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How to Build an Online Presence From Scratch

It’s hard to get hired these days without an online presence. For one thing, hiring managers and recruiters who source candidates from social media might not even know you exist, if you’re mostly offline. Then, there’s the fact that 43 percent of organizations now use social media to vet candidates during the hiring process. In short, if you’re not active online, you could be missing out on the job of your dreams.

Don’t assume, however, that just because you don’t have an online presence yet, you can’t build one. Here’s what you need to know, if you’re starting from square one.

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The Current State of Social Recruiting

Social recruiting is a big deal these days, and ignoring this fact may be the reason you’re not getting calls from recruiters. Having a positive online presence in today’s job market is just as important as, if not more important than, having a gleaming resume – without a strong profile online, you just get lost in the crowd.

The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) recently published its findings from a survey that examined the use of social media for talent acquisition, including:

  • Two-thirds of organizations have taken steps to leverage mobile recruiting.
  • In 2015, 84 percent of organizations indicated they use social recruiting, which is up from 56 percent in 2011.
  • Organizations say the main reason social media is used for recruiting is to recruiting passive job candidates, followed by increasing brand recognition (77 percent) and targeting job candidates with a specific set of skills (71 percent).
  • Overall, 43 percent of organizations say they use social media or online search engines to screen candidates, and 44 percent of HR professionals agree that a candidate’s social media profiles can provide information about work-related performance.
  • Over one-third of organizations admit to disqualifying a job candidate in the past year because of concerning information (e.g. illegal activity, discrepancy with application) found on a public social media profile or through an online search.

The moral of the story: the internet is forever, so use it with caution (and some common sense).

Too Much Online Presence … or Too Little

Having a solid online presence takes a bit of strategy, vulnerability, and mindfulness. For starters, it’s not wise to publicly post too freely about your personal opinions and beliefs, because not everyone in the professional realm will agree with you. Of course, you’re entitled to live your life however you please, but when it comes to your candidacy, it’s the hiring manager who has the last say, not you.

If you’re oversharing (i.e. posting offensive or inappropriate content), then it’s quite possible that a hiring manager may feel your personality and opinions may not mesh well with others in the office and pass you over. On the other hand, if you’re non-existent online, then recruiters may assume that you’re not doing your part to stay current and be ahead of the curve.

Here are some tips to help you get started with building an online presence so that you get noticed for all the right reasons.

  1. Consider building a professional website.

If you’re in a creative field where your portfolio does most of the talking, then you absolutely need to have a website that showcases who you are, what you do, and how to contact you. You can network all you want, but if you don’t have a hub online where people can view all of your best work, then how do you expect them to remember you? Use this 5-step tutorial to help you build a professional website and brand worth talking about.

  1. Start with a LinkedIn profile.

If you’re a professional and you’re not on LinkedIn, then you need to get with the times. Setting up an online profile can be a daunting task, but, trust me, it’s worth it. Here’s a comprehensive and easy-to-use guide to get you started with the bare basics of a setting up a LinkedIn profile and what to do from there.

  1. Consider other social media profiles.

You don’t have to be on every single social network in order to get noticed, so do some research to discover which ones you find appealing and which would be effective for your line of work. For instance, if you’re a photographer, then you absolutely need to consider the social networks that cater to visual content, like Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Dribble. If you’re in a field that is heavily influenced by content (e.g. articles, white papers, studies), then look at Facebook, Twitter, Medium, and Reddit. Finding the right networks to grow your professional network and brand will take some trial and error, so don’t be afraid to test out a few that catch your interest to see if they’re a good fit.

  1. Spread the word.

Now that you’ve got your profiles set up, it’s time to start connecting with people. You’ll want to start with your current network base first. Typically, each social network has some sort of feature that allows you to send out an invitation to your existing contacts to connect, so that process is pretty easy and you’re bound to get a few friends, followers, or connections from that alone.

Next, it’s time to start connecting to like-minded people you may or may not be connected to through your existing network – and, lucky for you, there’s also usually a built-in feature that allows you to see who you are connected with through a first-, second-, or third-degree (e.g. “People you may know” feature). Be careful not to come on too strong when connecting with new people, because some may be receptive to your invitation, but some may not be.

  1. Sharing is caring.

One of the best ways to gain loyal, genuine followers online is to start posting and sharing content that is useful and applicable to your industry/line of work. As mentioned earlier, steer clear of posting content that may be deemed inappropriate or offensive (e.g. politically or religiously charged content), because that will only deter others from wanting to connect with you. If you have something innovative or interesting to share, feel free to post it on networks like LinkedIn or Medium to gain exposure and followers – just be sure you have someone reputable proof your work before it goes live, because there’s nothing worse than being associated with terrible grammar and spelling.

A Final Word

Last but not least, consider using these nine techniques to help you stand out from the crowd and land that dream job. Good luck!

Tell Us What You Think

What other advice do you have for someone just getting started with building their online presence? Share your tips with our community on Twitter, or leave your comment below.

Leah Arnold-Smeets
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