Yesterday I explored some of the advantages to using social networking in a professional capacity (including my personal experiences.) I got a good response – thanks everyone! I am pondering an article, but it has to roll around in my head a bit first. I feel kind of weird analyzing my activities online like this because it sounds so technical- the truth is, I am making friends just as much as I am making “professional contacts.” That was one of the first signs for me that I was on the right career path- I found colleagues I could relate to, look up to, and really like.
Today, I’ll share a few do’s and do not’s I thought of- feel free to add more in the comments.
Do: Learn how each social network works. There are different ways to use each service, and it is likely you won’t use all of the features on any of them. For instance, I am not very active in groups on Flickr, but I always look at my contacts’ photos, comment where appropriate, and monitor my conversations. (Flickr makes this easy!)
Don’t: Use networks to spam people. Individualized messages are great, form letter sounding messages are not so great.
Do: Choose the networks that work for you. Twitter may not be your thing, and that’s fine. Find the networks that work for you and use them. (Hint: if you like Scrabble, join Facebook and challenge somebody to a Scrabulous game.)
Don’t: Join networks for the sole purpose of asking for a favor. Joining one day and then asking people if they know of any good jobs the next isn’t kosher. If you are going to use social networks, you have to be social- start early, and keep it up!
Do: Put up pictures of yourself. I use an icon for my profile pic (it is fairly distinctive) everywhere, but I also include another picture of myself if allowed. I also put my picture on my about page. People like to know who they are talking to, and it will increase the likelihood people will recognize you should you ever meet them.
Don’t: Put up potentially embarrassing pictures of yourself. I know this should go without saying, but it bears repeating. If you are already on social networks, you might want to clean up your profile a bit before you start friending professional contacts. (e.g. get rid of pictures of yourself surrounded by beer cans.) There’s always the option of maintaining a separate identity- that always seemed like a lot of work to me, but it is certainly do-able.
Do: Check your name in search engines. If you have a very common name, you might want to consider adding your middle initial or using a nick name to differentiate yourself from the other “Jane Smith’s” out there. If you do this, you have to be consistent and use it everywhere- resume, business card, website, social networks, etc. If nothing else, make sure that your name + library (or whatever industry keyword you want) brings up something about you.
Don’t: Fall for “Search Engine Optimization” offers. If you stick with a well known blogging platform (like WordPress, Blogger, Movable Type, Drupal, etc.), enable name based URL’s, and especially if you buy your own domain name, your site will already be optimized. You can increase your ranking by commenting on others’ blogs (real comments, not “mee toos”) linking from any other sites you own, and perhaps asking a few well known acquaintances to link to you, if appropriate. The absolute best thing you can do is develop content: i.e. write in your blog.
Do: Share your knowledge. Some might say that you don’t want to give everything away, but especially in the early part of your career you have to demonstrate that you have something to say before you can reasonably think of charging for your knowledge and skills.
Don’t: Become locked into your opinion. It’s perfectly OK to revisit something you wrote about before and say you changed your mind. That’s not wishy washy- that’s showing the ability to think in the face of new evidence and make an informed decision.
Do: Carry business cards with your web address at all times. I’m a student, so I don’t have professional cards- I just ordered some Moo Cards and use those. The point is to make yourself findable whether you meet someone online or off.
Don’t: Complain, gripe, be snarky, or otherwise be overly negative. I’m not saying everything has to be sunny and roses, but try to put a rational face on things and look at the bright side whenever possible. Try offering a suggestion for change or research how other institutions handle similar situations. If you’re not sure, get a second opinion or sit on a post for a day.
Do: Utilize a number of social networking sites in your “main” site. For instance, instead of uploading pictures to your private web space, put them on Flickr or another photo sharing site. You can incorporate books you are reading into your site through LibraryThing, or show the blogs you are reading using a Google Reader widget. Link back and forth to different services with wild abandon.
Do: Similar to above: Link early, link often. You might think that linking to another person’s website doesn’t really do anything, but it does. They might see that incoming link, and link back, or come visit your site.
Don’t: Limit your networking to online. OK, this probably doesn’t belong on this page, but it’s important. Try to make it to local conferences, write articles for your state library association publication, give local presentations and join mentoring programs. These are just a few examples of ways you can get involved locally. Online networking is great, but meeting someone face to face really solidifies a relationship. And dress nice when you attend the conferences- you never know when you might get an on the spot job interview or pre-interview.
Do: Use Creative Commons licensing whenever possible. You can get a license for your work here, and on some sites (like Flickr) you can set a license for the content you upload. I have most of my content under a CC By: license- which means anyone can use it, but they have to credit me. This does two things: it gives you more links back, and it just about guarantees your work will be spread more widely. If you are worried about stealing, think of it this way: If someone wants to steal your online content, they will. It’s happened to me. But some people will look for content they can use legally, and you want those people to find your content, because they are good about linking back. Besides, it’s just cool when you find one of your pictures on someone else’s blog header.