Thursday, May 10, 2012

Social Media Tips from the Software Side of Things

This semester I've been taking a class in social media. For some people it might seem like a silly concept to sit for a few hours every week and talk about tweeting, but there is a lot that goes into being strategic online. By implementing some of the ideas I've been exposed to this semester I've definitely seen my social media presence grow. People actually say things to me on Twitter these days (@erinpodolak) and I'm starting to network, which is important since I'm currently in the market for a job. I've been doing a lot of listening on Twitter lately about how to use social media effectively, and how it can help you professionally. There are several schools of thought about these things, so to learn more I decided to ask someone who already has the job they want.

Kevin Newton is an eBusiness Software Architect for Serigraph, here in Wisconsin. He writes blog posts for his company to help maintain their social media presence, in addition to using social media as an individual for both personal and professional purposes. I'm constantly hearing people say that they have a Google+ and then don't use it (which would be my answer) but Newton says he uses Google+ almost exclusively for personal purposes, which is something I honestly haven't really considered doing. Newton has found value in LinkedIn for business, which I've heard some very mixed reviews on, and then uses Facebook as a mixture of the personal and professional.

Professionally, Newton has noticed that when blog posts go out on his company's Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ accounts there is a flurry of activity. They have gained new clients from this, which is a direct return on investment for the time they put into social media. How much time is that exactly? Newton says that for a few hours of effort each month, they see direct value coming from social media.

I recently posted about Facebook and asked whether or not it was a good idea to transition from a personal page to a professional page, or whether I should try to have both. For Newton Facebook became a hybrid because contacts from his personal life and his professional life both wanted to connect using the platform. However, he stressed the importance of watching what you do online particularly when you have contacts from different parts of your life all coming together.
"Where it has a bit of both I try to be very direct in my posts and my responses," says Newton "There are too many risks with things you cannot control when you have a mix. A friend that I have not spoken with for 20 years posts a rude picture or comment and it reflects poorly on me, so I try to distance myself from those risks." 
I think this is a good point, and not only if you are connecting with people from long ago. Even people who are currently a part of your life can post something inappropriate (or at least with the people that I know) so it is best to always be monitoring what appears on your profile. From my semester's worth of studying social media, the answer I have heard consistently regarding appropriate Facebook content is that you'd rather be safe than sorry. You don't want to lose job opportunities for a friend's comment.

Since I am currently among the hoards of people out there looking for a job, I asked Newton what kind of value social media has for those of us actively engaged in job searching. Newton advocated LinkedIn to help get yourself in front of employers, but he warned that you need to have the content to back up whatever skills you are offering potential employers or clients.
"You have to have something credible to speak about and you have to post often for it to be effective," says Newton. 
Newton also noted that in addition to having something of value to say, it is also important to be helpful. Answering questions is a way to establish yourself as an authority on a topic (so long as you have the right answers) and get noticed for what you know. One way you can accomplish this (which I've said before is currently the bane of my existence) is by commenting on other blogs to help people out. Although, Newton did caution that if you are currently employed you might want to check with your employer before jumping into the social media scene to offer advice and tips about what you do.

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