Every career coach and HR professional will tell you how important social media is your ongoing professional life. Few, however, will give you real tools and direction as to how you should approach carving out your parcel of land in the social media landscape.
I consistently use a few techniques and ideas that serve me well. By no means are these the only things you can do on social media, nor are these guaranteed to work for you. I'm comfortable with these so far and plan to expand my repertoire.
Start Small and Focus
There are dozens of social media platforms available for you. I picked two and focused my professional efforts there. If you have a personal Facebook profile, be wary of directly combining your personal page with your professional life. If you have things on your wall you may not want a hiring manager to see, then remove them or don't mention your Facebook profile in anything professional.
Someone will eventually notice you have a personal page. That's fine. I always respond to situations like that by stating I do my professional work elsewhere. Just remember anything you put on social media is fair game.
Additionally, keep in mind the focus of the platform when making your choice. Pinterest is NOT a good place to look for a job or post professional information. It's not meant to be used in that manner. Also, unless you are prepared for the responses, stay away from Reddit, Tumblr, and other similar open blogging platforms. Reddit can be brutal and vicious at times, and if you don't want the stress in your life stay away. Tumblr is very random and sometimes delves into dark topics not suitable for professional tastes.
Blogging For Real
The best way to explain your skill set is writing about it. I'm willing to say blogging is a better resume than a list of your skills and past accomplishments. For this purpose, LinkedIn is the best course to follow. LinkedIn has a free blogging platform for your use. You immediately get put in front of the entire audience that is LinkedIn.
When you use their tools correctly, you can have your content picked up by various professional groups on LinkedIn and featured in their boards. It's a simple and productive way to build your personal brand.
If you want to freedom of owning your own space, you can purchase a domain and use a service like SquareSpace. There are several drop and drag site building products available where you can post your thoughts. You'll end up working harder on distribution and building your audience, but if you like independence you can choose this path.
For those of you possessing technical skills in the accounting or similar specialized knowledge, I recommend exploring a profile on Quora. You can post thoughts, ask professional questions, and answer them as well. It's a great space to figure out where your skill set ranks and where you may need to update your knowledge base.
Blogging For Real: Overcoming your fear
I personally dealt with and overcame the fear of not knowing what t write by just writing. I'm definitely not saying throw some words on a page or go on a political rant. I'm advocating working on refining your voice through experimenting and interacting with an audience.
The fear is real. I get that part. Be brave and just figure it out. The best stories are always told by the ones who overcame their fears. Have you ever felt better after hearing about how someone let their phobias control their lives to the point of paralysis?
Own The Hashtag
A hashtag is a subject heading under which tweets and posts are filed. It's a way to collect similar ideas into a place where they can be easily searched. On Twitter, I've primarily worked with a few hashtags when I curate content.
That brings me to my next point: Curate and share content by using Google. Search a relevant question in your field then copy/paste one link per tweet combined with a hashtag and a short question or comment. Check my tweet history for a few examples. Doing this is an easy way to toss around a few ideas and stimulate conversation.
DO NOT get on a soap box. You'll build yourself up much quicker if you simply ask the question or post a open-ended thought. Work to avoid making current political events your focus. Instead, Google an obscure thought in your field and tweet a few links to blogs with a relevant hashtag. I've done this and had the author of the post reach out and thank me. It's a nice gesture that can make your day when it happens.
Search for affirming thoughts as well as emerging concepts. Not only will this get people to notice you, but it will open your own mind as well. You'll read things that you never knew and figure out growing markets of which you may take advantage.
I recommend using Twitter as a place to make initial connections and notify the world of your presence. I use Twitter and LinkedIn as my two professional platforms. After a year of consistent work, I've cultivated over 1200 connections on LinkedIn and 290 organic followers on Twitter.
I stay away from Facebook and Pinterest for reasons I stated earlier. I don't really have an opinion on Instagram and SnapChat because they are geared toward a younger audience. I'm not focused there and don't care to be seen on those platforms.
I invite you to look at my LinkedIn profile and check out my posts. They are near the top of the page when you find me. You can see some of the subjects I explored and examine how my voice has evolved over time.
I've said it many times and it bears repeating: You have to start somewhere. You can't get where you want to be if you do nothing. Get up. Get moving. You'll said funny at first. Then you'll figure it out and build momentum toward something better.