These tips were taken from a talk I gave at the Vancouver Film School on December 6th, 2011
Thirty years ago, networking was a defined art. It was a known quantity, and when you learned how to network, you were also learning social graces and how to present yourself professionally. Back then, being sure you were communicating exactly what you meant to was the most important idea, and it was done through body language, clothes, and speech.
Today, while those skills are still important, a new challenger has entered the ring. By comparison to the long history of in-person networking, social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus have shown up practically yesterday. It’s no surprise that the internet is full of tips articles that seem vague or unsure – compared to the networking of a generation ago, it can be hard to see the social aspects in social media.
I’ve made a career out of using this new technology’s strengths to attract large communities to sites I’ve worked for. The International Game Developers’ Association, gamification expert Jane McGonigal, and GameRecruiter.net have all benefited from my expertise, and now I’m sharing it with you – so you know what to share on Facebook.
1. Be yourself – but present yourself at your best.
Passion, Humility, Openness, and Authenticity – these are my social media core concepts. It might seem strange to use such personalized ideas when metrics and measurement are so trendy – but that’s exactly the point. If you’re passionate, humble, open, and authentic, then anyone who follows you knows they’re getting more than numbers: they’re getting to know someone.
Part of self-promotion is helping colleagues out when you can. Of course, you deserve compensation for your skills and connections – but there’s a difference between a client and a friend. One gets billed, the other is grateful. Each relationship is useful in different ways. If you help friends when they need you, they will be there for you in the same way. It’s less about debts than it is about goodwill. Despite what they say, it’s the nice guys who finish first in networking.
Naturally, you want to present yourself in the best possible light to build any relationship. If you were having photos taken, you wouldn’t show up in sweatpants and yell about your recent breakup. In the same way, when you’re at the keyboard it can be tempting to vent – but when you’re feeling negative, it’s best to step away from the internet. If nobody replies, that doesn’t mean that nobody saw the post. And Google never forgets.
2. Everything in moderation.
One of the wonderful things about social media is how accessible it is. It’s very tempting to think “Well, I’ll be open! All the way open!” and start posting hourly copies of your resume on your potential employer’s Facebook wall, because fortune favors the bold and persistent!
Good start, but let’s examine it closely. The worst thing the company rep can say is not “No,” but “Hey, everyone I know privately? This guy won’t leave me alone, and he won’t take a hint.” When you’re looking at a Facebook page, it’s easy to think of the company as just one entity when, instead, it’s many people behind a united front. Any employee could be reading their company’s Facebook page – including the CEO. You never know who could be reading, and just as importantly, who their friends and coworkers are. Persistence and boldness is fantastic; just make sure that you’re not overdoing it.
3. Better safe than unemployed.
Let’s say you make an insightful comment on a site like the Escapist, which has Facebook sign-in, and an HR manager decides to click on your name and see what you’re all about… only to see a picture of you shirtless, kneeling on your ironing board, with two forties of malt liquor in each hand.
That sounds exaggerated, but it’s true to life. Potential employers can track your statements back to you even if you don’t post them with Facebook. Have a screenname? Chances are you’re not as protected as you think. It’s better to be careful than assume you’re safe and regret it. By the same token, make sure that your online identity is you and only you – if you have a common name, claim it in as many places as you can. The last thing you want is to be burned by mistaken identity.
4. Be interesting, because it attracts interesting people.
That said, social media is a two-way street. Companies post media for their communities, but so can you. Think about what gets you to click ‘Like’ – projects and content that appeals to your passions, right? The best way to generate word of mouth is to make something that you’re passionate about… because odds are good you’re not the only one. Share your interesting work – because if you don’t share it, how is anyone else supposed to?
5. Interact, don’t broadcast.
Again, sharing content is a balancing act. On the one hand, it’s easy to undershare. On the other, it’s easy to overshare <em>the wrong thing</em>. In other words, if you share every minute detail of a project, you will be tuned out. It’s nothing personal – you’ve done the same to spam. However, if you take the time to find something interesting within each detail and introduce it, then people will take the time to comment. To get them to stick around – the most important part – you have to listen to what they say, take it seriously when replying, and make them feel like a part of something bigger.
6. Write for your medium.
These strategies are all generally applicable, because they’re about being interesting and engaging online using the tools of social media. But every tool needs to be treated uniquely: a wrench isn’t good at the same things as a hammer. Similarly, Twitter is great at making short links and text go viral; Facebook is great at sharing photos, videos, and short paragraphs; LinkedIn is frequently recruiters’ first stop; and YouTube has many advantages: Google now puts videos at the top of search results, there’s more opportunity for creativity, and most usefully, there are far fewer job hunters using video than websites. It’s a great opportunity for someone with a fresh approach.
7. Go where the people are.
It’s a good idea to keep in mind your intended audience: What would be the easiest way to get what they need to do done? Where would they go to answer questions? Most people use Facebook socially, you probably know the Google+ holdouts who refuse to join Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr are both used to spread content as far as possible, and smaller networks like reddit and message boards are usually niche-specific. It’s easiest to engage people when you know what they expect. Here’s a great example: in 2010, Alec Brownstein created the Google Job Experiment, where he took out Google Ads that triggered when CEOs Googled themselves. Now, that was last year, so it’s not as unique now – but it’s also far from common.
8. Think Big – and don’t be afraid to try!
Now you know to be careful – it’s important to control how you come across when someone Googles your name, because you won’t be standing next to them to explain everything that looks bad out of context. Like anything worth doing, it’s important to take social media seriously, because you don’t only have to worry about saying what you mean to say. You also have to make sure that you aren’t saying things that you don’t intend.
On the other hand, social media is exciting! Your heroes and inspirations are only a click away. They’re people just like you and, chances are, they got that successful by loving the same things about the job that you do. So if you think of an idea that you are sure will get the right people’s attention, go for it! Take chances, make mistakes – just make sure you consider them carefully first.
Social media is fun in the same way as talking shop at a convention is: you get to talk to people who share your interests, nerd out, and find new contacts. As long as you make sure that you’re professional when you need to be professional, you’ll have a blast when you want to have fun.
Now get out there and make some friends!
Written by Karl Parakenings, covering a talk by Ryan Arndt at Vancouver Film School