Social Media: Are You Missing Out?
by Karen O’Keefe
In the same way that some people adopted cell phones and “smart” phones right away and others didn’t, there’s a huge discrepancy right now between those who understand the value of social media and those who don’t. You may know bloggers, Tweeters, or “people who Facebook,” or have friends with profiles on LinkedIn. You may even have participated in one or more of these social-media activities yourself. However, chances are good you still have something to learn, especially if you are over 35-40, which is where the generation gap falls. Older people tend not to be users, while younger people do. However, the trend is growing in all age groups, with baby boomers stepping it up in increasing numbers (www.mashable.com).
If you don’t currently use any social-media tools, let me share something with you a recruiter told me during my own job hunt last year: Executives and hiring managers at all Fortune 500 companies have a presence on LinkedIn, and 70% of high-tech jobs are now found through LinkedIn. Furthermore, more than 30 million people in the US and 60 million worldwide are on LinkedIn (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LinkedIn).
If that doesn’t give you pause, try this: Of those people on LinkedIn, users with incomes of $250,000 to 350,000 are seven times more likely to have 150+ connections (http://socialmediastatistics.wikidot.com/linkedin).
What does this mean? In a slow economy, you need to use all the tools at your disposal, and social networking is both inexpensive and effective.
Let me tell you my own story. Last year, I moved to Portland, OR and needed to find work. What did I do?
Flew to Atlanta to attend the STC annual conference.
- While there, met as many people as possible. Traded business cards, told each person about my needs (job and new contacts in Portland), and, importantly, connected with them on LinkedIn.
- Then I followed up with each person, a few of whom knew people here in Portland, who I contacted next and also hooked up with on LinkedIn.
- Next, I worked those contacts, meeting a few people for lunch.
Result: Ultimately, I found my “dream” job. How did LinkedIn help me? Wasn’t it in fact the face-to-face meetings that were most effective? By giving me access to more people, LinkedIn allowed me to maximize my job-search effectiveness and save time. I could go online and search for people who worked at companies where I wanted to work, and therefore “target” my “market.” In many ways, today’s job hunt is a numbers game, and LinkedIn helped me shift the odds in my favor.
On the other side of the coin, when I needed to find contractors to fill a couple of short-term (contract) writing positions, I used both STC channels and LinkedIn. For each candidate who submitted a resume, I looked them up on LinkedIn, perused their profiles, and checked out their online postings. Using LinkedIn to research candidates enabled me to gain valuable information and narrow the candidate pool. I also learned about writing groups and networking opportunities I didn’t even realize existed. Of the people with whom I spoke, I connected with a few of them on LinkedIn and later sent other job opportunities their way, thereby increasing my own network. I like the give-and-take of social-media tools.
Let’s revisit the recruiter for a minute. She threw another useful tidbit my way when she said that her (major) company looks for people with an online presence. By that, she explained, she meant her company looks for people who participate in online groups, post answers to other peoples’ questions, and are recognized experts in their fields.
Industry leaders refer to these people as the “one-percenters.” In other words, in any given online community, 90% of people will lurk without contributing anything; 9% will revise or edit existing content, and 1% will create new content (new ideas, new processes, new technologies). Top earners tend to be “one-percenters.”
I told this to one friend, who immediately began participating in discussion groups (on Twitter) related to her field. Within six months, she was a recognized expert. Another friend started a business based on her presence on Twitter. Another started her network marketing business based on what she learned about social media. Yet another obtains most of her business through Facebook contacts. I have found several groups on LinkedIn to be of value, especially the STC special interest groups and writing groups such as the Writing Mafia. Only you will know what works for you.
Which social-media tools have the most value? That depends—on your goals, needs, interests, target market, and so much more. Obviously, this article is slanted toward LinkedIn, but I also have a presence on Twitter and Facebook. I use Twitter to learn about updates to my most-often-used tools and technology and for fun; I use Facebook for friends and family; and I use LinkedIn in the context of my career. For me, it only made sense to keep my private life and work life separate, but others choose different paths and tools.
One caveat: don’t overstretch yourself, because you want to be reliable. If you take the “one of each” approach, you won’t be able to keep up—and if you are looking for work, that doesn’t paint you in the best light.
Sampling of Social-Media Sites for Business
Share and discover what’s happening right now, anywhere in the world. Check out http://twitter.com/pawprintspet for an effective use of this tool. This business uses Twitter to keep in touch with current customers and develop new ones while also sharing new ideas (example of a “one-percenter”).
Editor’s Note: WAI is on Twitter. You can follow us at: http://twitter.com/writingassist.
Connect with people you know, business associates, alumni, and events. Check out my profile at http://www.linkedin.com/in/karenokeefe.
Editor’s Note: You can see WAI President Scott Hartmann’s LinkedIn profile at: http://www.linkedin.com/in/scotthartmann.
Connect with people you know, business associates, alumni, and events: Check out these personal impact workshops: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Foundations-For-Tomorrow-US/225658147425.
Create and share video clips. Check out an industrial shredder, whose former marketing director used the power of the Internet to turn an ordinary machine into something that transcended its competition: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GOPuGmcHH0 (Watchitshred.com).
Other Social Sites Worth Checking Out
Visit www.mashable.com and other social-media guides for some help as to which tool might best serve you.
About the Author
Karen O’Keefe is a former President of the Southwestern Ohio chapter of STC (Society for Technical Communication). Presently employed as a Technical Writer with Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), Karen has over 20 years experience in technical communications and has taught technical writing at Wright State University for a number of years. She also freelances for a variety of publications.