A 2014 CareerBuilder study showed that forty-three percent of recruiters are now researching candidates on social media, and that forty-five percent use search engines like Google to research candidates prior to hiring.
It may be considered narcissistic, but searching your name periodically on Google is actually a valuable exercise in protecting your brand; you may be surprised at what you find. Photos posted by friends who don’t lock down their social media accounts; links to news articles from the distant past; maybe even stories about someone with a similar name that aren’t about you, but would your current or future employer know that? Over half the recruiters in the study cited above had chosen to not hire a candidate based on what they found online.
Related Article: It's Not Too Late to Develop Social Media Fluency
Then Why Even Have Social Media Accounts?
As I’ve been speaking about social media over the past year at insurance conferences, I’ve been asked several times, “Why should I use social media professionally? Where’s the value?”
The best answer I can give is this: engaging on social media gives you the ability to take control of what people see about you when they search for you online.
Whether you’re currently seeking a new job or just want to protect your personal brand for the future, one thing is clear: social media has dramatically changed how companies view current and potential employees. As an example, one third of employers who research social media in that study said they found information online that made them more likely to hire a candidate.
Imagine what a difference it could make if a recruiter—or, for that matter, a potential client, a business partner, or someone you’re recruiting for your company—searches you on Google and sees links to professional accounts on sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, and SlideShare, demonstrating professional expertise, industry knowledge and superior communication skills.
That’s the power of social media.
How to Make Your Personal Brand Shine
Here are just a few ways to increase your professional online presence and begin building a social brand:
1. Start Blogging. Whether you’re leveraging your knowledge on your company’s blog or start your own, blog content—by its very nature of being regularly updated—tends to show high in search rankings while also demonstrating your wisdom and value.
2. Engage on Twitter. If you aren’t already using Twitter professionally, you’re missing out on one of the best ways to build a network and a professional brand. As professionals, we naturally consume a great deal of online content to stay up to date with the latest trends and maintain our careers. Sharing those articles on Twitter—assisting others in finding good articles and promoting the content of others—along with the appropriate hashtags is a great first step in building a network of social professionals. And once you start blogging, it gives you a network of people to whom you can promote your content, and who will hopefully share it in return. Your Twitter account—with regular posts—is also likely to rise high in search engine rankings.
3. Join LinkedIn Groups. Speaking of building a network, LinkedIn Groups are one of the best kept secrets in networking success. LinkedIn Groups offer quite a few benefits in building a professional network and brand. First, they enable you to clearly demonstrate your expertise by responding to discussion group questions. Second, they bring visibility to your profile, as top contributors to a group are featured in the group sidebar. Finally, they connect you to more professionals at more companies, and—if you’re looking to connect—give you something in common to discuss when introducing yourself.
These are just a few of the ways to get started with or improve your professional social media presence…and to enhance your personal brand in the process.