Social networking follows many of the same principles as in-person networking: Our goal is to be seen as authentic, interesting, approachable, relevant, and engaging. Being visible, findable and active on social networking platforms is about more than setting up a profile and waiting for the phone to ring. A powerful online profile requires thought, focus and maintenance to remain useful.
Your social networking profiles should reflect your experience, interests, career goals, and authentic self. As someone in a military-to-civilian transition, your goal is to make yourself findable and relevant to target audiences online. When creating your online profile, pay attention to:
- Your headshot should look like you today, in attire that represents the job you are in or seeking to get into. If you are still in uniform, it is appropriate that your profile photo shows you in uniform. If you transitioned out of uniform, you should be dressed in the wardrobe of your desired job.
- Background photos in profile headers should reflect (1) the platform (is it a social platform, like Facebook, or a more business-oriented platform?) and (2) the industry or company you are targeting. On a business-oriented social networking platform, you want to use visuals that reinforce to the viewer that you see yourself in that career. For instance, if you are pursuing a job on Wall Street, you might choose a photo of office buildings in New York, not a photo of a sunset or your Golden Retriever.
- Links to articles, videos, and other content will typically bring a visual graphic with them into your posts. Be sure that those graphics reinforce to someone viewing your profile that you are serious, focused, and engaged, not sloppy. Watch for graphics that are inappropriate or are advertisements for products or services, particularly if you don't align with those ads.
- Ensure the tone and messaging of your online profiles matches how you speak in person. If you speak in sophisticated language, then your online profiles should reflect that while still being understandable.
- Consistency is king in messaging. When your passion, enthusiasm and interests come through in how you describe your past experiences, goals and successes, readers get a true sense of who you are and what you're looking for in your civilian career.
- Every mention, post and listing on your profiles should add value to your reputation. Ask yourself, "Is posting this onto my status update or online profile going to advance my positioning or detract from my value?"
- In many ways, you are known by your connections and relationships. Some platforms are more social, and we tend to be more lax in connecting with people we don't know as well. On professional, business sites, we might be more discerning. This should not be the case. Employers search all platforms for information and contacts you associate with. Choose them wisely.
- When asking to connect with someone online, send a personalized note with the invitation request. Remind the person where you met or why you see a connection as mutually beneficial. A generic connection request has a much lower likelihood of starting a viable business relationship.
- When receiving connection invitations, take the time to evaluate the opportunities. Do you know the person? Can they add value to your online reputation? Can you offer something of value to them?
Engaging with Others:
- Share links to articles related to your industry, community or specialty. Be sure to read the article first, and make sure it represents something you would be proud to attach your name to and share. When you post the link, add a sentence indicating your thoughts or opinion on the piece. This helps your audiences learn your viewpoint and see you as a contributor, not just an observer.
- Congratulate and celebrate the successes of others. You likely get daily notifications of your contacts' birthdays, work anniversaries, and job changes. Post a congratulatory note to their LinkedIn status and add a sentiment, such as, "Congratulations on the promotion, Bob. Well earned for sure!"
- Share a quote that's meaningful to you. On business-related platforms, the quotes should be of a professional nature and always attributed to the author. For example, "I have not failed 10,000 times. I have successfully found 10,000 ways it will not work" – Thomas Edison
Your online profile, on any social networking platform, reflects who you are, what you value, and what you're looking for. Be careful about posting content or engaging in conversations online that detract from your value.