Lincoln Coutts is a Social Media Consultant with 17 years of experience. He shares his top tips on using social media in your professional life.
Social media is a great way to research career areas you are unfamiliar with and have no contacts in. Twitter is often dismissed as somewhere people shout nonsense, but there are 330 million active members every month and half a billion tweets sent a day, meaning there is a vast amount of information shared. For example, if you cannot physically attend a conference, search Twitter to find the main speakers and the public comments from the event, key ideas are often discussed so see if there is a hashtag for the event.
LinkedIn is excellent for finding jobs and building your network. It has 550 million members, but only a quarter sign in each month. However, many active members are interested in finding new employees and every major organisation uses LinkedIn as a direct recruitment tool. You can easily find people who can share career advice, contacts, industry insights and work opportunities.
How you use social media depends on your comfort level. Information shared on social media is public, as the recent scandal involving Cambridge Analytics revealed. On every social media platform you join, go to privacy and settings, to select and change them to suit you. Then have a play, because that is the best way to understand the value of social media. They are safe environments to ask questions and research.
If you are concerned about posting or sharing inappropriate content on Twitter, then create a private account so your online activity is not made public. However, most issues are caused by human error, with ‘thick finger syndrome’ being a particular issue when using your mobile phone. Be conscientious. Reduce the risk by using social media in a way that feels comfortable and be conscious of the information you share. It may not be appropriate to be on certain social media platforms until after you leave the Armed Forces.
Once set-up you need to use social media effectively. Follow people and organisations that interest you personally as well as professional, because you are more likely to be engaged. Regularly use social media, even if it is 30 minutes once a week. Use the different platforms as they were intended in their native environment: Twitter is great on a mobile device, while LinkedIn works better on web browsers.
Use social media for a clear purpose. There is no point being on LinkedIn just because everyone else is. What are your aims and objectives? Having a purpose will also prevent you being easily distracted and wasting hours on funny cat videos. Consider where your target audience is and focus your energy on the social media channel they are most likely to use.
Finally, social media is no substitute for meeting people in real life and building meaningful relationships. However, social media is a tool that can help you make new contacts.
Ask the Expert
You can read Lincoln’s answer, as well as other industry leaders, in Pathfinder Magazine – the monthly magazine for Service leavers. The OA edits a regular article called ‘Ask the Expert’, where career questions are answered by a panel of experts. Read the full article.
Get more career insights
The OA Employment Symposium in York brings together transitioning and former officers with employers and industry experts, so you can take your next step towards a new career after the Armed Forces. The event is on Wednesday 11th July at the University of York, Campus East.