Communications Corner

    • February 21, 2011

Putting Social Media to Work for You (Part 1)

Is the thought of engaging with social media overwhelming? Does it seem like just another demand on your limited time? Well, it’s easier to use social media than you think! And their potential benefits for your work are endless. Social media allow you to easily exchange expertise and ideas not only with your peers, but also with influential groups and leaders that you ordinarily wouldn’t have access to. And your potential online “reach” is extensive, to say the least: Facebook now has over 600 million users, and 25 billion Twitter messages were sent in 2010.

Specifically, by using social media you can:

  • Drive traffic to a Web site, either to your organization’s or your own, or to information you’d like to share that’s pertinent to your work or field.
  • Listen to and connect with your peers, role models, authorities in your field, news reporters, organizations—anyone!
  • “Broadcast” your message to those groups and individuals you think will be most interested in hearing it.
  • Build and enhance your professional reputation and network among potential collaborators, funders and employers.
  • Get immediate feedback and input on your thoughts and plans.

Depending on the amount of time you’d like to devote to social media, your level of engagement can vary. Sending a tweet can take no more than a few seconds. Alternatively, writing a blog post could take hours, yet provide a “deeper dive” into your ideas. Even if you’d rather avoid broadcasting yourself, reading what others post can help you remain connected with your professional network and with the issues you care about. You can learn about work that others are pursuing and read articles that your peers think are worth sharing.

Of course, participating in social media poses certain risks, depending on the information you choose to broadcast. You must exercise personal discretion. For example, you wouldn’t discuss research data in these arenas prior to publication, or post negative opinions about your current employer (assuming you want them to remain your employer!). Those risks aside, there’s a lot to be said for harnessing the communication power of social media.

Get started by checking out some of the more popular social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and blogs, and note which have the greatest potential to enhance your work. In the next issue of Leaders’ Link, we’ll discuss specific strategies for using these platforms to your professional benefit.

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