Building your network
Using social media to build your network
Many organisations use a variety of social media platforms to engage with their followers.Additionally, many professionals are now opting to create their own presence on social media to engage with their market. Social media allows you to follow news and trends across relevant sectors when you follow and connect with professional organisations. The information you see might help you spot networking opportunities and tap into the hidden job market.
Why use social media as a professional?There are many benefits to using social media as a professional. Some people find it effective to use social media to follow and connect with employers of interest, and stay up to date with industry news. For others, social media offers a platform to connect with their own audience and promote their work.
Benefits to using social media
Social media offers the opportunity to stay abreast of relevant industry news, including new developments or trends within your chosen sector. You can use social media to see emerging ideas at the forefront of your industry, or stay up to date with what consumers or potential clients are engaging with. You could follow relevant hashtags, subscribe to updates from employers or news sources which are of interest to you, and see what others within your network are sharing.
If you already have an existing audience or client base for your work, using social media can enable you to engage with them in new and interesting ways. Additionally, social media can help you to reach new audiences who may previously have not been exposed to your work.
Promoting your work on social media can aid you in receiving interest in yourself, previous work, ongoing projects, or services which you may offer. If you engage with wider discussions within your chosen sector about upcoming developments or trends, you can help your own work to become part of the conversation.
Your social media profile is an opportunity to control the image of your professional brand. You will have the ability to use photos, text, or other means of dissemination information about your professional identity, and choose what you want others to see or associate with you.
Auditing your online reputation
Before you consider establishing a professional identity online, it is important to see what is already online and associated with you.
Most employers now use the internet to find potential employees and they're likely to research your online profile if they're considering you for a job. As part of your preparation for finding work, find out what exists about you on the internet and whether it needs to be amended or restricted. What you put on Facebook may not be what employers want from an employee and may stop you getting the job you want. This may include text posts, photos and the content you engage with and share. You can also look at adjusting privacy settings, so your personal social media accounts have limited information that can be viewed by people you don’t know and employers that may come across your profile. Aim to ensure that this limited information is professional, and is something that you are comfortable with unknown individuals being able to access. Visit TARGETjobs for advice on managing your online reputation.
Tips for checking your online reputation
Employers may make an online search for you, so it is important to know what information comes up when your name is searched. If there is anything unprofessional or which may jeopardise your chances of employment which returns when your name is searched, aim to remove these from the internet wherever possible.
It can be helpful to have a private online presence which is used exclusively for your personal life with strict privacy controls implemented, and then to maintain a second professional profile containing information that you would be comfortable with an employer viewing.
Your email address is often one of the first ways in which an employer will make contact with you. If your email address contains any unprofessional or offensive terms, it could put your employment chances at risk. Using your first and last name in your email address conveys a professional tone, and can help an employer to be confident they are contacting the correct person. If your name has already been taken for an email address, you could consider adding middle names, dots (periods), or numbers to create a unique address.
Establishing your professional identity
Before you develop your online presence, it can be helpful to reflect on your professional identity and what messages you want to share with your online audience. Creating a consistent professional identity can ensure you’re delivering your chosen message to potential employers or clients, and assist you in planning your social media strategy.
Considering the following can give you a foundation to begin developing awareness of your professional identity and how to present this to others.
It is important to keep up to date with developments in your chosen sector, and to be able to demonstrate to employers or potential clients that you have this awareness. Social media can be used to undertake research into your sector, and to then stay abreast of new developments or news.
Useful questions to ask yourself include: what is going on in your sector? What are the challenges facing your sector? Are there any current ongoing issues or topics which are being discussed by industry professionals? Are there any areas for potential growth? How does your work contribute to the sector?
Having a broader awareness of your chosen sector can help you to understand how your work fits in, and how to market yourself.
Your strengths and goals within the sector
Having a strong understanding of your strengths and what you have to offer is important in establishing a professional identity. If you are aware of what you excel in and what you can bring to an employer or offer a client, you can more effectively communicate this and market yourself through social media.
Considering your long term goals can also help you maintain focus, and communicate to others what you are looking to achieve. Promoting yourself as someone with a defined vision can help to convey your passion to employers, and assist in ensuring the work you undertake is relevant to your goals.
An elevator pitch is a short, concise way to communicate your background and skills. Developing an elevator pitch can encourage you to reflect on your strengths and goals, as you will be looking to distil lots of information about yourself into a brief statement.
Imagine you are sharing an elevator ride with an employer, and only have the length of the ride to promote yourself - what key information would you look to share? An elevator pitch should be brief, (around 60 seconds or less), and focus on demonstrating your skills and achievements. It can also be helpful to share your overall goal or career direction.
Remember, your elevator pitch is personal to you - avoid copying other people’s pitches, as this could come across as too broad or disingenuous to employers, and instead focus on your own skills and aspirations.
Examples could include:
‘I am a recent Business and Management graduate, and achieved a first class degree. I have experience in a variety of customer service based positions, and am looking for a challenge and chance to contribute to a new team.’
‘I run my own business offering custom web designs and maintenance. I pride myself on really listening to the customer’s needs and offering innovative solutions which are tailored to their vision as well as commercially viable.’
‘I am a third year Psychology undergraduate who is looking to undertake work experience. I am particularly interested in clinical settings, and have previous experience of working with clients and producing accurate data and reports.’
It is worth considering that your professional identity may continue to change and develop throughout your career, and aim to reflect on your career and sector regularly.
Making the most of social media features
There are a diverse range of social media platforms that you can utilise to support your online professional presence. We have detailed some of the most popular platforms below, but it is important to do research and use the platform which best suits you and your ambitions.
Social media platforms
Facebook has lots of features and tools for employers and organisations to promote themselves and update their personal community. This means that Facebook can be used to research employers that you are interested in working with (see our guide on how to research employers to help with job applications and interviews).
Facebook is well-known for its comments section. If you are promoting a business, you can gauge user information and experience by encouraging people to interact with your page via comments, ‘reactions’ and shares - these insights can help you shape your online presence and increase your following. Users of your page can create their own online community with their shared interest in your business.
Facebook can be used to:
- Connect with influencers in your field
- Share articles and other items that show the world your interests
- Help shape what others think of you
Features such as Facebook Live allow businesses to stream live videos to hundreds and thousands of people at once. Examples of this include reporting current events as they happen, journalist interviews and Q&A’s led by Facebook users.
Facebook for job hunting
You can follow businesses and companies you are interested in to keep informed about job openings and work experience opportunities. Facebook algorithms can potentially show you promotions for companies you haven’t heard of but are similar to the pages you have followed.
Facebook for businesses
Facebook is also widely known for creating targeted content for each user using algorithms. This means that Facebook tailors your experience and shows you content based on the kind of content you interact with the most. This can be a powerful tool to expand your network and influence, particularly if you have a business you want to promote to wider audiences. You can also promote posts to boost their visibility.
Facebook for Business can help you think strategically about the content you share and post to increase engagement with your page. This can include support for creating ads.
Twitter is best known for instant communication in the form of limited character tweets, retweets (RTs), quote-tweets and direct messages (DMs). Information travels fast in the world of Twitter, and can be an advantageous tool to keep up to date with the most latest updates from businesses and companies you are interested in.
The instantaneous nature of Twitter means you are able to:
- Know in real-time about developments in your areas of interest.
- Share, comment and be part of a global conversation that extends beyond people you are friends with.
Twitter is also a very public platform, so it’s important that if you use Twitter as a professional network, you are cautious about what you share; think about what content a potential employer may see if they look through your profile. You can ‘protect’ your profile and posts via your privacy settings so only your approved followers can see what you post, but this could be a disadvantage if you are trying to network and share conversations with others.
A short and clear bio in your profile which includes who you are, alongside a professional photo of yourself, will be helpful when creating a professional presence online. It is important to maintain good grammar, spelling and punctuation in the content you post to further maintain professionalism.
Twitter for job hunting
Many companies use a variety of social media networks to promote their business and activities, including advertising job opportunities, so it may be helpful to use or create a Twitter account and get a variety of content and information amongst different social media platforms.
Who you follow on Twitter will be the most important step to take when job hunting. Twitter allows you to create ‘Lists’ (which can be created to be public or private to you) where you can categorise the people and companies you follow by topic and industry. This is an efficient way to organise your Twitter feed if you get a variety of content from different people you follow.
Like lots of social media channels, the more you use it and its tools, the more success you will have! Starting conversations via DM or Twitter threads (where you can view replies to a tweet) could lead to a face-to-face (or digital) meeting. One way to effectively use this is to respond to Twitter polls and join conversations of sector-related topics of your interest, where like-minded individuals will also be participating in these discussions. You can also use and participate in hashtags (‘#’) that are relevant to your area of interest to search and start conversations. Keep hashtags simple, clear and professional.
Twitter for businesses
Twitter’s live video tool lets you share videos and interact with other users posting videos that fit your interests. Twitter Polls can be another way to engage with, and expand, your network. It’s a great way to gauge interest of other users that you can interact and network with that share the same career prospects and interests as you.
Using unique hashtags that are personal to your brand can help raise your company’s profile and engagement. Additionally, using popular hashtags that are relevant to your company is also a great way to gain interest from wider audiences who are already engaging in the hashtag or trend. Make sure that these hashtags are reflective of your brand whilst maintaining professionalism wherever possible.
Over recent years, Instagram has become one of the most popular and influential social media platforms out there. Instagram has even become some people’s careers; creating and sharing content for their brand and others. Most recently, Instagram has installed a ‘Shopping’ function where businesses can promote their products via their social media brand. Because of these developed and creative functions, Instagram could make a valuable addition to your business toolkit.
Instagram can be used to:
- Produce creative and informative content
- Engage with popular trends and expand your following
- Maintain your brand and relevance, expanding your audience
Like using any other social media platform for professional purposes, ensure that your profile and your content is appropriate. You can still make use of Instagram’s tools for job hunting whilst changing your privacy settings to make your profile ‘Private’; Instagram is one of the less likely platforms employers use for head-hunting potential employees. Making your profile private may also be beneficial if you want to keep your profile for personal use only and prevent potential employers from finding posts you don’t want them to see.
Instagram for job hunting
As well as Twitter, Instagram also makes use of hashtags to help categorise content, as well as help to build a following. Spend time looking through relevant hashtags to see if your posts fit so that more people can discover you. This technique also works with tagging relevant accounts to your posts using their ‘@’ profile name, as people can engage with company’s tagged posts.
Use Instagram to follow companies and businesses that interest you. Instagram also has a search function that shows you posts that you may be interested in based on who you follow and the content you engage with. This function can allow you to explore companies who you may not have heard of but provide opportunities you may be interested in.
Instagram for businesses
Explore Instagram’s advertising features and use them to create and maintain a strong brand identity, as well as create excitement amongst existing and potential customers.
Instagram has a variety of tools you can use to advertise your business or company. In addition to posts, Instagram has a ‘Stories’ feature where you can upload multiple videos and photos. Instagram Stories have more engaging tools you can use to get your followers to interact with you, such as opinion polls or question submissions. These stories last for 24 hours, so use your judgement for which posts you want to expire and which you want to be permanent.
The popularity of Instagram can in turn create a competitive environment. A lot of content from businesses is created by a team of professionals, therefore your ability to replicate the scale of success some businesses have may not be the same if you are working alone. It can take a while to build a large following and create good engagement, so be patient and experiment on the range of tools that are out there… This is your chance to be creative!
LinkedIn is a social media platform with a multitude of career benefits. You can establish a detailed professional presence, network with employers and others working within your sector, and access communities and learning opportunities. You can find out more in our detailed guide to creating a LinkedIn profile and using it to network here.
LinkedIn is a really useful social media platform to start creating your professional presence. You can network with people and organisations that best match your career prospects and interests to gain a better understanding of what is going on in the professional sector such as challenges the sector is facing, potential issues or areas for growth.
The start of the coronavirus pandemic saw TikTok become one of the fastest growing social media platforms we have seen in a while. Many businesses turned to TikTok to promote their businesses to a wider audience and experimented with creative video content. This platform was also an opportunity for people to advertise their businesses they started over lockdown, and many grew successful over a short period of time as a result of the creative content and online community of followers they created.
The ‘overnight success’ culture of TikTok allows users to:
- Reach wider and younger audiences at a fast rate
- Create short yet entertaining and innovative content
TikTok for job search
TikTok is a less popular platform to use for seeking opportunities. However, as many organisations are using TikTok to reach wider audiences, they may create content to promote job opportunities and even graduate opportunities, such as running live Q&A’s about their application process. Like other social media platforms, it is worth following larger employers who can offer opportunities in your sector of interest.
TikTok for businesses
TikTok for business supports businesses to promote themselves in a creative environment, regardless of how big or small they are. This platform has lots of interactive features; like many social media platforms, you can like, comment and share videos, as well as track engagement through statistics and insights.
A TikTok Business account is different from the average user account, as it will give you access to more features and insights that help your business and engagement grow.
Trends come and go, but on TikTok, new trends are created and fade at a much faster pace. To maintain an engaged audience, it is important to maintain awareness of what kind of material is trending and use this to your advantage. However it is important that your content is appropriate and reflective of your brand, otherwise it may not have as much engagement or positive impact. You can follow accounts and businesses that are similar to yours to get some inspiration for content.
Youtube was one of the first social media platforms where content creators could create a living for themselves through videos. This is achieved through paid advertising and community engagement, and it is still a popular channel for creatives to showcase their lives, passions and talents.
Creating a living on social media isn’t as glamorous as it may look, and can take a long time to gain followers and grow engagement. Many content creators don’t start using YouTube immediately as a full-time career, but rather are able to leave their day jobs to pursue online content creation as their main career if they become successful enough. YouTube can be a platform to share your ideas, hobbies and interests and become part of a community with like-minded creators, which can lead to more opportunities outside the realms of social media.
Videos are much more than just a source of entertainment; it is also a great platform for learning. Some creators on YouTube share information and advice to help people advance their careers, such as how to use body language for interviews.
Youtube for business
Youtube can be a useful tool to help drive traffic to your business website by creating engaging, timely and relevant content. It is important that you include information about your website in your videos or video descriptions for this to be successful. You can also use relevant and popular hashtags to increase viewer engagement.
Video content for your Youtube profile could vary and it doesn’t have to be just promoting your website or business in an obvious way. You could create videos giving an insight into how your business operates on a day-to-day basis, introducing employees to create brand familiarity, giving your viewers business updates, or celebrating a business milestone. Ensure your content aligns with your brand and brand values.
Youtube Ads can also help drive traffic to your website, particularly if you are selling products or services.
They can be displayed before, during, or after other people’s videos. There are a variety of ad formats available, depending on what you aim to achieve through your ad. For example, you can include a customisable button that links customers directly to your website to encourage them to buy your product. To capture attention of audiences and potential customers, short and non-skippable ads highlighting memorable messages would be a useful format.
As well as seeing the number of views, likes, comments and subscribers on your channel, Youtube allows you to track engagement in other ways. You can view how many people clicked on your ad to measure its impact through Google Ads reporting and other tools to help increase ad engagement.
As a startup or enterprise, Youtube offers lots of easy and customisable tools to start creating brand awareness and increasing engagement from potential customers to suit your business needs!
Youtube for job search
Rather than finding opportunities using Youtube, some large graduate employers use this platform to provide guidance and information about their opportunities and the application process. Popular graduate employers such as the Civil Service share advice and guidance on their application processes, including completing the psychometric tests for the Fast Track Scheme.
Some content creators also provide advice on how to advance your career and succeed in the path of securing a job; from writing a CV to improving your interview skills. Although there are a lot of articles and websites that advise on these areas, video content can be another way to learn from other people’s perspectives and personal experiences.
Social media is continuously evolving, so it is important to stay up to date with the developments of your chosen platform. Remember that our advisers are on hand to provide guidance on your options and empower you to make the next steps to advancing your career.
Networking through social media
Networking is a valuable skill that enables you to promote yourself, connect with others, and access opportunities which otherwise might not be available. Social media is naturally inclined towards networking with other people, and will be a valuable tool for you to use.
- Follow employers or topics which are of interest to you. This will enable you to stay up to date with news in your sector, and identify opportunities such as job vacancies.
- Join groups which are relevant to you. This can help you to make contacts with others working in your sector and share ideas. Developing a relationship with fellow industry professionals can be beneficial as they may know of suitable opportunities or have relevant information that they can share with you.
- Use relevant hashtags on your posts where this is supported by your platform of choice. This can boost your visibility and allow new followers to find you, expanding your reach. Be sure that your use of hashtags is professional and relevant to the content you are sharing.
- Engage with the content other people are creating. This can be a way to introduce yourself to other people, as well as encouraging others to engage with your content. Many people take a reciprocal approach to social media, and will be willing to engage with those who make the initial approach.
- Add people to your social media circles. Aim to be selective about those you add, and have a reason for interacting with them. For example, the CEO of the company you are interested in may not accept a LinkedIn request, but a second-hand connection with ties to the industry may be interested in becoming part of your social circle. You may find you have more success interacting with people who you have mutual connections with, or a strong reason to connect with such as a shared research interest or background.
Staying safe online
Using social media to enhance your job search and career prospects opens a wide door of exciting opportunities. It is important that you continue to think about keeping safe online, particularly when you are approached by people you haven’t met before and keeping safe from scam jobs.
Here are some key tips to remember:
- You should never have to pay an employer for any sort of fees before they have offered you employment. There is a huge risk of being scammed from illegitimate companies, whether it’s a financial scam or a breach of data protection.
- Before applying for a company, it is best practice to always do some research to understand more about what they do and their offerings. You can also look on websites such as GlassDoor and Indeed for employee or applicant reviews, who may share their individual experience with working for or applying for the company. This research can give an indication if they’re a legitimate company.
- If you are unsure if a person or employer is trustworthy and legitimate, please contact the Careers and Employability Service.
Need more help and information?
You can get more help using LinkedIn at the Careers and Employability centre. Our advisers can review your profile and answer questions you might have.
Remember, the rules for effective networking apply to LinkedIn and any online networks. Make sure you read our top tips on how to network before you start.
LinkedIn also provides a series of quick tips and videos to help you create a profile and network effectively.