You arrive at your first interview after getting that degree from RIT. While looking over your resume, your boss-to-be starts to ask you the typical questions about your work experience. Then, out of the blue, he asks if you have a Facebook or a Twitter.
Even though you have a separate, work- related account, you lose the job to the next guy in line, who regularly posts to his Facebook, tweets about his soufflé cooking and blogs about the model cars he builds — all in a professional manner.
Why are posts to your Facebook so important in this day and age? Each social network account you make is another extension of your online persona. As time goes on, the impact of social media is steadily rising in people’s lives. According to Jay Baer, a social media and content strategist and speaker, 56 percent of Americans have a profile on a social networking site. With this trend solidifying, social media is now being utilized to promote a user’s ever evolving personal brand.
Dr. Neil Hair, project lead for RIT’s Innovative Learning Institute, is an expert at using social media tools to improve and maintain his personal brand. Hair sees his online brand as closely connected to his offline brand, but with a smidge of personal flair.
Each social media platform that Hair uses serves a different purpose in maintaining and propelling his personal brand. His primary presence is on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and his personal website. He is currently experimenting with the value of Instagram and Pinterest.
In order to evaluate new technologies, Hair has to understand the purpose of his personal brand inside and out. To reach this point, he suggests that students begin with pondering what it is they want to communicate to people online. “Start thinking about that process as holistic, in the sense that you have an idea of who you are, professionally what you want to achieve, and then you use the various online channels to promote that brand the way you want to promote it effectively,” says Hair.
An avid bartender certified in the state of New York, Hair makes use of Twitter to show his per- sonal interests in a professional manner. He says his feed is “constantly updated in terms of what I am doing that is exciting, innovative, unique to me in terms of my professional development and my audience; the sort of things they’re interested in.”
According to the Online Social Media Blog, there are five things that Twitter users can do to improve their brand online. Firstly, tweet quality content. Informative, yet structured content is what will attract people to your brand.
Second, consider your audience. Great content is only useful within the right context.
Thirdly, monitor the social buzz your account is or is not creating. From there, you can update your approach to tweeting and become more effective at using it.
Fourthly, engage with your followers. If they have a question about a certain thing you do, answer them politely. Keeping fellow users in the conversation will benefit you in the end.
Lastly, retweet content that you find relevant to the message you are trying to convey. By doing so, you not only converse with your online peers but enhance the chance of getting your own content retweeted as well.
Facebook, Hair’s second platform, is predominantly used for more relaxed communication. “There is obviously a Facebook persona which is more a social persona than anything else” says Hair. “That is where I continue to try to engage my networks, taking to them, chatting to them, posting links and comments, responding to people’s birthdays, things like that.” Even years after students have graduated, Hair can use Facebook to let them know that he remembers them and is still willing to stay in touch.
As casual as Facebook can be, there are a few ways you can use it to your advantage. Like Twitter, posting quality content instead of the typical status update drone can help to keep your image intact.
Alison Doyle, author of the job search guide on About.com, recommends looking at your profile picture and asking yourself what it implies about you. A neutral photo could work in your favor. After that, comb through your profile, eliminate distractions, and update it to fit your personal brand. Ask yourself whether the content on your account exemplifies who you are now, what your interests are and what skills you bring to the proverbial table. This can help to improve what you post on the site and get people outside of your innermost circles interested in what you post.
LinkedIn is the next arm of Hair’s social media branding which is, as he describes it, “less social, more corporate.” According to LinkedIn’s own blog, there are many ways to use the networking opportunities available through the website to improve an individual’s brand. By balancing your business experience with some tidbits of your personality, you can honestly portray who you are to would-be employers.
Next, tweak your personal headline, the description that people first see from your profile. As a guide, ask your coworkers how they would describe you, and make sure your headline reflects their responses. Then, cross reference your posted resume, profile info and other related elements to ensure the message you are sending about who you are as a worker is consistent. Lastly, share your expertise with those in your LinkedIn network. This is a clear way to bolster your credibility online.
Hair’s fourth site is his personal web address that acts as the hub for his other social media networks. “I like to publish blogs, post pictures, post video, anything that I can do to engage my network, moving forward so that they keep me in the presence of the back of their mind,” says Hair.
“From there, that hub reaches out to the other aspects of that brand online, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn; they are all integrated so one update is then blasted across all my multiple networks to make sure that everything is working.” Through this hub, Hair communicates that he is still innovating, learning, and building his networks.
Hair also stresses the importance of protecting your brand, as it will help or hurt you in the long run. Stay present in your social media channels, and be aware that at any time you can be tagged in something you do not want to be in or comment threads can go in directions you do not want to be associated with.
Also be cautious when posting political and religious views, unless either is deeply affiliated with your image. Just keep in mind “that that will always have an impact on how people view what you’re doing,” says Hair.
Hair believes it is crucial that RIT students learn how to use each online resource to its full potential. If you do not have a LinkedIn or are using Facebook inappropriately, “[employers] are going to get suspicious about your ability as someone who comes from an institute of technology to be able to play with those tools or techniques effectively.”
With all his advice, Hair reinforces his belief that you can still have fun with social media. Just be aware of how your online persona correlates with your professional image, since “once you start this you can’t turn it off,” states Hair. “You don’t just check out. You have to be constantly looking and engaging that network and reaffirming those beliefs that you have and what you are trying to achieve.”