The gender gap is a global challenge on the minds of today’s business leaders. To achieve gender equality, companies set hiring targets, put in place women-friendly policies, and develop leadership programs for high-potential female associates. One key tactic that doesn’t get enough attention is training women to use social media to raise their visibility and advance their careers.
Last year, I noticed a tweet by a newspaper reporter looking to interview women qualified to sit on boards. I sent her a direct message on Twitter saying I would be happy to speak with her. She immediately responded and we spoke on the phone the next morning. While her article was going to be about women on boards, I was able to highlight my work in social media during the call. The following week, the article was published, along with my comments and photo.
Speaking to the reporter was half the job done. The rest of the job entailed sharing the article on my social networks and e-mailing it to key contacts and subscribers of my mailing list. Six months later, I was contacted by the same reporter to weigh in on another story. That led to another media mention and a flurry of social media activity following the release of the article.
How can you use social media to your advantage? Here are some practical tactics you can apply to give your career a boost, whether you hold an entry-level or executive position.
Toot your own horn.
A study by Catalyst shows that of all the strategies used by women, making their achievements known had the greatest impact on career advancement. Social media provides new avenues to communicate your accomplishments to a large number of people within a short period of time. Did a project you worked on win an industry award? Celebrate that win with your social networks, such as Twitter and LinkedIn, clearly referring to the value you contributed to the success of the project. That increases your exposure internally to your firm leadership and externally to clients and prospective employers.
Write a LinkedIn blog post to showcase your skills.
This tactic helped business graduate Michelle Park stand out when looking for a job. Park wrote a LinkedIn blog post about her experience as chair of a student-run entrepreneurship conference. In the blog, she recapped the event and shared lessons learned and the skills she developed as a result of that experience. That turned out to be a smart move. The blog post received significant engagement on LinkedIn — 115 likes, 14 comments and 13 shares — and even got the attention of her school’s dean who tweeted about the post. More importantly, the blog was bought up in the job interview with her current employer, an entrepreneurship think tank. “Writing about your skills is different from talking about them,” she said. “The hiring manager asked me about the article as it showed a lot of the skills that I had developed over the years.”
Create your own hashtag to build a community around your personal brand.
Julia Hanigsberg, CEO of Toronto’s Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, often uses the hashtag #CEOJulia when posting about her day-to-day activities — from a popsicle chat with her hospital staff to her blog posts. Keep the hashtag simple and related to your area of expertise. Let’s say your name is Shawna and you are focused on diversity, the hashtag #ShawnaDiversity would be appropriate. Include your hashtag in your bio. That makes it easy for others to take a quick glance at your content by clicking on your hashtag. Use the hashtag consistently when tweeting about your activities, such as speaking at a conference. Before you know it, others start using your hashtag as well, which has been the experience of Hanigsberg.
Cultivate relationships with journalists on Twitter.
Engage frequently with reporters so you stay top of mind when they’re looking for an expert in your field to comment on current news. “Don’t just follow reporters — interact with them,” said lawyer Jayne Juvan, who has landed several media opportunities through Twitter. “Like and retweet their posts. Write compelling tweets so they follow you back.” If you get a media request and you’re not sure if you could speak on the topic, instead of turning down the opportunity, say “I’m happy to see if I can help,” advises women’s advocate Shari Graydon. It’s not a commitment but it will buy you time while you think how to frame your response and highlight your work during the interview.
Maintain a robust social media presence.
Build a focused online presence that complements your in-person brand. Indicate in your bio your area of expertise and the initiatives you’re passionate about. Position yourself as a go-to expert in your space by sharing and curating content of value to your target audience. Stick mostly to what you know best. If you’re a wine expert, for example, don’t tweet about gardening. Keep your feed fresh and updated – it’s far better to have no presence on social media than to have a stale account.