This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab
This New Year's Eve, as you celebrate with friends and reflect on a resolution to make, why not commit to launching yourself into the social media world?
I'm referring to going beyond having your own website to begin participating in the world of social media platforms. Statistics confirm that having a strong social media presence – whether it's on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, or any combination of these – can boost your career, help you land a new job, or build up your reputation. Consider these facts:
- Eight per cent of recruiters and HR professionals refer to personal websites when deciding whether to hire people but 63 per cent of recruiters check social media sites to find out more about potential employees, according to Swiss-based digital marketing agency KBSD.
- Eight per cent of companies have fired someone for abusing social media
- 78 per cent of recruiters check search engines to find out more about potential employees
Here are five steps to follow to ensure you can make this New Year's resolution come true:
1. Check the current status of your personal profile.
Begin by investigating how you currently appear on the Web. You may be surprised to find that other people have posted comments or photos about you. Do a Google search on yourself (put quotations marks around your name) and check all the first links appearing, both text and images. See if someone else has claimed your name or your brand on any social media platforms.
You can use Socialmention to search key words across different platforms. If nothing shows up, don't be too happy as it also means nobody knows you. You can calculate your current value in the social media world with Empire Avenue or your ranking with Klout.
2. Claim your profiles and make them consistent
Now is the time to protect your name and brand by registering it on as many social sites as you can. At the minimum, register at Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google and SlideShare. You can use a virtual assistant to get all the registrations done using Knowem.
Even if you are a professional, I strongly encourage you to register on some of the less obvious social networks. For instance, Pinterest, a platform for posting images, is great for presenting a visual story about yourself or your brand. You can create many themed boards on Pinterest, such as a visual story of your past experiences and employers, a board about your skills, another one illustrating your published works. Here are some good examples of how people have posted their résumé or CV or my company's board.
As you register on each platform, fill in your profile and be consistent across sites. Think about how to accurately describe yourself and identify your areas of expertise. List achievements in your field, articles published, quotes about you, and any presentations given.
If you mention where you work, make sure your company allows it. Be careful about what you write and post because future recruiters and employers may not consider you if you post photos of yourself drinking; bad mouth previous employers, or lie about your background and qualifications.
Make sure you post your photo on each site. Decide what type of photo you want of yourself – a studio shot, executive pose, or one of you sitting at your desk, and be sure you own the rights to it. Use the same picture across all social media sites.
Next, create a backdrop or banner that is used across the top of your profile page on many sites. If you're not creative, you can pay a designer to make one, or use a Web-based tool, such as collage maker Fotor.
3. Be strategic – what do you want your social capital to be about?
Before you start posting, strategize about what content you want to post. Brainstorm areas of expertise you want to share with others. Think about how you can contribute to online conversations. But also show your human side – while 80 per cent of social capital is based on professional achievements, 20 per cent needs to be personal. So include what you want to be known personally about. Some people choose one of their hobbies, while others pick a topic they are passionate about.
On many sites, it is equally important to link with, follow, or "friend" people who inspire you, such as experts in your field, authors and executives you admire. If you follow them on many social platforms, their name will eventually be associated with yours.
4. Be consistently active on your social media sites
You don't need to check the sites daily; It's adequate to check most social media platforms once or twice a week. However, many people tweet, or post on their Facebook or LinkedIn site daily to maintain presence and visibility.
There are several tools to make it easier for you to use social media sites. For instance, Hootsuite links into and shows you the streaming content on all your sites on one screen. You can also post from Hootsuite to any of your sites linked to it, which simplifies checking in and posting.
5. Become a regular, either listening or participating
Even if you think you'll never get social media, you will be surprised at how many new contacts and friends you can make. If you are not sure what to write, you can just watch. I am confident, however, you will find reasons to participate more. So give it time. Begin by sharing or tweeting links to articles you have read. Add your voice to a trending Twitter hashtag or pose a question to others. Comment on an article, and watch how your name and brand grows.
Make this your year to get known
By following these steps, you will not only build your reputation online, but you will see how it can pay dividends offline, too. There's something about social media that, by definition, is enormously social. All these networks and platforms can bring you many new connections and personal friends. You will grow both professionally and personally. You will learn new things, expand your horizons. So here's to 2015, the year to build your social capital. And then share back what you have learned.
Estelle Metayer (@Competia) is the principal and founder of Competia, a leadership and strategy consulting firm, and is an adjunct professor with McGill University's leadership business programs.