As a small business owner, a career gal, and a former recruiter, I’ve sampled the full gamut of networking, branding and promotional tools that are available out there to job seekers and small businesses. One of the most common complaints I hear from people is that there’s such a wealth of information and resources available to us that’s it’s overwhelming and difficult to get a grip on the appropriate tools for promoting and positioning your brand as a job seeker or as a small business.
To avoid freezing up when it comes to optimizing your digital brand presence on the Inter-web, let’s take a look at some of the tried-and-true resources out there most commonly being used by careerists and small business folks, what works, what doesn’t work, and where will you get the most bang for your virtual buck?
Even if you’re not paying for a specific service, which is often the case with your basic social media vehicles, it does come down to spending your time and efforts wisely, and schooling yourself on the tools and resources that are going to provide the most value. So what’s the deal with…
The professional standard for career-based networking, LinkedIn is one tool I believe everyone should be using, regardless of your industry, skill level or expertise. Why? Because with millions of members, LinkedIn boasts one of the most diverse and hearty networks of potential connections at your fingertips. Its interface has improved a lot since its launch in 2003, and it’s easy to use, fairly customizable, and an overall great tool for promoting your brand in the digital space, and it’s flexible and non-formal enough that you won’t be pigeon-holing yourself into one type of job or limiting your reach to only a specific customer profile.
Pros: Widely-adapted, fairly customizable, one of the most robust networking databases out there, companies actively use it for recruiting and finding candidates Cons: Customization can be limited, and you need to be good with your words to really make your profile stand out. Also, company pages haven’t quite caught up in popularity yet, and their advertising program is so-so. Good For: Job Seekers, Career Changers, Small Businesses where you are the face of your brand
Facebook remains a hub for individuals who want to use it for its core purpose: a “social” network. But brands are also making it their go-to space to engage with potential and existing customers, and providing valuable information and resources. While there are a number of career-based networks and tools that have a Facebook presence (Career Builder, Brazen Careerist, etc.), it still teeters on that edge of being a bit too informal to really be considered a strong tool for job seekers. Good for networking? Perhaps. Better for sharing photos of last weekend’s camping trip? Bingo.
Pros: Wide-reach, easy to connect with people, most brands now have a Facebook presence, good source of up-to-the-minute events and industry trends, targeted advertising for brands Cons: Still very informal, not widely accepted as a professional tool, little analytics exist around conversion of Facebook fans to paying customers for brands Good For: Small business brands who want to generate a following, job seekers who want to follow companies of interest & stay relevant on industry trends
Twitter has a range of pros and cons from a marketing perspective when it comes to both job seekers and small business brands. Similarly to Facebook, the analytics behind the effectiveness of Twitter as a marketing tool are still few. But it can be a great tool for building your online reputation as a subject matter “expert” in your field, in addition to building your network. If you have an industry-related blog, Twitter is a great space to share and promote your posts with like-minded followers. Most companies have a Twitter presence of some sort, and will often advertise job openings to loyal followers. But be wary, what you put out there, stays out there, so be smart about the mix of professional and pleasure. My suggestion? If you plan to use Twitter as a career or branding tool, have a separate account for your personal updates.
Pros: Wide-reach, easy to connect and communicate with otherwise unreachable people and companies, good vehicle for building your reputation and thought leadership, access to company-specific job postings Cons: Yet to be proven effective as a marketing tool, fairly informal as a medium, often a barrage of crap to sift through before you find something of value, easy to be perceived as overly spammy, more of a popularity contest than a credibility builder Good For: Small business brands promoting products and services, job seekers promoting industry relevant content and personal blogs, job seekers to hear about company-specific job opportunities
It was announced this week that Pinterest actually surpassed uber-network LinkedIn in terms of membership, testing the idea of how visuals are effective in networking. The barely 5 year old network boasts more pins than existing LinkedIn groups, and perhaps that’s due to the ease at which users can navigate and use Pinterest’s platform. What happens on Pinterest is that people see a visual of a cool tool or resource, and repin it to their entire network. And for job seekers, it can be a great tool again for thought leadership and placing yourself at the forefront of industry trends, with the ability repin interesting articles, images, products and services, and follow the boards of companies and brands that interest you. And brands can get in on the fun too, as they post attractive images of their products and services to their followers and potential customers.
Pros: Wide-reach, uses a combination of visual imagery and verbal descriptions, user-friendly interface that promotes sharing and connecting, little commitment and upkeep required, good for creating a visual face for a brand, easy to follow companies of interest and share industry-relevant content Cons: Yet to be proven as an effective marketing tool, companies don’t actively recruit off Pinterest, people are often more interested in the pictures being pinned than the person pinning them, lack of communication for real relationship building Good For: Small business brands promoting products that have a visual component, creative-based businesses/freelancers/artistic professionals who want to share their portfolio, job seekers who follow companies of interest, anyone looking to connect with other thought leaders and share relevant industry content
There are so many networks and resources out there to help you create and shape your digital brand presence, whether you’re looking for a job, or looking for potential customers. And we’ll continue to take a deeper look at some of the other ones gaining traction in future posts. While you can analyze the pros and cons of each, the effectiveness of such tools for your personal or business gain really comes down to understanding who your target audience is, where they “hang out”, and what the best means of communication are to reach and engage with them.
Some other great resources to check out:
Friendly, insightful professional community for interns, job seekers and career changers of all levels and industries with loads of career advice and resources.
Widely used as a feature-rich portfolio site for creative professionals, Behance is quickly becoming a professional network in its own right.
Whether your interest is networking with other entrepreneurs, making a name for yourself in the tech industry, or fly fishing, there’s a wealth of networking groups and opportunities for everyone.