If you have been scanning job postings lately, you will be hard-pressed to find a public relations position that fails to mention social media. Employers are looking for candidates with “a working knowledge of social media,” who “understand social media analytics within a public relations campaign,” and who “have experience running social media projects for clients.”
Just a few years ago, many PR pros could get away without a personal presence on social media. That’s changing, although many of the same old excuses remain:
- “I already spend all day online”
- “I don’t have the time”
- “Social media is a bit intimidating”
- “I want to put my energy into my clients”
Unfortunately, this mindset will not keep you competitive in the marketplace for long. Think of a social media presence, even a Twitter account, as an extension of your resume. It is a part of your skillset that continues to stay relevant and travel with you wherever your career takes you. (Twitter is a great choice because it isn’t as personal as Facebook, it lets you maintain a professional voice, and does not have to reveal personal information or images.)
Still not convinced? Here are some of the most important reasons you are behind the game and lowering your “employability” without an active social media presence:
- The media is using it: Go to The Globe and Mail website and find a senior staff member, then search for her on Twitter. Right away her name pops up. The same goes for The Sun or Toronto Star (you get the idea). Social media, particularly an active Twitter account, has become a non-negotiable journalist in search of a scoop. Since your job is to create successful relationships with these professionals, why you forgo an opportunity to network and learn more about them, for free?
- Create “impressions” for yourself: Clients care about readership and eyeballs and engagement. Social media gives you an opportunity to create impressions for yourself. Every time you tweet, that tweet turns up on the newsfeed of every account following you. When you tweet an interesting article or share a current event, you are broadcasting to everyone that you are not only a professional, but that you are on top of your game.
- Find your next position or potential client: Believe it or not, many of today’s media jobs are found through Twitter. Ask someone for coffee that lives in your city; you won’t believe how many people will say yes. It’s also a great way to acclimate yourself to the market of a new city if you are planning a big move. Start following the movers and shakers in your new home, that way you can ask for advice on TweetUps and networking events.
- Make up for lack of experience: If you are one of those with a few years of PR experience under your belt but not social media experience to speak of, this is the place to prove yourself. Think of your account as a sandbox where you can learn, make mistakes, and grow. That way when you get the chance to work on a real account, you will not be making amateur errors on someone else’s dime. It’s also a great way to demonstrate your handle on the platform and get familiar with concepts such as hashtags, Twitter lists, type of RT’s, URL shortening — all of the skills that someone hiring you would expect you to know already.
Hiring managers won’t expect everyone to have thousands of followers. They will, however, be looking for thoughtful content that demonstrates an understanding of a few key platforms – which means it’s time to get building. And since you’re already here, why not start by retweeting this story to friends? We’ll see you online.