Did you know the average CEO on Twitter has nearly 4,000 followers? Do you follow any? Chances are you don’t—but you should.
College students frequent Twitter because of the instant feedback and real-time interactions. But are they using Twitter to search for internships and jobs or to connect with executives and decision makers who can hire them? Not so much.
I recently Skyped with a social media class at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Students wanted to learn how to best use Twitter for professional purposes. Many already had accounts, but they were fairly scant profiles with just a few followers. Others said they tweet with personal connections, their posts shielded from potential employers. Still, a few students had limited knowledge of why—and how—to use Twitter for professional growth.
Here are 10 tips from that session that can help you establish a professional presence on this busy platform—well before you enter the workforce:
- On what to include in your Twitter profile: With a limited amount of text, be sure your bio is informative and personable. I encourage students to use the word “aspiring” in their profiles. Weave in a personal hobby or a bit of your personality too. Be sure to include a professional headshot and link to your online portfolio, blog, or LinkedIn page. I invite you to see mine as an example.
- On how to connect with the right people: Twitter is massive. To make things more manageable, chats and hashtags will lead you to smaller communities of people with similar interests. Marketing expert Seth Godin says, “Don’t shout at the masses; whisper to a few.”
- On how to get involved in a Twitter chat: Identify the chats where your ideal employers or targets spend time. Chats are typically once a week, so before you jump in, watch and listen first. Identify the movers and shakers and follow them. After a few weeks, you should have a good feel for the tone of the chat, so you’ll be ready to join the conversation.
- On what to watch for in chats: Twitter chats are fast-paced conversations about a specific topic. Most people will be there to learn new tools, get support from others with similar challenges, and to network. Introductions and small talk are usually at the beginning, so arrive early. Most gather online about 10 minutes early and hang around after the formal chat has ended. Make good use of this time.
- On remembering the purpose: Always keep in mind why you are in a specific chat or community. You want to uncover the problems and challenges facing business leaders and companies. Your goal: be the solution. When the chat ends, learn more about the topics that were discussed. Read the publications and blogs the others mentioned. This information will help you become well-versed and confident when you begin interviewing.
- On what to contribute: Executives and hiring managers understand that your experience is limited. They look for initiative, curiosity and maturity. Above all, decision makers will look for your potential. Ask good questions, follow their blogs, and connect with them on other social media networks. Demonstrate to these business leaders that you are sharp and motivated.
- On being consistent: Once you identify a couple of chats, show up big and be consistent. Commit to being online each week so your newfound friends look for you. Be personable, friendly, and approachable by introducing yourself and mingling. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. This is a very forgiving community!
- On how to separate your personal and professional accounts: On your personal account, use the “private” setting, so only people you approve can view your activity. If you have an old account that’s sitting idle, consider deleting it, especially if your handle is a less-than-professional @collegesweetie or @partyfreak. Think of your handle as your personal brand.
- On what to share: Many college students and newcomers to Twitter won’t have a great deal of (original) content to share. As you get acquainted with this platform, you can retweet other people’s content. You can also share a link to a relevant resource or article you found interesting. Generosity is important on social media.
- On when to start: Get moving! Don’t wait until a few weeks before graduation to build your footprint on Twitter. It will take time, but it is well worth the effort. Employers are impressed when they see college students who have taken initiative.
In addition, Twitter will force you to carefully choose your words. With just 140 characters, it’s a crash course in writing and editing.
Finally, if you’re unsure about who to follow to get started in your professional tweeting, I can give you someplace to start: me! I’m one of the “Top 75 Badass Women on Twitter.” Follow me @SueYoungMedia and @CareerTapped. I’ll be looking for you.