In its relatively short lifetime, social media has grown exponentially. To those not yet signed on, it may feel like everyone is on social media and, while that isn’t quite true, the number of social media users can be staggering. As of January 2020, 3.8 billion people were on social media – nearly 50% of the world’s population. The percentage of American users is even greater, with 79% of Americans using social media platforms.
And as the scope of social media grows, so do its impacts. Created as a tool to bring families, friends, and loved ones closer together, social media and its uses have evolved over time. Whatever you want to do, whether it’s sharing your projects, getting new recipe ideas, or even finding love, social media has you covered. It has changed the way we access and process news, and who can reach an audience, and even how we interact with celebrities, businesses, and one another.
As we move to spend more time online, it is important not only to determine how that time is spent, but what our social media presence can say about us. As with several other areas of life, many businesses and professional conversations have moved online. While this used to mean friends warning you to keep your personal profiles professional for prospective employers, the business potential of social media has evolved not to be a liability, but an opportunity – for companies and individuals alike. Linkedin, a professional social media platform, has become a primary networking space, with nearly 740 million members worldwide, and platforms such as Twitter and Instagram have provided a space for customers to interact directly with brands and businesses. Facebook, the king of the social media game, operates in nearly all areas, with opportunities for advertising, marketing, business pages, hiring groups, and more. So, as customers move online, so do businesses, and a strong professional presence on social media becomes a necessity.
Projected US social media users through 2025 via Statista.
For an individual, a professional social media presence is one that communicates clearly your experience, skills, and goals. Generally, keeping personal and professional profiles separate can be advantageous, as doing so allows you to hone and maintain your professional identity online. Depending on your line of work, industry-specific platforms may be a helpful tool for networking and recruiting.
For a business, a professional social media presence can be a bit more open-ended, depending on your product, your intended audience, and your message. A strong social media presence can help you reach your customers, grow your base, and establish your brand.
However you choose to use social media, whether for your own professional profiles or for establishing your business online, remember that it only works as well as you use it. Identifying the right platforms for you, signing up, and filling out the profile are only the beginning steps to establishing a strong social media presence. Read further to see our social media checklist, which will help you put your best foot forward online.
The internet is full of social media sites, with new ones cropping up every day. From the extremely popular, more general sites – like Facebook and Twitter – to those that cater to a more niche audience, the options are practically endless. However, narrowing these down is not only essential, but simple, if you address a few things:
- Why you’re signing on. Identifying your goal for social media, whether it’s engaging in conversations in your industry, growing your customer base, or increasing your visibility to prospective employers, will help you determine which platforms are best for you.
- Your audience. Knowing who your audience is will help you determine which platforms are relevant to you. Considering your visibility on particular platforms can make sure you’re reaching your ideal audience.
- What you want to share. Creating a profile on social media is only the beginning. Keeping your profile active, primarily through what you share, will both strengthen your profile and help those looking at it figure out what you’re all about.
Once you have determined these factors, it’s time to look at your options.
For reaching the largest audience, look to the most popular profiles. As of January 2021, Facebook topped the charts once again as the world’s most popular social media network, with over 2.7 billion monthly active users.
As a business or individual, popular profiles will allow you to reach a greater audience. Popular social media platforms also present a recognizable format to users – there is no learning curve, save of the platform itself, thus allowing users to interact with you or your business easily.
While there are quite a few networks competing for top stops, the profiles we recommend to everyone looking to establish a presence on social media are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Linkedin.
And speaking of Linkedin – for individuals and businesses alike, social networks designated for professional profiles and discussion are a valuable tool. Websites like Linkedin and AngelList offer opportunities for individuals to post their resumes, skills, projects, and any other information relevant to their careers. For businesses, these platforms offer an opportunity to host company information and engage in hiring and recruiting. Additionally, professional networking platforms such as these allow you to share and engage in discussions within your network and industry. Because these platforms are intended for professional networking, hiring, and investing, they are a must for any person or company looking to establish themselves online.
Platforms for Sharing
Creating general profiles to promote your visibility online is a great start, but what you share is on these profiles will determine the engagement they receive over time. The quality of the content you post on social media can must be high, and ideally will inform those who visit your page.
YouTube is second only to Facebook, and presents a valuable opportunity for businesses and people that produce video content. However, if video is not an option for you, there are many other content-sharing platforms to consider. Platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram provide opportunities for sharing images, while Medium’s blog-like platform will allow you to post articles and other long-form content. Depending on the type or types of content you want to share, finding social media platforms to do so can help boost your presence online.
While the exposure provided by popular platforms is crucial, some industries or areas of interest may require more specific platforms. Whether you’re wanting to engage more in discussions, perhaps leading you to forums like Reddit or Quora, or looking to join interest-oriented communities, such as Goodreads or Soundcloud, establishing yourself on social media sites relevant to your areas of focus can help you connect with a more targeted audience.
Once you have determined which website(s) to make your profiles on, you have to fill these profiles out. While no two profiles are exactly the same, certain features tend to function similarly across platforms. Optimizing these features can help ensure that your profile is as strong and informative as possible.
What’s in a username?
The username is how people will find you or your business online. As a result, you must choose wisely! Make sure to target your keyword. If the profile is for you, your target keyword will be your name. If you have a common name, or your desired username is already taken, try choosing a username that is easily identifiable as you and relevant to your industry. This could be adding an industry-relevant term or adding a couple numbers to the end.
If you are creating profiles for a business, usernames must include your business name. Similarly to individuals, if you cannot secure your business name as your username, still include your business name within the username. This will help you with branding and findability, as well as relieve any confusion about the legitimacy of your profile.
We should link up!
Once you’ve got your socials up and running, make sure to link them together. This does not mean setting up automatic posting across platforms. Instead, linking your socials means including to other social profiles when possible in order to make you findable across platforms. A simple way to do this is maintaining a consistent username across platforms.
Leave no textbox unfilled
The more complete a profile is, the more information you provide to others. Every open section of a social media profile is an opportunity to explain, express, and focus your message. The more information that someone can get from your profile, the more likely that they will find what they are looking for, so take advantage!
Additionally, make sure to include your location whenever possible. Locations help people know what community you are in, and can help you connect with your community. If you have multiple locations, list your headquarters or primary location, and include other locations somewhere else in your profile.
Join the community
Following relevant people, companies, and communities in your industry or areas of interest will allow you to gain perspective on these areas, as well as engage with your industry online. Making use of these communities will not only give you or your business exposure, but will expose you to valuable opportunities as well. Engagement, beyond strengthening your social media presence, helps you connect with people who may be valuable to you. If you are a business, it may be potential customers or employees. If you are a professional, it may be business contacts, sales opportunities, or potential employers.
What do I say?
Once you have created your profile, you must keep it active. While you definitely don’t want to spam your feed, you don’t want to keep your profiles too sparse. Getting people to view your profile isn’t only about views, but about time spent once they found you. If you don’t have much to show them, you can guarantee they won’t stick around very long.
What will posting look like for you? There are a few things to consider:
What is on brand for you?
Make sure that what you post is in line with your message and focus. Sticking to a few topics or areas of expertise will help those looking at your profile understand your brand. Additionally, pay attention to your voice. It should be authentic to you and your brand.
What makes sense on the platform?
Every social media platform has its own identity, audience, and vibe. For example, that string of emojis on your Instagram post may not look so professional on Linkedin. As a result, be mindful of the platform you’re sharing on, and make sure you change your messaging for different audiences while still maintaining your central brand.
How often should you post?
You want to keep your profile active without spamming. This means making sure your profile and what you share is current, relevant to your industry, and high quality. Regularly sharing low quality content or posts will not help you grow your network, and can actually harm your efforts over time. Instead, invest time every week to produce content or posts that your followers will be interested in and benefit from interacting with.
Summing it Up
As these online worlds continue to grow, we have to grow with them. More and more of our interactions with others are happening online, and like it goes with in-person socializing, you have to put yourself out there. While there may be no one right way to operate, these tips will help you establish a foundation for building your social media presence.