Have you ever read the wonderful things about social media, in the news, and thought ‘I don’t get it’ ‘What a waste of time!’ etc.?

You probably concluded that it’s primarily a tool for narcissistic personalities. That may even be right, if you believe this study.

I just have a regular Joe/Jane job.

The popularity of social media has spawned groups of marketing geniuses, who quickly figured out a way to leverage use of these new media tools and make money doing it. While establishing themselves as ‘thought-leaders’, they also shared information on how others can emulate their success. We now have a growing breed of entrepreneurs, businesses, internet marketing experts/gurus, etc. who use these tools to generate and grow income.

On the flip side, all the talk of ‘branding’ and ‘marketing’ has made it seem like if you have a regular Joe/Jane job, these tools really cannot do much for your career. You may want to reconsider.

The last time I described how these tools are being widely used and even legitimized for employee usage. What we can take for granted is that the use of social media platforms is going to be even more widespread in the near future. This presents every individual with an opportunity to build their digital presence and reputation, to help achieve career and/or employment goals.

How can you use easily available tools, to stand out from the competition?

Let’s put this into context by using a couple of real world, regular joe/jane jobs as examples:

Executive assistant – Usually the information available in a resume and/or cover-letter is used to shortlist candidates. Suppose one of the candidates also provides a blog and a twitter account as part of the application. The employer now has more information to make a hiring decision with. At the least, the content and conversations on the blog and on twitter, gives the employer a better idea of the candidate’s communication abilities. A positive appraisal of the candidate’s presence on these platforms may well give this candidate an upper hand over the competition.  More so, if the employer uses, or plans to use social media strategies, as part of their marketing/outreach campaigns.

Customer Service agent – Similarly, a blog and/or activities on social media platforms like twitter or facebook are great ways to give prospective employers examples of your abilities to communicate, process and structure information. It also shows your relationship-building skills.

The list goes on and on. In tough economic times it becomes all the more important to stand out from the increasing number of job-seekers. Can you afford to be a candidate without an online personal brand to showcase?

Now you may say ‘Wait a minute! How can a frivolous status update or family album help an employer appraise my application? Will it not actually hamper my chances?’

Well that’s a great question to ask. The occasional joke and/or family pictures only demonstrate that you are human. Consistently questionable behavior obviously demonstrates something else. You are in control of your social media presence. Now this may be common sense but there’s more where it comes from.

Don’t know what to blog about? How does twitter work? Well, this is a good time to start. Take baby steps. Start by just commenting (adding value) on interesting blogs, facebook posts etc. Join twitter and follow a few people. See how you can work the platforms and over time, build and consolidate your personal brand. Remember, your online personal brand will probably outlive any job you may have. In fact, it may even help your career growth and unearth hidden talents. So proceed diligently.

Rule to remember: Effective use of social media platforms is not only about broadcasting information.

Any positive social media presence is not about simply pushing out information about what you do and how you do it. It is about building relationships. Even if you are continuously pushing a worthy non-profit cause, I may not be able to connect unless you invest in an online relationship with me first. Becoming a facebook friend or twitter follower is only the first step.

Similar issues are tackled by social media marketing gurus like (amongst others) Chris Brogan, Aaron Strout and my hometown Montreals own Mitch Joel. Though they mostly discuss branding and marketing, a lot of what they say can be applied towards personal brand building and career consolidation too.

We will discuss some of these topics as we go along. However, I end this post with a great tip from Chris Brogan (also validated by others), a great way to build two way relationships AND a good philosophy for living as well.

“Promoting your own stuff over and over again is lame. Promote others 12x to every 1x of your own stuff.”

Questions? Feel free to ask.

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