OPINION: Why it pays to be social

Everyone loves social media, right? I mean, what’s there not to love?

Whether it’s keeping in touch with your school friends, posting holiday pics or checking in at the gym so your workout ‘still counts’, staying connected is just a click away.

But social media is so much more than just a socialising tool. In a world where the social and the professional is becoming increasingly blurred, ‘personal branding’ is becoming the catchcry on everyone’s lips – or it should be. And this is where social media really comes into its own.

So what is personal branding? Think of the way companies spend millions of dollars each year developing their brand image … well individuals are increasingly adopting the same approach to building up a consistent image or persona. How do you want people to see you, both personally and professionally? Once you’ve figured this out, you can become your own brand manager, using social media as one of your primary outlets – and the best part of all is it won’t cost you a cent.

Social media can act as a platform to be heard as a professional voice without needing to get your name on a conference speaker’s list. If you’ve seen some good articles lately, then share them. If you’ve had some ideas of your own, then blog them. Start following some of your industry idols and they might even start following you back.

But don’t just take my word for it. There are plenty of success stories out there that prove how social media can go from pastime to profession in no time at all.

Ever heard of a guy called Justin Bieber?

Regardless of whether you have Bieber fever or not, what you might not know is that the Canadian pop singer and teen heartthrob was discovered in 2008 after talent manager, Scooter Braun, came across a YouTube video of Bieber singing in his living room. Scooter then set up a meeting with renowned recording artist Usher … and the rest is history.

Just think – if Justin had never posted those videos on YouTube then he would never have been named Forbes magazine’s third-most powerful celebrity in the world in 2012!

Or let’s say you need to look for a new job. Instead of putting on your ‘smart person’ outfit and hitting the pavement, you can just fire up your computer and knock on some digital doors via the wonderful world of social networking.

You may already be using some great professional networking sites without even realising it – like Facebook. With over a billion active users, Facebook is the most talked about social network in the world, and you can be sure that potential employers will be checking you out too.

Take, for example, Noelle Federico, chief financial officer at Dreamstime.com, who looks up every potential employee on social media. ‘I do an extensive research project on everybody’s social media pages’, says Federico. She visits LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, as well as doing a Google search of their name to see what comes up – so if you’ve built up your personal brand across different platforms, it will really work in your favour and could nab you the job.

You'll need to do a stocktake of any ‘inappropriate’ photos in your Facebook albums, but you can also make use of a few applications out there to help separate your social and professional identities like BeKnown, BranchOut and Jobvite.

It’s worthwhile branching out from the good old faithful Facebook too. There are plenty of opportunities for virtual schmoozing and you should take advantage.

LinkedIn is where it’s at in terms of work-related networking. Being the professional network of choice for many, you should definitely jump on this bandwagon if you haven’t already. More and more people are being head-hunted, even when they’re not looking for a job, just by keeping their LinkedIn profile up-to-date. Why would you deny your dream company the chance to check out your page by not creating one?

So if you’re not already linked in to social media’s career benefits, then it’s time to face the facts. You’d be a twit not to!

It's clear that Julia feels there's a lot to 'like' about social media for personal branding, but don't forget to take a look as Marni argues the darker side of all that tweeting and sharing.




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