For many of us, social networks are just a passing trend. We spent much of our lives without them, and we don’t see them as necessary in any way. In fact, many of us tend to think of social networks as nothing more than time-wasters and procrastination tools. There’s no denying that social networks have a bad side, but they also have some positive impacts, it all depends on how you use them and what you use them for.
I have a very strict way of using each social network I’m a part of, and I do believe they can in some ways harm productivity, but I’m a strong advocate of not blocking Facebook and other social networks in work places, and I believe that when used right, social networks can become a valuable tool in almost every job, and for almost any employee.
While it’s important to remember that on most social networks were are more a product than a customer, you can still take control of the way you use them. If you do things right, and don’t let yourself get carried away with the flow of what others might be doing, you can start making social networks work for you. Here’s how to get started.
Always Online Resume & Portfolio
Only several years ago, people had printed resumes, printed business cards, and maybe a personal or company website. Today, if you’re not online, you’re not there, and it’s going to be much harder to find you or even know you exist.
10 years ago, there was much knowledge required to creating a personal website. Today, anyone can easily create one without any coding skills. But social networks offer an even easier solution, and one you’re not going to have to work as hard to promote. A Facebook Page, a LinkedIn profile, even a Twitter or an Instagram account can go a long way to asserting your online presence. They’re always there, they’re created in minutes, they’re very easy to update, and if your name is unique enough, they make it easier for people to find you.
So yes, you can with a personal website or an different kind of online resume, but these will not substitute the exposure you’re going to get on a social network.
Make Contacts & Follow Competition
Yes, it’s possible to make connections without having anything to do with social networks, but no matter how badly you want to ignore it, this is much easier to do with social networks. Look around you, are your competitors on Facebook? Are they on Twitter? If so, you have much to gain by following them.
Don’t think this applies only to companies; if you’re a company employee or a freelancer, you still have a goal you’re trying to reach. And you can be sure there are other people or companies trying to reach the same goal. Are they running contests? Are they releasing new features? There’s no easier way to follow this than on social networks. This can also give you ideas for things you can do to promote your own work and yourself.
This is not only about competition, though. Making and keeping connections with others is crucial for many jobs, and the process becomes much easier with social networks. If in the past you’d go to Google to find interesting people, you can now use Facebook’s own Graph Search to look for people. Try, for example, looking for “Graphic designers from CITY” (use the name of the city you live in, for example). Surprisingly, Facebook’s results to such a search are much more relevant than Google’s, and privacy settings permitting, can even point you directly at a portfolio.
Promote Your Work
This is the other side of the previous point. Don’t you want to be the person someone else find when looking for a skilled worker for a project? Of course, there’s always competition, and it’s very hard to make sure your name pop ups for every search, but if you rely only on a personal website and SEO, you might have a hard time getting your name to appear on top of the results list on Google.
Social networks are not going to solve this problem easily, but if you use them to promote your work by sharing links, photos, etc., you can be sure people will see these promotions. With time, your audience can become bigger and bigger, and they can start spreading the word for you too. There’s no magic here, it’s still hard work, but it’s going to be much harder to achieve if you completely ignore social networks.
Don’t get confused, this is slightly different than the previous point. While it’s important to promote your actual work on social networks, it’s equally important to promote yourself, as a person, not as the work you do. What do I mean by that?
If I, as a freelance writer, only ever posted links to my own work, how would that look to my followers? No matter which field you’re in, if you want people to follow you and pay attention, you have to promote things other than your own work/company. This very much depends on the network, but interesting and related links, beautiful photos (related too, if possible), and even simple inspirational sayings can do the trick. If you’re interesting, people want to follow you. If they follow you, they can help you spread the word about yourself or about the project you’re working on.
Stay In Touch With Co-Workers
This is a tricky one. As I’ve already told you in my post about things you shouldn’t be posting on Facebook, it’s important to decide and make a clear differentiation between professional and personal accounts. This is especially true for Facebook, where unfortunate mixes tend to happen most often, but it’s something to keep in mind regardless of network.
With that being said, social networks could be a great tool to keep in touch with co-workers beyond office hours, or as a means of communication if you don’t even live in the same country. So, yes, beware of complaining about your boss on Facebook when you’re connected to other colleagues, but wisely used, social networks can become a tool that boosts moral and social connections in a work place. It’s a fine line to walk on — you don’t want to be discussing puppies and weddings all day at the office — but having something to share and talk about that’s beyond work is a great way to build friendships, which can benefit work relations and productivity.
Think social networks are productivity killers? They might be if you spend hours on them doing unrelated things instead of working, but according to a study done by Evolv, workers who belong to social several social networks tend to be more productive than their co-workers who belong to none.
Coming from the world of science, I can tell you that the study cannot really prove that social networks cause productivity, but the results are nonetheless interesting. According to 100,000 responses from employees in a call center, workers who belonged to 5 social networks had the highest sales conversion rate, and the lowest average call time.
So who knows, maybe social networks can be good for you after all?
Like it or not, social networks is where people are, and if you need people, you probably need social networks. Don’t take this saying personally – I’m not saying you won’t have friends if you don’t join social networks. I’m talking purely from a professional standpoint. For many businesses and job types, social networks are almost a must these days, and can definitely help you get more exposure, if you use them right.
Do you use social networks for your work? Do you think I’m completely off, and believe social networks are nothing but a distraction? Share your opinions in the comments.