With so many social media platforms around, which is the best for professionals? Our Agony Aunt Katherine Collins found out.
There are currently 3.8 billion social media users in the world. That means over half of the world’s population is on social media.
Given how diverse social media can be, this isn’t so surprising. It’s able to give your Gran a way of seeing what her long-distance grandkids are up to, store your memories or see that your ex-school friend is on yet another beautiful trip to Bali. Sigh.
Social isn’t just for personal use, though. Businesses can use social to increase sales, build brand awareness, and form loyal customer relationships with customers. Yeah, I’m sure you’ve heard all of this before, as well as tips on how to set a social media budget, whether or not to use a social media agency or what social media tools you need to help smash your targets.
But today, we’re going to talk about a different, more professional side of social media. Which brings us nicely onto today’s question:
I’ll be honest with you, social media is something that I’ve been on but never really used. I knew the business benefits of social – but never thought it would be something I used for my own career.
But my coworkers are always talking about how someone they follow has done X or that they’ve shared something with their contacts. Like they’re a mafia boss with a team of minions. I’m not sure when the shift to professional social platforms happened, but I’m now out of the loop.
I want to get started and start building a profile for myself. But I’m not sure where or how to get started.
Please help me!”Jane
Jane, you’re completely right. There seems to be a giant shift in using social media professionally.
It’s become something of an unwritten part of job descriptions, to build a commercial version of yourself online. Commodify yourself even further by showing your work value on social media! However, this is not the place to open a discussion on our capitalist society or the rather demoralising and haunting thoughts that float to the surface if you look too closely.
We’re here to talk about using social media professionally.
The first step is to choose your platform. Each one will have it’s own unique benefits and drawbacks depending on the industry you’re in and what you are trying to achieve. So, let’s take a look at your top players.
We can’t really start a post like this without mentioning the one and only ‘professional network’. Ah, LinkedIn, the social media platform that was built exclusively to network online. It’s something out of every introvert’s nightmare.
But it worked. LinkedIn is now home to over 675 million users worldwide. It gains more two new members a second, making it one of the best places to find and connect to other professionals.
The benefits of LinkedIn
- LinkedIn can act as a virtual CV, allowing you to show off your experience and previous projects. You can also get recommendations from people you’ve worked with before, adding professional credit to your online presence.
- If you want to be seen as a ‘thought-leader’ for your industry or profession, it is easy to share or write articles, posting your own take and opinion.
- It’s also perfectly acceptable to share your own achievements without having to hide them behind a wall of modesty. If you’ve done something you’re proud of, share it here.
- It also has an incredibly strong job section, perfect if you’re wanting to branch off or test the waters.
- The LinkedIn algorithm needs work. It tries to show you the most relevant things, which means it often gets stuck showing you updates from weeks ago. If you want current news, I wouldn’t get it from here.
- Some people use it as a platform to professionally show off, rather than provide any value to people. It’s alright to be proud of your work, but no one wants to see someone constantly talking about how great they are.
Top Tip: LinkedIn’s is often only used when people need a new job. But it’s best practice to use it year-round, not just when you want to see what else is out there. Use it to showcase yourself and connect with others. Job opportunities will come second after you’ve already built out a strong profile.
Twitter is emerging as a hot favourite for professionals. Hell, I’m even on it myself – and you can follow me @AuntCollins.
The reason it’s a favourite is that it’s all about now. Small, little updates make Twitter a timeline of relevant news and conversations that are happening right now. John Cook, Co-Founder and Reporter at GeekWire, says that:
“Twitter is a key part of my journalistic process. It allows me to find and interact directly with potential sources and keeps me abreast on breaking stories. It also helps me compile news. l use my Twitter updates as journalistic notes which gives me a reference when I go to write a full story.”
It’s not just news. It’s also a great way to build a community by reaching out to others or even taking part in online events. Weekly chats are a good example of this, like #ContentClubUK. Each week someone ‘hosts’ the event, asking a set of questions for people to respond to.
The benefits of Twitter
- Twitter provides real-time updates about stories that are happening now.
- You can jump into relevant conversations that are interesting to you, showing your expertise naturally by helping others or showing an opinion
- You can directly talk to influencers, customers or people in your industry. You don’t need to have them follow you, just @ them and see what happens.
- Use #Hashtags to find and jump into relevant topics. It’s easy to get involved.
- Twitter moves fast. Sometimes content could be easily lost, meaning you might not get as much engagement as you might have hoped.
- You also need to post more to keep it active. The more successful people on Twitter post several times a day, so it’s not one to do casually.
Top tip: Don’t be afraid of the 280 character limit. If you’ve got something to say, start a thread. These are great ways to get attention and get your point across – without trying to ram it into a single tweet.
Just one glance at this graph shows why making a professional Facebook account is worth it…
The sheer amount of users and activity that Facebook offers is like no other.
Most of us will have a personal Facebook account. Mixing that with work can disrupt your work/home balance. If you’re worried about this, you can make a separate account purely for professional use.
Alternatively, you can make use of groups to network and build a name for yourself. This means you don’t have to post work-related things to your friends or have to build out your friend list with professionals. Adzooma has also got their own digital marketing group that you can join here.
As interesting as people may be, I don’t really want to see updates of a PPC specialist’s children. Groups are a way for you to connect with others, without having to befriend them. Win-win.
The benefits of Facebook
- Millions of active users, making it a great place to find and connect with other professionals.
- Groups and pages make it easy to find and join communities
- The algorithm is much better than LinkedIn’s, helping you see relevant and recent updates first.
- Is still largely a personal platform and people might not respond kindly to friend requests.
Top tip: Make the choice early on how you’re going to use Facebook. If you want to keep your personal account personal, stick to groups and pages. If you want to connect with others, create a new, professional account or business page first. It will save you a lot of time and hassle later on.
Instagram is a photo-sharing social media platform, making it the best choice for those in visual industries to build a professional photographer.
For example, if you’re a designer, upholster, or photographer, this is the platform for you. Share pictures of your work and build a visual portfolio of your talent. You can also make use of their video feature, IGTV, to post behind the scenes videos or tutorials on how you’ve achieved your latest work.
The benefits of Instagram
- Find people and inspiration through #hashtags – while getting more exposure to your own work.
- Post temporary updates through stories, where you can include options to ask questions or create polls.
- Use story highlights to create categories on your profile to save old content and quickly show visitors what you can offer.
- You can’t post links on your pictures. You can link people through your stories or through your bio if needed.
- You can post comments and reply to other people’s posts, but it’s not the best for having conversations with others or taking part in group discussions.
Top tip: find a visual style that works for you and try to stick to it. You want to make your profile look good as a whole, not just each individual post. It’s like creating a personal brand for yourself.
Some honourable mentions:
Pinterest is the only social media platform to offer a visual search. So, if you’re in a visual industry, you might want to get on board with Pinterest.
95% of Pinterest users say that the social media platform inspires them, and 91% say it helps them achieve their goals. Those are powerful motivators that you want to get behind. Rather than a ‘thought-leader’, you can become a professional source of inspiration on Pinterest by creating boards and pin images that will inspire your network or customers.
Unlike other websites, Reddit forbids marketing – which means it’s often overlooked as a way to build your professional profile. But Reddit does provide unique opportunities to help people solve problems and contribute their expertise to help others learn.
There are often subreddits for certain industries or topics that you can get involved in or questions you can help users answer. You can even start a ‘Ask Me Anything (AMA)’ subreddit, where you encourage people to ask you questions.
TikTok has recently blown up over the past year and is definitely a platform you need to watch out for.
If you’re unfamiliar, TikTok is a short video creation and sharing platform. It’s a great way to waste a couple of hours of your life, but it doesn’t have the professional capabilities yet. People like Carrie Rose from PR firm Rise At Seven have been trying videos on here, but there are not many other takers. You’re better off avoiding this one for now.
YouTube is filled with influencers and experts teaching their top tips and sharing their knowledge through engaging videos. Just like Google Ads Specialist Odolena Kostova. She posts new updates to her YouTube channel every Sunday about all things Google Ads and has been sharing some of her best tips with us as a guest blogger.
Unless you’re a great content creator or already have a professional following, YouTube might be too much of a mountain to climb.
Fundamentally, building a successful professional profile online is about three core things:
- Showcasing who you are and you’re expertise
- Networking with your peers
- Socialising with your followers or connections to build trust and credibility.
The exact platform you’re using depends on what you’re looking for and industry. But, no matter what social network you’re using: be honest and be yourself. At least, to a certain degree.
You’re trying to build a professional version of yourself, not someone else. Don’t be afraid to give your actual opinions and put your own stamp on how you network online, rather than try to copy others.
All that’s left is to choose your platform, sign up and get talking.
All the best,
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