact you. One caveat: if you include religious and political views, these will be public along with your contact information.

Use the Facebook search toolbar to find groups that interest you. For example, you may type, “groups about _______” (fill in your industry). Facebook will provide a list of groups it hosts with the themes you suggest.

In addition, consider creating the option for you to post “public” updates. Click on the three dots in the bottom, right corner of your Facebook cover photo and select “Timeline Settings.” Choose “Followers” from the left column on the next screen, and enable “Everyone” to follow you. Once this is set, every time you post on Facebook, the network gives you a choice to allow the public to view your post, along with choices for your friends or other networks you activated.

Google+

This network provides many potential connection points via Google’s “Communities.” Click on the drop-down menu on the left side of your Google+ page and click through to Communities, then search using key words relevant to your industry. This is an easy way to find people to follow who are interested in the same topics as you.

Other Networks

Don’t ignore other tools, such as Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, or other video networks. If your networks spend time there, you may want to consider creating profiles and content in those networks, too. Using the tools you choose, you’ll be able to identify networks the members of your professional community leverage and connect with them.

Create Magnetic Profiles

Once you choose networks your target audience of colleagues, potential colleagues, and mentors use, you should create optimized, magnetic profiles in those networks. Keep in mind: your goal is to attract attention to your profiles. You must fill them with magnetic content. How do you choose what to include in your social media profiles?

First, decide what words people will use to search for someone like you. Think about LinkedIn first. When someone wants to hire a person with your skills and experiences, what query will they pose in LinkedIn’s search toolbar? Use words from their query in your LinkedIn headline, and incorporate those keywords into your job titles too. Your LinkedIn headline should include keywords, as well as a pitch. Don’t list your current job title. Instead, explain what you do to solve problems for the places you work. For example, a LinkedIn headline for a business analyst may be:

Business Analyst: Develop and implement systems to bridge gaps between HR and IT organizations.

You can pick out the key search terms (business analyst, IT, systems) as well as the pitch, or promise: develop and implement systems to bridge gaps.

Review your LinkedIn headline. Does it speak directly to your target audience? Does it clearly outline what you can do for them? Does it include key search terms to help win search results? Once you create a great LinkedIn headline, duplicate it in the other networks to win search traffic there too.

What to Post Online

Well-written profiles on properly chosen networks help ensure people you want to find your online profiles actually do find them. Don’t just set your profiles and forget them. Instead, make every effort to populate your streams of information with the type of content that can help you:

  • tell your story
  • showcase your expertise
  • expand your network
  • sharpen your message

Focus On Your Audience

Never forget: what you post online reflects on you, but it shouldn’t be all about you. If you want your target audience to closely follow what you share online, make sure you’re filling those streams with information your audience wants to see—and that you eliminate what might hurt you.

Luckily, research tells you what hiring managers do—and don’t—want to see. Jobvite’s survey said employers are looking for the following information when they check you out online:

  • professional experience
  • length of professional tenure
  • industry-related posts
  • mutual connections
  • specific hard skills
  • cultural fit
  • examples of work

Use those guidelines as jumping off points to determine what you should showcase online. Your social media profiles will stand you in good stead if you can showcase the following.

Passion for the Work

No, you don’t need to wax eloquent about how much you love your job or write essays on social media expressing undying commitment to your work. Instead, illustrate your commitment by keeping up with the news affecting your business. This is easy to do via social media tools, because all you need to do is find people who post the content that would interest your audience and engage with them online. Share what they share and add intelligent comments.

Active Engagement on Social Media

Did you know simply being active in online forums and posting information impresses hiring managers? Don’t settle for simply populating your information streams with updates. Join online forums and groups and demonstrate what you know. This is a no-brainer when it comes to networking.

You’re in the Know About Industry News and Follow Thought Leaders in Your Field

Again, this is a given when you are actively engaging online.

Critical Thinking and Written Persuasion Skills

These are crucial requirements for many jobs. Showcase these abilities via your updates and by interacting publicly with colleagues.

Interest in the Company’s Social Profile

Companies invest time and money in their online profiles, and they want candidates to engage with them. If you aren’t already following or liking your favorite companies on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and any other networks they use, you’re missing an opportunity to have a front-row seat to their news and information. When you follow companies, you also access information about their company culture and values, which can be helpful when you’re applying for opportunities and interviewing for jobs.

Good Judgment

In an environment where one ill-considered tweet can embarrass a company, organizations want to hire people who will represent their businesses well and serve as brand ambassadors. One of the best ways to illustrate your good judgment is to have a clean stream of information in your social profiles, devoid of details employers don’t want to see.

Jobvite’s 2014 Social Recruiting Survey featured a number of items particularly irksome to employers. The survey found 55 percent of employers surveyed reconsidered candidates based on what they found about them online, with most (61 percent) of those double takes being negative. Avoid the following at all costs. Numbers represent the percentage of employers bothered by the item:

  • illegal drug mentions: 83 percent
  • sexual posts: 70 percent
  • poor spelling and grammar: 66 percent
  • profanity: 60 percent
  • guns: over 50 percent
  • mentions relating to alcohol: 44 percent
  • political updates 17 percent

The poor grammar and spelling mention should be a wake-up call to everyone who thought they were home free with their social media profiles as long as they don’t swear or post details of wild, drunken rampages. Be alert when you post online. The occasional typo won’t likely eliminate you from consideration, but consistent spelling and grammar mistakes may.

An interesting note in this survey: 65 percent of employers appreciated mentions about volunteering or donating to charity. Don’t forget to take advantage of this if you volunteer or donate!

Identify what you want people to know about you and showcase it in your updates. Share comments, commentary, and news relevant to your target audience. For example:

  • Comment about books or articles you read.
  • Read blogs and respond via your updates.
  • Showcase what you are doing professionally, as long as it is relevant to your network. For example, if you’re attending a conference or meeting, post an update or link about it.
  • Share newsworthy information pertinent to your target audience. Are there new regulations in your industry? Share links to information about them to keep people in your network in the know, or share comments and commentary about the new rules.
  • Ask and answer questions.
  • Provide inspirational information to catalyze followers. Many people love quotes. If your audience is among this group, share the occasional, inspirational quote with your network.
  • Visuals. A picture is worth 1,000 words. Take advantage of this by sharing infographics and images to appeal to your audience. You may even want to consider creating your own visuals. If you’re not a graphic designer, try http://www.easel.ly, http://piktochart.com, or https://www.canva.com.
  • Provide resources for audience. Add value: share information people want to have.

Where to Find Content to Share

If you’re excited about filling your social media streams with useful news and information, but you’re not sure how to go about finding the information your audience would want to know, leverage these tools and you’ll be off to a great start:

LinkedIn’s Pulse

Find it under the “Interests” tab on your LinkedIn toolbar. This service provides blog posts, news, and information in many different topics and covering various industries. You can follow topics, and Pulse will feed relevant posts directly to your LinkedIn updates. In addition, you can choose to follow “influencers,” thought leaders who write and publish information relevant to you and your audience.

Alltop.com

This is an online, virtual “magazine rack” of blogs. You can search for any category and view the most recent five blogs posted. This is an easy way to find and follow content creators who generate information you may want to share.

SmartBrief.com

Offering many free subscriptions to online newsletters, Smartbrief reads and cultivates what is published about topics of interest and sends newsletters with links to articles and brief summaries. They have newsletters covering health care, marketing, education, business, finance, and more.

These resources are great tools to start your list of content sources. You’ll also want to find and follow your favorite traditional media outlets (news magazines, professional journals, newspapers, or television news) to easily track and share their content with your audience. Don’t underestimate the value of viewing the “following” lists of people in your industry. Twitter, in particular, makes it very easy to click through to see who people you admire follow. It’s likely you’ll want to follow some of the same people.

Make the most of social networking tools and you’ll access exponential numbers of new contacts who can make a big difference in your career’s trajectory.

Miriam Salpeter is owner and founder of Keppie Careers (http://www.keppiecareers.com/), a coaching and consulting firm helping job seekers and entrepreneurs leverage social media and other tools to achieve their goals. She has appeared on CNN, and  major media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Forbes and others have quoted her advice. In addition to her own blog, Miriam writes for U.S. News & World Report and for AolJobs.com. She is the author of the books, Social Networking for Career SuccessSocial Networking for Business Success: How to Turn Your Interests into Income, and  100 Conversations for Career Success. Named to CNN’s list of “top 10 job tweeters you should be following” and a “top 5” influencer on Twitter for job seekers by Mashable.com. Miriam also had her blog selected as a top career resource by Forbes. A vice president for a Wall Street firm prior to earning a master’s degree from Columbia University, Miriam ran the Career Action Center at the Rollins School of Public Health of Emory University before launching her own business.