How Social Media Savvy and Personal Online Branding Separates the Needle from the Haystack

Chris Thonis

It’s simply amazing to consider that at one point, all that was required of job hunting was a resume, cover letter, and references. You did a little research through the newspaper, found a job that was best suited towards your abilities, sent your resume and cover letter in by mail, and bam, you were on your way to getting a fancy new job at the company of your dreams. Times were good back then weren’t they? No navigating countless job platforms, no applying to jobs via the black hole of email, and no social networks filled with suggestive photos and status updates that are ready to cloud your future forever. But here we are. Workforce 2.0. A generation of prospective employees who have countless new ways to search for and apply to new jobs like never before, ultimately over-saturating the job market with hordes of applicants who have one thing in mind…to land a job as quickly as possible.

So with that in mind, what have you been doing lately to stick out? How, out of the thousands of other new graduates and qualified candidates who are applying to the exact same jobs you are, the exact same way you are, are you a level above? My guess is that when it really comes down to it, you’re not doing all you can. But all is not lost. In the grand scheme of things, the internet has graced you with a diverse array of highly useful tools that can help build your reputation as an up and coming rock star, connect you with key people in your field, and maybe, just maybe, land you that job you’ve been so patiently waiting for. Here are three ways how…

1.      Utilize Social Networks for What They Really Are 

Twitter is full of value, whether you’re employed or unemployed.  With 250 million members (100 million of which are active), I like to think of it as a platform promoting collective consciousness, where ideas all over the world are incubated and added upon in an endless cycle of opinions, statistics, and news. Never before in history has something so simple been able to break down the barriers of how we communicate by allowing people to converse about anything with anyone, anywhere, at any time in 140 characters or less.

That being said, a great thing you can do for yourself in whatever industry you’re looking to break into is to jump on Twitter and use it towards your advantage. To do this, follow other leaders in the field, read what they are reading on a constant basis, and when ready, find ways to interact with them in short conversational statements. A simple “@CEO I’ve noticed you’ve been posting a lot about direct marketing lately, and figured you’d enjoy this article:” will do. Get the conversation started anyway you can. It will not only strike up interactions between you and some of the top dogs in your field, but it will also amp up your online presence. If I’m an employer who received your resume out of the blue, the only way I’ll know anything about you is by researching you online. If the web is full of PR related Twitter posts, and insightful interaction with other people in my field, I promise you that I will bring you in for an interview.

The other social network you need to start using if you haven’t already is LinkedIn. When it first launched in 2003, I remember looking at LinkedIn as the social media outcast, thinking it more as the ultra-dry counterpart to Facebook than what it really was….the ultimate business card data pool. Where LinkedIn is now is just astounding. According to the company website, the platform has 161 Million users worldwide, counts executives from all 2011 Fortune 500 companies as members, has more than 2 million companies active on the site, and its corporate hiring solutions are used by 82 of the Fortune 100 companies. Crazy right?   Couple that with statistics from GlobalSpec which showed that participation on LinkedIn grew from 37% to 55% throughout the past year, and what was once a “dry” social media site is now one of the fastest growing, most useful networking tools in social media history.  If you don’t have an account yet, it is surely in your best interest to create one.  My tip to you is to sign up, create an account, and begin finding the people in your industry that you look up to (e.g CEOs, VPs, Entrepreneurs). Once you find them, connect via the website with something as easy as this: “I’m just out of college and interested in a career in ___. Seeing that I’m just getting my feet wet, I was hoping I might be able to set up an informational meeting at some point”. You’ve now forgone the email process, minimizing the chance that your outreach will go unnoticed, and best of all, when they do connect, your information will be in their network pool forever. How’s that for efficient?

2.      Google Yourself and Be Prepared to Wince

According to a recent MSU survey, 36% of companies are currently using social media to recruit. That’s right, a third of all companies out there are jumping on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter and doing their due diligence to search the backgrounds of potential employees who they expect to fit neatly into the company culture. So remember that photo you used of you and your friend getting hammered in Cancun as your profile pic? How about the day you got angry at the world and figured Twitter was the best place to let off some expletive filled steam?  Well guess what? Those little snippets of social history are living very comfortably on the web and are easily searchable by very little more than a web or image search on Google.  Gems like these will ensure that you’ll never get that interview. It’s high time you start cleaning up your social media act, and soon. Delete the embarrassing pics on Facebook, the provocative video on YouTube, and the irate 140 character rant on Twitter. You’ll thank me later; believe me.

3.      Don’t be a bench warmer, get out there and play the game

If I’m doing a little research and find your name all over the web, especially within my industry, I’m far more likely to take interest in you than not. But a stellar presence on the web does not just happen over time. It takes some work. What I mean by this is that you need to make a conscious effort to cultivate a web presence that will impress and inspire potential employers to hire you. This means that you need to begin involving yourself everywhere your profession is. Think about it like this…you’re the new kid on the block and you’re mission in life is to run with the popular kids. The thing is, those kids are pretty cliquey, and have particular people in mind they want to hang out with. So how do you find a way to fit in? You need to begin associating yourself with everything their doing, whether it’s listening to the music they listen to, dressing the way they dress, or talking the way they talk. You need to align yourself with what interests the cool kids. It’s no different in the work world. Good companies build upon specific culture, and look for potential employees who are likely to fit in and grow there. They also want someone passionate about what they do. A good online presence means building a name for yourself online, one that fits the industry mold, but is also forward thinking, and exudes passion. This might mean starting a Tumblr blog dedicated to analyzing PR fails (if of course you’re looking to break into the PR sector), or joining a relevant LinkedIn group and participating in daily conversations about the digital marketing industry. It might also mean finding interesting articles or blogs about your trade and adding some additional insight into the commentary box below. However you do it, just make sure that whatever you are adding to the big picture is something other people in your industry will take note of. Nothing impresses employers more than passion for their trade, and by personally branding yourself online in such a way, you’re opening yourself up to a vast number of new opportunities that otherwise would have never materialized. How’s that for separating yourself from the pack?

Chris Thonis is VP of Media Relations for Fabric Media, where he specializes in social media, entertainment, branding, animal awareness, and technology. He graduated with a BA in Communications from the University of Colorado, Boulder in 2004.

2 thoughts on “How Social Media Savvy and Personal Online Branding Separates the Needle from the Haystack

  1. I love this advice from Chris. Social media is one of the most powerful – and most misused – tools out there for any job seeker. It always amazes me how some people who put great thought into how they present themselves in person ignore the messages their online selves are sending potential employers or future colleagues. Social media is no replacement for face-to-face networking, but screw up in the former and you’ll likely never get to the latter.

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