How to Use Social Media to Level Up Your Career in Tech
Ryan Schaefer, Former Senior Project Manager
As professionals continue to navigate an ever-evolving digital landscape, social media has remained, despite its shortcomings, a useful channel for enhancing your career.
Let’s be honest: social media is in a very bad spot right now. There are privacy concerns abound, ethics issues, a lack of reputable leadership, a permeation of misinformation, and more. Those are significant, and they all require a great deal of attention and action.
But the prevailing benefit these platforms still bring to the table is that they connect people around the world. Debating the merits and disadvantages of that is a different article.
And because we have such extraordinary access to so many people, anyone with an internet connection can leverage social media to help their career. And that’s what I want to focus on in this article.
I won’t rehash the same social media advice you can find anywhere on the internet. That market is saturated, and plenty of it is spot on. Instead, let’s dive into some best practices that are less frequented but no less effective, with a slight bend towards the tech space. By the end, you should be well-equipped to utilize the power of social media in a positive way that will pay dividends for your career.
Define your goals.
For any project, no matter your role, you need a rock-solid understanding of the goals. It’s no different for your social media presence. You need to ask yourself what you’re looking to get out of these platforms.
It’s okay to have more than one goal. But generally, they fall in one of two buckets: growing as a professional and growing your network. Some of the most common:
Growing as a professional.
- Learn –This is easy. Millions of people are sharing their perspective on social media. There’s plenty to learn. I recommend creating lists of people who are sharing interesting things, or joining a group in a relevant space.
- Establish credibility – This is partly about growing your network too, but nonetheless, your individual credibility can greatly aid your future career prospects. The tech industry is filled with ambitious, high-profile professionals. There’s no reason you can’t join them if you’re willing to put in the work. If you don’t yet have a following, social media is a great place to start—it gives you a real-time platform for sharing thoughts, lessons, and much more.
- Find new career opportunities – Companies across the world leverage their platforms for recruiting. We do. Plus a lot of job applications offer the opportunity to include your social media handles. It’s another point in your favor if you can share a profile with thoughtful, consistent content. And it’s even better if you’ve gathered some followers.
Growing your network.
- Making connections – Almost every job I’ve had I’ve gotten because I knew someone. A part of this is because I work in the DC area, where networking is pretty much a responsibility. But it’s also something you can completely control and leverage when the opportunity arises. The larger you can make your professional circle, and the more attention you dedicate to maintaining it, the better suited you are to find your dream job.
- Raise your company’s profile – If you’re a business owner or executive, business development professional, or just an employee looking to make a meaningful difference, you can have a lot of impact on how your company is perceived. By raising your profile, you raise your company’s.
- Find new business for your company or side gig – It might seem silly at first, but there are absolutely decision makers seeking agencies or freelancers on social media. Even if the people actively looking don’t find you, it’s possible someone who is just browsing can see content of yours that sparks their interest. All it takes is one person to bite to make your efforts worth it.
But perhaps the most important benefit of defining your goals on social media is it requires you to take a serious look at what you want to be doing professionally. You never know what you might discover.
Establish and maintain your persona.
Active consent is required for someone to follow you on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn. Most of the time, that means this person has at least glanced at some of the content you’re creating, and has deemed it worth their attention. They’ve benefited in some way from what you’re pushing out. But if your voice, tone, and message fluctuate regularly, odds are a portion of what you’re saying will no longer be relevant to that user. You risk losing them.
There’s nothing wrong with trying to emulate other users. Originality is more memorable, but looking for inspiration can lead to some great ideas too.
Whatever persona you convey, make it consistent and genuine.
Showcase your unique blend of skills and experience.
If you’ve had a traditional career path, then you probably have a lot of industry knowledge to share. If you’ve had an uncommon path to working in this industry, less of your experience will be relevant but there will probably be more value in what is worthy of sharing.
Either way, conforming to a trite and stale archetype will ensure you blend into the crowd. Recruiters and decision makers aren’t looking to find people who are just like everyone else. Use your unique background as a way to stand out.
Find your platforms.
You may have gathered that this article is focusing primarily on Twitter and LinkedIn. These are the two best platforms to leverage for your career. LinkedIn was built exactly for this purpose, and Twitter is public, meaning your reach will be much greater. You should focus your energies on these two.
But there are others.
Pay attention to Slack communities. While this doesn’t fall under social media in the traditional sense, there’s no reason your professional goals cannot advance by connecting and learning from other people in real time.
You should also consider other opportunities like blogging regularly, creating and maintaining a portfolio site, and writing for an external publication.
Follow people on these lists.
I spend a lot of my social media time searching for and connecting with industry influencers. I recommend taking a look at these lists and following anyone you find interesting. There’s always the chance you’ll get a #followback, but the primary purpose is to see what high profile users are doing online. You can also check out who they’re following to get a sense of who they’re learning from.
Don’t be afraid to reach out. Conversing with people is another good way to learn and build your network. You’ll be surprised how many people are happy to chat.
Connect with people you meet at conferences.
I love conferences; new places, smart people, and lots to learn. But I always make it a priority to network. A big part of this happens after you’ve left.
You already did the work of attending the conference. An easy way to add more value to your experience is to follow the people you met, or people you heard speak that you thought had something interesting to say. Being at a conference together also provides a natural icebreaker. A simple message can go a long way:
I enjoyed meeting you at the [conference name] last week. Just wanted to reach out so we could stay connected. Hope we get a chance to work together in the future!"
And do your best to stay in touch.
Connect with professionals at similar companies.
Take a look at the team sections of companies similar to yours. You might see social handles linked in bios, but it’s also easy to search for those people manually. You are probably more likely to connect with people in a position similar to yours, but there’s really no reason to not take a sweep through everyone.
This is a great way to get exposure to processes, insights, and content that is relevant to you.
Don’t let striving for perfect get in the way.
It can be tough to maintain a social account. Competing priorities, feeling overwhelmed by having to start at square one, and lack of initial (or sustained) success can turn people off from spending the time necessary on their social media presence. These are reasonable concerns.
There’s also the fear of putting out content that gets no engagement. Oftentimes, this can discourage us from posting. My advice from many hours spent on these platforms: Unless you’ve reserved your social media accounts for prodigious insights on technology, it’s fine to send a less-than-perfect tweet.
Above all else, you should try something, and fail something. Everything I said is irrelevant if you’re afraid to fail. Starting and staying perfect is not possible. Push yourself. If you’re strategic, you set aside some time to tend to your profiles consistently (even just a little), and don’t lose sight of your goals, you will inevitably build success.