A few weeks ago, a young MBA friend was informed by his employer that he would be more valuable (as an employee), if he started using social media tools to build his ‘brand’. I should mention that this individual, apart from an MBA, had considerable software development experience under his belt. His firm’s vision was to sell services at a higher premium, via the credibility (‘personal brand’) that the employees, were to create using social media platforms like facebook and twitter. Not just on Linkedin, which is the average persons idea of an accepted social network platform for career matters.

Then a few days ago, I was discussing the needs of a company hiring a new webmaster. In the past, their requirements for the position was based on technical competency. However, it was now clear to them that besides the technical aspects, the person would also need to be able to engage customers via newer forms of communication like facebook and twitter. The new hire would, ideally, actively drive the online media outreach efforts. They would, at the least, expect the new hire to know how these tools could be used to build an online community.

What was clear from both these situations was that, with the widespread usage of social media platforms, businesses are beginning to place more value on employees who can also engage customers using all the ‘conversational’ new media tools that go into what we call web 2.0.

For the uninitiated: in web 1.0, the flow of information was uni-directional. That is, mainly AT the target audience. In Web 2.0 – Facebook, twitter along with a bunch of up-and-coming platforms, allow deeper conversations and relationships, WITH your target audience. The easy access to and the mass adoption of these platforms have enabled businesses to engage with their audiences like never before.

This creates tremendous opportunities not only for businesses to connect with customers, but also for individual employees who can use these tools to advance their own careers. These new media tools are freely available to use with almost no training required. Of course, that does not mean every one is using them effectively.

I’m coming into Social Media networking a bit late (relatively speaking). I’ve not been using tools like twitter and facebook in a professional context, until a year or so ago. Later still, have been my efforts (now growing) at using web 2.0 tools as a personal tool to engage audiences. I see that a majority of relatives, friends and clients, still view facebook, twitter etc. as optional tools, mainly for entertainment. This post and the others that will follow, are primarily addressed to those with similar mindsets.

For those skeptical, a reminder that not too long ago, knowledge of e-mail, word and excel was not an absolute requirement for an office job. It may not be difficult for facebook (or third party app developers…a million strong the last I heard) to integrate tools like company chat/storage/file exchange modules etc., that could offer productivity enhancements. Even without these, companies are debating the benefits of allowing employees access to facebook and twitter. Business softwares like salesforce.com are integrating components (e.g.: chatter) inspired by these new media tools. Indeed, news like this may well become the norm: B.C. government approves Facebook, Twitter use for employees

I think every single individual out there CAN use these tools to enhance their career prospects. In an era where accomplished CEOs like Steve Jobs use web 2.0 to communicate directly with their customers, is it realistic to expect any vertical mobility in your career, if you ignore these tools?

Don’t know how to apply these tools to help your career? Let’s discuss.

Are you happy to use only Linkedin for your career? You still think facebook and twitter are ‘fads’? Can your career afford to sit it out?

What do you think?

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