Lisa Hoover

Golden rule of social networking: It's not just about you

By Lisa Hoover
May 05, 2009 4:54 PM EDT
I'd estimate that the vast majority of people using social media understand it's meant to be a communication tool to facilitate interaction with others. Unfortunately, there's a small segment of users who treat it as a digital megaphone for their own personal marketing plan.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ran an informative piece this week about how job-seekers are relying on social networking tools to find employment. While LinkedIn wrote the book on professional online networking, Twitter, Facebook, and similar Web sites are also terrific ways to find job leads.

Author Erica Perez spoke with a handful of career counselors and teachers at local colleges who are helping seniors about to enter the workplace find new and inventive ways to "strategically craft their Web presence." Perez boils down their advice to a central point: use social media to get noticed and gain a competitive advantage over other job-seekers.

"[Twitter is] not about telling people what you ate for breakfast, advisers say, but about showing off your interests and expertise."

"[...Facebook is] about listing your interests, and linking to an online portfolio of your work or your blog - if it's professional, said Bill Bensman, social media campaign coordinator for Spreenkler."

"'How can you take your presence on these sites and leverage that?' he asked the students. 'The premise is how to take you as a person and transform you into a brand so company X will find you on this social space.'"

Based on the fact that these brief passages use the words "you" and "yours" nine times in four sentences, it's pretty clear to me that many social networking "advisors" treat social networking sites as digital business cards and 140-character resumes.

Don't get me wrong, Twitter and Facebook are fantastic -- and often very effective -- ways to get the word out that you're looking for employment. For career counselors to advise people that they should be used to "show-off your expertise" is irresponsible and helps diminish their overall value.  

Given the emerging signal-to-noise ratio, is it any wonder people start out enthusiastic about joining social networking sites and quickly burn out from the constant barrage of personal and commercial promotional messages? Social media tools are a great weapon against layoffs and unemployment, but use them judiciously and remember: contribute at least as much as you consume.