You’ve probably heard some conflicting stories from friends and family about the power or problems of social media in work – the employee who used it too much and didn’t get things done, or the job seeker who scored the role of a lifetime based on their successful Twitter account.

Is it a help or a hindrance to your job search? That depends on how you manage your social media presence…

Social media job-maker: your mutual friends and followers are an asset

Once relevant people and organizations start to follow you back on social media – perhaps you respond to their comments or you tell them how much you loved their new product – you’ll get others naturally following you in a sort of domino effect. This is because Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and other social media sites recommend people you might like to follow, based on your mutual interests or follower patterns.

You shouldn’t beg a Twitter account or Instagram star to follow you, because that isn’t the way to look professional or smart, but you can gently interact and become useful to them. If you use social media scheduling software, you can monitor certain hashtags and accounts in individual columns, meaning when the right opportunity comes up to give advice or send them a link, you’ll be there. You could even create a blog post about it. And when a job vacancy arises, you know the brand and industry inside out.

Of course, a large number of followers and ‘likes’ can look good, but the quality of your followers is also important, so don’t think buying 10,000 ‘likes’ will lead to a job. The Ask a Manager blog points out that, if you have good traffic statistics for a personal blog, the figures should be listed on your CV.

Social media job-maker: your feed presents you as an industry enthusiast

Even if you’re just starting out in your chosen industry, your enthusiasm can take you a long way. Building a carefully curated Twitter feed or Instagram account could be the thing that shows you’re not just applying to any and every industry – you’ve got your heart set on this one.

For example, if you want to work in the interior design industry, your Instagram feed should be your way of showing off your eye for design: interesting buildings you’ve seen, design magazines you’ve bought, cool events you’ve attended, and so on (all appropriately hashtagged!).

On Twitter, supercharge your reach by taking part in Twitter chats relevant to your industry niche – as long as they don’t coincide with work hours. A good example is #IntDesignerChat, aimed at anyone interested in interior design, ranging from architects to furniture brands. Buffer has a list of useful tips on joining a Twitter chat.

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Social media deal-breaker: LinkedIn is looking threadbare

Many news outlets have recently reported that the EU is looking to crack down on hiring managers snooping on prospective candidates’ social media accounts. A working party, Article 29, has suggested that dramatic changes in EU data protection laws (due to come into force in May 2018). This would restrict employers to collecting social media data that are relevant to the job vacancy.

However, talking to the BBC, a technology specialist at the Linklaters law firm said LinkedIn content would be considered ‘fair game’ in these searches because it’s a professional networking site. If LinkedIn takes on a bigger focus, your profile must be up-to-date and competitive to make a good first impression – whether you use it to directly apply for jobs, or just to build a network.

If you’ve been at work or at a university for a while, you can sometimes forget that LinkedIn is ticking away in the background. Take a fresh look at your account, from your photograph (is it professional-looking, or is your friend lurking in the background?) to your ‘projects’, and your descriptions of each previous job role. Careless typos and other simple errors shouldn’t be your calling card.

Social media deal-breaker: harsh comments are more than just words

Even off-topic content, that you don’t consider relevant to your job, can come back to bite you from your timeline. A senior member of staff at the British Council was sacked for gross misconduct after her negative social media comments about Prince George were published by The Sun newspaper in 2016.

She had referred to Prince George’s ‘white privilege’ and added that ‘I don’t believe the royal family has any place in a modern democracy’, thinking her comments were part of a private Facebook message.

Though the employee apologized to Kensington Palace, she was still dismissed from her job. Nearly a year later, she revealed she has struggled to find work since the incident. Whilst your social media comments might not make newspaper headlines, a major slip-up that costs you your job could easily affect your future employment.

Polly Allen writes for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency which also offers graduate careers advice. Find the latest graduate jobs listings via their website, and upload your video CV today.

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