You probably already use social media like Facebook and Twitter for fun. But have you thought about how social media can help you in your nonprofit career?
Last week we hosted a special program titled Get Connected: Social Media for Nonprofit Professionals, with guest speakers Jenny Trucano of National Geographic Magazine (she's also affiliated with Small Act) and Ashley Hoffman, Director of Marketing and Communications at Brazen Careerist. It turned into a lively discussion about how electronic connections can enhance your professional life and the life of your organization.
Of course, one of the most popular online career sites is LinkedIn, which has over 100 million members in over 200 countries. Jenny pointed out how this resource can really extend your professional network. The average LinkedIn member has 179 friends and colleagues on the site -- these are your first degree links. This core group provides you with second degree links to 25,900+ people (their friends/colleagues), and third degree connections to more than 2 million! So LinkedIn can be a great way to find out who you know through whom. Just like 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon! Learn how to set up your own LinkedIn profile with the site's Starter Guide.
You can download the handouts from Jenny's LinkedIn presentation here and Ashley's presentation on social media for nonprofits here. Jenny also offered great tips for professional networking online. Here are some of my favorites:
- Use a real photo for your profile. Using a photo of yourself will make it easier for people to find you, especially people you have only met briefly. It also can help people recognize you at professional functions. Jenny recommends using the same photo across social networking sites. That way, if people who follow you on Twitter want to connect on LinkedIn, they'll know when they've found the right profile. But choose your photo carefully -- you won't look professional if the photo shows you living it up at a party.
- Include a summary paragraph in your profile. Think of it as an elevator pitch for yourself. This can help tie your different work experiences together, emphasize your strengths, and outline your career goals.
- Keep your updates professional on professional networking sites. Updating your status lets your connections know what you're doing. But keep your updates interesting and relevant to your professional life. Putting together a major event for your organization? By all means, talk about that on LinkedIn. Throwing down at the beach this weekend? Save that for Facebook, Twitter, or other less formal platforms.
- Think about whom you want to connect with. Some people only accept invitations from people they know and trust. Others only connect with people they have met in a professional context. Maybe you're willing to accept invitations from anyone. But think about what you want to achieve using the professional connections you make online, and set your own invitation acceptance policy accordingly.
- Offer help. LinkedIn has lots of groups for different interest areas or fields. Join some that are of interest to you and check out the discussions taking place there. Once you have a feel for the discussion vibe, chime in if you have something to add. It's a great way to share advice. You can also get and give professional recommendations. But you should only ask for recommendations from people you have actually worked with and who can talk about your valuable skills. And when writing a recommendation, make sure to speak honestly about that person's traits and experience.
- Stay in touch. People will be much more responsive to requests for recommendations, connections, introductions, and information if you've been in regular contact than if you only reach out when you need something.
- But don't spam. It's OK to mention an upcoming event in a group discussion if it's relevant to the group's focus and would be of interest to its members. But it's not OK to relentlessly promote your organization, products or services.
You can download Jenny's full list of tips here.
So get online and get connected with old and new colleagues! And if you still like making the ol' face-to-face connections, don't miss our next Networking Night on September 21 in Arlington.
Another useful tip -- Brazen Careerist is offering its premier Executive Social Media Bootcamp in September, a rigorous 4-week online course that will help you develop and implement a winning social media strategy –- whether social media is 10% or 100% of your job.