Talentworks Career Guide 2008

Make Social Networks Work for You

The Technology Can Be a Huge Asset as a Career and Hiring Tool, as Long as You Understand How Each Network Works

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In April, Dallas-based agency IMC2 sent its first tweet: "Check out our job openings! We're a top 10 digital ad agency!" Within a few days, people started responding. Since then, Twitter has joined LinkedIn, another social-networking site, as a key part of IMC2's recruiting strategy.

Social networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace and Twitter are not the wave of the future. They're the wave of the now. Especially in marketing and advertising, you simply cannot afford to be left behind as more of your colleagues, audience and, yes, competitors reach out through social networks as part of their routine strategies.

For IMC2, social networks are a natural place to look for new employees. "Our company is focused on being a thought leader and innovator in digital marketing," says Lori Kinney, IMC2's director of recruiting. "The innovators and early adopters we're looking for would be using these services."

Whether you're looking for the next big move in your career, trying to recruit a hotshot creative for your agency or developing your client's promotional strategy, a strong online presence can be a powerful tool, but only if it's directed in the right places. Spreading your message willy-nilly across the social web won't get you anywhere. Every social network has its own strengths and its own character. Taking the time to get to know them individually is what will make the crucial difference in getting the most out of them.

GET CONNECTED WITH LINKEDIN

LinkedIn, the leading social-networking site on the web, was originally a place to build online resumes. Today, recent additions have made it possible to connect with companies, as well as with other professionals, and gain valuable knowledge of the business world. LinkedIn profiles enable you to list, among other things, your work history, education, connections, recommendations you've received and the groups to which you belong.

To get the most out of LinkedIn, make sure you:

1. MAKE YOURSELF EASY TO FIND
Determine the keywords most relevant to what you do and place those keywords as many times as you can throughout your profile.

2. WORK YOUR PROFILE
Answer questions, search for new connections, and offer and ask for recommendations. A little-used feature in the left-hand sidebar allows you to post what you're working on, too.

3. BUILD YOUR AGENCY'S PRESENCE
Your profile supplies information to your agency's company page, allowing both prospective clients and new recruits to discover more about your company and the people who work there. Add every client you work with as connections and ask for recommendations.

4. ACCELERATE SALES DELIVERY
When a client drops a large project on your plate that requires skills beyond the scope of your team's abilities, LinkedIn is a great resource for finding top subcontractors.

BRING IT ALL TOGETHER WITH FACEBOOK

If LinkedIn is your online résumé, Facebook is the rest of your life.

Facebook customization is virtually endless. There are applications that can be used to teleconference, enable others to send you voice or video messages, integrate updates from your blog or Twitter account, and, of course, flirt and play games.

Such limitless opportunities for modifying your Facebook profile make it important to decide how -- and why -- you're going to use Facebook. The choices you make early on can be difficult to undo later, so have a good idea from the beginning of what you want your Facebook page to say about you or your agency.

To get the most out of Facebook, make sure you:

1. STRIKE A BALANCE BETWEEN PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL
Treat your Facebook page the same way you'd treat your working space at the office. A few signs of personality are great, but too much can make things awkward for both you and your visitors.

2. ADD APPLICATIONS AND FEEDS
Make Facebook your online "hub," a single space where you can import all your outside activity. Import RSS feeds from your personal blog or your company's (or both) by selecting "Import your blog" in the "My Notes" section of the "Notes" settings. Add applications for Twitter, FriendFeed, Wordpress and other services.

3. USE PHOTOS CREATIVELY
Upload images of your latest work as an evolving portfolio. Display photos or videos from your agency's events to give visitors a feel for your company's culture. Give new recruits and potential clients a way to see what it's like to work with (or for) you.

GET MOVING WITH MYSPACE

Despite its-wild and-woolly reputation, you shouldn't overlook the professional potential of MySpace.

The rules that apply to Facebook about balancing the personal and the professional apply doubly to MySpace. Flirting (and more explicit behavior) is common, as is vicious "flaming." Be sure to keep your own goals in mind, and always assume that your boss and clients will see your MySpace page.

To get the most out of MySpace, make sure you:

1. UPDATE FREQUENTLY
Unlike a LinkedIn profile that needs attention only when something changes, MySpace rewards near-constant use. Ms. Kinney advises advertising professionals using social media to keep it current and dynamic. Blog about your projects, send bulletins and add friends constantly.

2. CUSTOMIZE
Use a third-party background and layout, or hire a web designer to create one for you. The ability to modify the way your profile looks sets MySpace apart from LinkedIn and Facebook -- and sets your profile apart from the 240 million other profiles on the site.

3. DIVERSIFY
Build separate profiles for different purposes. For instance, consider building a profile for your agency, each of your clients, industry groups, even mascots. Don't forget to "friend" your creations from your own profile.

MAKE THINGS HAPPEN WITH TWITTER

The latest phenomenon in social networking is Twitter, which crosses the chasm between blogging and instant messaging. For some, Twitter has replaced their blog. The way it works is Twitter users, or "Twitterers," shoot off quick, 140-or-fewer-character "tweets" to the world, and their "followers" -- people who have chosen to receive their feed -- respond.

Twitter is ideally suited to today's fast-paced, sound-bite world.

To get the most out of Twitter, make sure you:

1. BE SOMEONE
Un-following someone is easy on Twitter, so avoid even the faintest whiff of "corporate stoogehood." If you're saying interesting things, people will notice and follow you. But it starts with coming across as a real person.

2. ADD VALUE
Make yourself valuable by taking part in conversations as they unfold, offering a helping hand when someone asks a question, posting links to useful information or interesting articles, and generally treating your fellow Twitterers as real people.

3. STAY FOCUSED
One-hundred-forty characters doesn't leave any room to leave long entries. The whole idea is that it keeps things concise. Learn to write short, snappy sentences. The space allotted isn't too small to say anything meaningful, but at little more than two short sentences, it is too little space to get across subtlety.

The seven deadly sins of social networking

About the worst thing you can do via social networking is come across as an advertiser looking to promote a product or service. Social-media expert Muhammad Saleem says you must avoid these pitfalls:
  1. Don't be a spammer. Seek out people who will be truly interested in what you have to say.
  2. Don't be a stranger. Social networking thrives on relationships -- the more the better.
  3. Don't be noise. Once you have people's attention, focus on adding value.
  4. Don't be lazy. You have to participate to get anything out of social networks. Don't just build a profile and let it gather dust while you wait for people to notice. They won't.
  5. Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Diversify your efforts. Seek out specialized social networks for advertisers and in the fields you serve.
  6. Don't be fake. Don't pretend to be a satisfied user of a product, for example. When you're found out, the backlash will far outstrip any short-term gain.
  7. Don't be selfish. Social networking is about the community, not about you. "You must contribute more than you want to get out of it," Mr. Saleem says.
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