Why Social Networking Is Important

Miriam Salpeter

If you aren’t preoccupied with self-marketing to get a job, you’re not alone. Many people consider PR and branding the purview of businesses and “real” brands, such as Nike, Coca-Cola, and Apple. However, the changing economy mandates a new mindset. Fast Company cited a report published by the Roosevelt Institute and the Kauffman Foundation, suggesting the American economy is changing rapidly. The article quotes a 2014 survey by Edelman Berland that found freelancers comprise 34 percent— 53 million people—of the U.S. workforce. In the future, more people will join the “gig” economy, in which their jobs do not resemble today’s traditional market. Instead, workers will become entrepreneurs and independent contractors, and move between short-term positions.

In this new environment, jobs will not continue to be filled via resumes alone. Instead, job seekers who want to attract attention and land short-term gigs will need to create digital footprints, or what people can find about them online. These online profiles will help market them, their skills, and their accomplishments to potential employers.

You may think, “In my field, no one is independent and hiring managers are hiring for traditional jobs.” In that case, social media may be more important to your search than you think. The 2015 Annual CareerBuilder Social Media Recruitment Survey (http://www.careerbuilder.com/share/aboutus/pressreleasesdetail.aspx?sd=5%2F14%2F2015&id=pr893&ed=12%2F31%2F2015) found 35 percent of employers were less likely to invite candidates to interview for positions if they did not find them online. The survey said 52 percent of employers use social networking to research candidates, which is up from 43 percent the year before. As recruiters seek as much information as possible about candidates, social media is an important tool they use to help screen applicants. The report says 60 percent of those recruiters look for positive information that supports candidates’ qualifications for the position. The majority (56 percent) hope to find a professional online presence.

If that is not persuasive enough, consider data detailed in the 2014 Jobvite Social Recruiting Survey (https://www.jobvite.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Jobvite_SocialRecruiting_Survey2014.pdf). It found 73 percent of recruiters plan to invest more money in social recruiting than in 2013. Jobvite reported 93 percent of recruiters use or planned to use social networking tools to help them identify and hire qualified applicants. While the majority (94 percent) use LinkedIn, 66 percent tap into Facebook to recruit candidates, and 52 percent said they used Twitter.

Recruiting managers typically seek good judgment.

One recruiter noted: “As we recruit, we keep in mind that every employee is also a brand ambassador, and we want to make sure our team is made up of those who will reflect our company in the most positive light everywhere—whether they’re at work or in the gym. We don’t invest a lot of time in doing heavy social checks on the more personal social media channels, but rely on more formal background checks to assess a candidate’s ultimate eligibility.

“We like to see responsible photos and content from people who take their personal brand image and work seriously. Our recruiting team uses LinkedIn heavily and we believe that it is the best place to judge candidates on who they are and what they’ve done in a public forum.”

If you’ve been avoiding creating an online presence because the traditional media have convinced you using platforms such as Facebook and Twitter lead to losing jobs, not finding them, stop being skeptical and embrace these tools. If you create a positive, professional digital footprint, it could be the difference between landing an opportunity and continuing to look for one.

What You Gain Using Social Media

In addition to tapping into recruiters who expect to find a digital footprint when they Google your name, there are many other reasons to use social media, including:

  • It allows you to demonstrate your expertise to people who wouldn’t otherwise know about you.
  • You have the opportunity to meet new people and expand your network beyond what you could when networking in person.
  • It provides resources and mechanisms to learn new information.

Tell Your Story

Have you ever been in a situation where another person is telling a group about something that happened to the two of you? It isn’t unusual for the person speaking to become the hero of the story, as you sit there, hoping your role in the adventure comes to light before the tale is over. When you don’t take the reins and tell your own story, you give control over what people learn about you to other people. In relinquishing this control, you lose opportunities to share your best information with someone you need to impress.

When you fail to use social media tools, you’re allowing someone else to tell your story online. If you don’t post your own content online, what will people find when they Google your name? Will they come upon a mention of your participation at the latest school fundraiser? Is your Etsy buying account prominent in your digital footprint? Perhaps people will see a mention of your third-place win in a local basketball championship for the 20-40 age group. None of these are negative finds, but is this the information you want people to learn about you?

If you maintain a LinkedIn profile, populate a Twitter account, or post information on Google+, the information you create would most likely supersede any other details available about you online. Using social media gives you control over what people learn about you, and allows you to “feed” Google information you do want people to know.

Showcase Your Expertise

If you’re an expert, but no one outside of your immediate circle of colleagues and friends knows about your specialty, how can you leverage it to help land a job? In short: you can’t. If you’re great at what you do, but few people know, you’re wasting opportunities to highlight your skills and accomplishments. Do so, however, and you'll be on the radar of those who need to know about you. The only way to ensure hiring managers and others who want to fill contract positions will discover you for your expertise is to create optimized profiles online detailing what you can do and why you’re great at it.

How do social media tools help you demonstrate expertise? It’s one thing to say you’re a community builder, a team player, or a strong communicator. It’s another to prove it by using those skills consistently online. Imagine applying for a job that requires team leadership, and you’ve led a group on LinkedIn or another network for six months and grown it into a great resource for people in your industry. You’ll have the perfect way to illustrate the key skill.

How you curate the content in your social media feeds also helps illustrate your expertise. When you select articles or posts to share with your community via any of the social networks, you make it clear you keep up with the news pertinent to your field. If you comment intelligently about the items and begin or join online conversations about topics relevant to your community, it’s obvious you’re plugged in and aware of the important topics affecting your colleagues. When you become the person everyone knows they should follow because you’re first to find and post useful news, you position yourself as a go-to expert.

Expand Your Network

How many people can you realistically meet in person? How much time do you have to run around to meet and greets? Not much? Luckily, social media tools give you many options to expand your network without ever leaving your home or office. When you join groups on LinkedIn or connect with people you’d never otherwise know on Twitter, you multiply your chances of winning a referral. Employers prefer to hire via referrals, so any opportunity to expand the pool of people who know, like, and trust you enough to suggest someone take a chance on hiring you will help you land a job more quickly. When you use social media, you give yourself that many more chances to impress someone with the authority to refer you to a job opportunity.

Sharpen Your Message

Hone in on exactly what you want to showcase about your expertise online. On networks with space limitations (such as Twitter), frequent use helps you focus your message and decide what you want people to know. When you curate and select content to include in your social media streams, you refine your message, which makes it easier for you to articulate why you’re good at what you do.

Learn New Things

Social networking tools provide an amazing opportunity to learn information easily and quickly that you would otherwise need to spend a lot of time to find. When you find people to follow or groups to join where people help curate massive amounts of information available into useful, resourceful streams of content, it becomes very easy to stay up-to-date on the information you need to know. You may find yourself among the first to learn news, including updates about available opportunities. If you can identify colleagues who are very active online, joining these networks may become the equivalent of attending a professional conference. You’ll be so in tune with what is “new and now” in your field, you’ll be qualified to present information at your next professional event.

Networking Works

Ed Han, a recruiter and job seeker ally, shared this story about how combining social and traditional networking helped him land an opportunity. “In 2008, I got involved in local job search and support groups after being terminated from a job I really enjoyed. Through those activities, I developed an understanding of the job search process and the various parties involved. That was around the same time I became an avid social media user.”

“One area of focus for me was learning LinkedIn, and as my knowledge with it grew, I also shared what I knew through those groups and online via Twitter chats geared towards those in transition.”

“During that time, I became acquainted with Jennifer Scott (@hireeffect) via Twitter and met Keith Bogen, the founder of Whine & Dine, an in-person human resources networking group. Keith and I became friends quickly. At the time, he was looking for help raising the profile of his group, and was discussing it with Jen. Unbeknownst to me, the two are good friends—and she suggested I volunteer. Volunteering transformed my search. I was networking with a lot of HR and talent acquisition professionals and establishing what would turn out to be a decent social media presence. I participated in Twitter chats for job seekers, and even blogged for a short time. I realized recruiting interested me as a profession. Fast forward to December 2012. Jen called me out of the blue, asking if I knew someone who would be interested in a recruiting role. I haven’t looked back since!”

Ed’s story perfectly illustrates how your social and in-person networks can collide. He impressed Jen via Twitter, and she was instrumental in recommending him to Keith, who also knew Ed in person. He will never know if just Twitter or just in-person networking would have yielded the same results, but since he covered all of his networking bases, he succeeded and achieved his goals.

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.