2009 will be the year that the scales tipped in favor of social media. We just watched as a man brilliantly used social media to launch himself to the Presidency of the United States.
Considering that, using some of these tools to help us get through the recession seem a little less daunting. It may seem overwhelming, but the fact is, if you haven’t started to brand yourself online, now is the time to get started.
Just a few years ago, many of my friends laughed at the idea of having a blog, even as I found myself building and writing a blog full-time to support myself. Many of those same friends now use a blog as an invaluable tool to building connections. A few are even using a blog as the primary face of their company. Think of your blog as your electronic business card that can hold a lot more information and has the ability to have infinitely more room for marketing yourself.
There are many people losing their jobs in this economy and you want to stay a step ahead of the pack. Here are some free, easy tips to help you create and maintain a significant online presence. Social networking is equivalent of pounding the pavement 20 years ago.
Here we go.
1) To continue the current theme, get yourself a blog. If you don’t have one, get one. There are plenty of free, hosted blogging solutions out there. WordPress.com and Blogger.com are the two free powerhouses. There are plenty of new startup micro-blog out there now too like Tumblr.com and Posterous.com. Don’t get overwhelmed. You don’t have to blog everyday about everything in your life. Set up your blog, create an informative about page, put your resume up and update the blog with your progress occasionally. You don’t have to be a power user, but if you are, don’t be afraid of that either. Share your story, create your identity and personalize yourself. Employers want to hire people they can trust.
2) 2008 saw the rise of Facebook. If you don’t have a Facebook account get one. If you do have a Facebook account, take down all those drunken pictures of yourself or anything else that might not make you look like the best citizen. If you have friends that are posting that stuff or tagging you with that stuff, de-friend them. They’re not paying your bills and if they’re really your friend they’ll understand. For better or for worse, employers are hip to the game. If they know your name, the first thing they’re going to do is pull up Google and try and find out who you are. Your Facebook profile, possibly even more than your personal blog, is your online presence. A messy profile equals a messy desk. Get on the less is more bandwagon. You don’t need to add every single app someone sends you. Keep it clean. Network. Search for old colleagues and people you’re connecting with now. If you go on an interview with someone, go home and try to find them on Facebook. Add them as a friend and let them see how you maintain your online identity. You can also create limited profile visibilities for different groups so if you don’t know about that, you should learn.
3) Twitter. Just as 2008 saw the rise of Facebook. 2009 will see the rise of Twitter. Whether or not you want to tweet you want to be on Twitter. Why? Because it’s an almost constant stream of valuable information. Find them. Follow them. Learn. Don’t have any idea where to get started? This isn’t a bad place to start. Or here. Or here.
4) Change your email address. OK, this isn’t for everyone, but if your email address is still Im2Sxy4u@aol.com then you need to change your email address. My first recommendation? Get rid of AOL. I know you’ve had it forever and everyone knows it’s you but it’s archaic and doesn’t show much interest in trying something new. Personally I recommend Gmail for it’s speed and total integration with so many other features. But, I’m sure Yahoo has it’s benefits as well. Try and get your name if you can. firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Try and lose the numbers and keep it clean.
5) Become an RSS junkie. If you’re not using an RSS reader, start. Google Reader is a great one. I don’t care what your profession is, or what your interests are there is someone online writing about it. In fact there are probably hundreds of people writing about it. An RSS reader makes it easy for you to keep track of what they’re saying and what’s going on in your field. Don’t go by how many followers someone has, go by the quality of their writing and whether or not what they’re saying really speaks to you.
6) Register your name. johnsmith.com is the best way to tell people where they can find you. OK, this one isn’t free, but it’s really cheap. And since we’re utilizing free tools for everything else, I think we can let this one slide. So now you have all these new online identities how do you use them? All of the free blogging platforms I mentioned above allow you to configure them to use your own domain name. You can also head over to Hover.com to register your domain name. Hover is a new service that allows you to create an unlimited amount of free redirects. You can point johnsmith.com to your blog, and within seconds create johnsmith.com/twitter and point that to your Twitter account. Or johnsmith.com/facebook etc. No technical know how whatsoever. Just pop in the information and Hover will take care of the rest.
The bottom line is branding yourself, which is just a different way of saying, “letting some folks get to know you.” The more you get your name out there, the more control you have over what people see when they inevitably head over to Google and search for John Smith to find out what comes up about you.
Make sure that what they find is not only someone that is looking for a job but that is using social media to better themselves, to learn and grow. Let them see that being without a job hasn’t made you become stagnant, instead show them it has given you the opportunity to learn and grow from your peers.
The bottom line is controlling how people see your online presence. Become a sponge. Follow the right people. Connect. Use your time wisely, use your tools wisely and always be active. These are the tools that will help put you at the head of the pack, and give you the confidence to go for it.