Twitter, Facebook build career development

The hours college students spend surfing social networking Web sites Facebook and Twitter might play a part in kick-starting their careers.

Experts like Jolie O’Dell, a social media expert and writer for Web technology news site ReadWriteWeb stated in an e-mail, social media such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and hundreds of other networking sites are playing an increasingly important role in career building.

Using social media for career development is “as important as having a personality or being highly recommended,” O’Dell stated.

“No matter what industry you’re in, building a professionally relevant social graph (network) should be part of your long-term career strategy,” O’Dell stated. “It can make all the difference between a vibrant and challenging intellectual, professional life and a stagnant, conventional and boring one.”

Mass communications Professor Marcus Messner encourages all of his students to build a presence on various social and professional networking sites such as Twitter and LinkedIn.

Web sites like Twitter allow students to “easily be in touch with some of the top notch people in your field,” Messner said.

Social media can open up the door to networking possibilities even if students do not have the immediate opportunity to meet professionals in their industry face-to-face.

When students start following professionals in a particular field, they get a glimpse at industry trends and see what people in that field are talking about, Messner said.

Trevor Dickerson, a 21-year-old junior at VCU is the founder of the local-turned-mainstream Web site DowntownShortPump.com and co-owner of the media consulting business RVA MediaWorks.

Dickerson uses social media like Twitter to help bring in more than 50,000 visitors to DowntownShortPump.com each month.

Twitter allows him to connect with a large number of people from different walks of life, he said.

Though professional networking outlets such as LinkedIn are important, he said, less formal media such as Twitter enable people to become familiar with personality.

While playing an increasingly more significant role in personal and professional networking, social media – like anything else online – is to be approached with caution.

Messner recommends customizing privacy settings immediately after setting up any type of account, be it on Facebook or LinkedIn.

Also, like any form of mass communication, O’Dell, Messner and Dickerson agree it is important to keep readers in mind and do not recommend posting anything potentially harmful.

“Be personal but be professional at the same time,” Dickerson said.

According to Dickerson, learning how to use internet-based networking will only become more important as social media continues to grow in prevalence.

Since May 2008, the number of users on Twitter has grown by nearly 1,500 percent, according to studies by the Nielsen Company.

Messner predicts that over the next couple of years, social media will become increasingly mobile, allowing for greater accessibility.

“Everybody will have a mobile communication center in his or her hand,” Messner said.

According to O’Dell, the future of social media includes a more fluid transfer of content between users and personalization of content to user-specific interests.

These developments mean that it will only become more important for those seeking to build a career to have a personal and professional presence online and generate content to be distributed around the more interconnected Web, she said.

“The Internet is beginning to function a lot like the human brain,” O’Dell said, “and you don’t want to be forgotten.”

Expert Advice

Ready to jump in to the world of social media? Here’s what Jolie O’Dell, a social media expert and writer for web technology news site ReadWriteWeb, mass communications Professor Marcus Messner and Trevor Dickerson, the founder of the local-turned-mainstream website DowntownShortPump.com and co-owner of the media consulting business RVA MediaWorks, suggest:

Establish a presence. Sign up for both Twitter and LinkedIn, even if the accounts are considered “static” profiles. “Static” profiles are set up once at design time and do not change.

Find a niche. Start finding people and businesses in an industry and topics of interest. Pay attention to trends.

Get connected. Choose a person, brand or topic to follow and observe how they are using social media to their advantage.

Generate content. On Twitter, once accustomed to the Web site, start tweeting (this is also known as micro-blogging).

Twitter Lingo

“Tweet” – A 140-character blurb that you broadcast to the world. Tweets can range from interesting links to something new you’ve learned. Tweet anything that interests you or those following you.

“Follow” – To add someone to a list of people whose tweets will show up on your homepage. If you’re lucky, they’ll follow you too.

“List” – A group of people all tweeting about similar things. You can make your own lists and add people you follow, or you can look up lists made by other people.

“Retweet” – When someone tweets something so excellent that you copy and paste it (usually giving credit to the original source with “@[name]”) and tweet it yourself.

“Hashtag” – Used to share your tweet with a relevant group of people. For example, if you tweeted about VCU, you might include a hashtag (“#vcu”) so your tweet shows up in a central location where everybody is tweeting about VCU.

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