Guest Blog: Social Media, Networking at Your Fingertips

Please help MyHCN welcome Carly Dell, this week's guest blogger.

Social Media: Networking at Your Fingertips

Social media has revolutionized the way today’s professionals network. Between Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest, there is a large social media community built around health care topics, issues, and jobs. Whether you are looking for a graduate school, searching for a job, or want to start a conversation with a health care expert, social media is a free, easy-to-use tool that can have a positive impact on your future.

Brand Yourself

Before you start making connections and networking via social media, it’s important for you to first develop your personal brand. By building a brand, you will make it easy for the people you connect with to understand who you are and what interests you share. When considering your brand, answer the following questions:

  • What do you want to do? Define your goals. You could be looking for a graduate school, searching for a job, or just getting to know the industry. 
  • What are your passions? Recognizing this will drive your efforts to meet and network with the right influencers. 
  • What path are you taking? Map out where you want to be in 5, 10, or even 15 years, and determine what you have to do to get there. 
  • Is your social media presence buttoned up? Check all of your profiles and privacy settings. Make sure your virtual self represents your professional self in the best way possible.

Define Your Audience

Before you begin engaging and networking, it’s important to define your audience to ensure that you are reaching the desired people in the most effective and efficient way possible. To do this, determine the exact type of individual you want to reach out to. The more ways you can define the audience you want to network with, the more likely they will be to engage with you. 

First, it’s important to understand what social media platforms your audience engages with the most. For example, nurses are highly engaged on Facebook and Twitter, but less engaged on LinkedIn and Google+. Healthcare CEOs, however, are more engaged on LinkedIn, and less likely to be engaged on Facebook. 

Next, determine the qualities that define your target audience. Does your audience tend to include more males or females? What is the typical age range of these individuals? What is the path that got them into their current industry? The more you know about your target audience, the better you will be able to direct your connections through tone and content. By speaking to your audience in the way they speak, they will be more likely to respond and engage with your networking efforts.

Engage

Once you have a brand and a clear idea of who you are targeting, it’s time to start engaging. When determining which social accounts within your target audience to follow, start with thought leaders*. Learn about these people by reading their bios, websites, and the content they engage with.  If you are looking for a job, follow the hospitals, organizations, or health care facilities where you would like to work. If you are planning to apply to a graduate school, follow all of the school’s social accounts. Understanding the tone and what’s important to the individuals or companies you are looking to get involved in will make engaging with them much easier.  

Twitter

Twitter is a great tool for students and professionals to use to find influencers* and see the content they are engaging with. Find out who is leading the conversation, and don’t be afraid to participate. Find a hashtag that resonates with your goals. If you are looking to become a nurse, try #nursing. If you are looking to become a manager, try #healthcaremanagement. You can find influencers by using hashtags, and influencers will find you with hashtags.

Don’t leave your Twitter feed unattended. Tweet often -- individuals will be more likely to interact with you if you participate and provide creative and quality content on a regular basis. Follow the people you want to connect with and ask them questions. When they post something you find interesting, let them know.

Facebook

Use Facebook to network with friends and family. If you are looking to network to find a job, internship, or other opportunity, post a status to let your friends know. A friend could have a connection at the school you are looking to get into, or a family member could be connected to an executive at a hospital. 

Like the pages of businesses, organizations, and influencers who are on Facebook to see what they are talking about and the type of content they are engaging with. Engage with their content by liking it, posting comments, and sharing it.

LinkedIn 

Use your LinkedIn profile to connect with professionals in your desired field and showcase your expertise. LinkedIn groups are a great way for you to meet and engage with other people who are interested in similar topics and issues. Share content that the influencers you are trying to connect with will find useful, insightful, and thought provoking, and they will be more likely to engage with you.

Pinterest 

Pinterest boards are used for job tips and resume samples, and are a great resource for individuals who are looking for inspiration to improve their resume. Many of health care’s most prominent influencers have boards that they update regularly. It’s a fun, easy way to find quality shareable content.

Google+

Although Google+ is still new to the social media game, it is still important to have a presence on the site. First, you’ll want to make sure your Google+ profile is completely filled out. If you have a complete Google+ profile, you are more likely to rank higher in a Google search. Google+ allows you to create Circles – a way to group different types of individuals together. The creation of an “Influencers Circle” is an easy way to keep track and follow the content influencers in your industry are sharing.  

While having a presence on Google+ is important, don’t focus too much of your time on sharing and engaging with the site. In general, influencers are more engaged on sites such as Twitter and LinkedIn, so it will be easier to catch their attention and network there. Google+ should be seen as a supplement to your other social media networking efforts.

Today, more than ever, you can get to know influencers, experts, and recruiters around the world instantly. With some effort, it’s possible to build meaningful and rewarding relationships with individuals who are interested and engaged in the same conversations and industry as you. Build a reputation as a provider of great content, and your networking opportunities will be endless.

About the Author:

Carly Dell is the community manager for the innovative online family nurse practitioner and online rn to bsn programs offered through Simmons College. In her free time, Carly enjoys traveling, binge-watching HGTV, and trying new restaurants. Follow her on Twitter @carlydell2 and Google+.

*What/who is a thought leader? Who would be considered an influencer? What’s the difference between the two? 

Thought leadership has more of an executive focus to it; a CEO or company would be considered a thought leader for their research, development, and forward-thinking insights in their specific industry or area. Thought leaders are individuals or companies you would think of when you think of words like innovation, command, and discovery. 

Influencers are individuals who are a force within their specific industry or area. The focus of an influencer is on one specific individual, and they tend to be more known for their industry or passion than the company they work for. While influencers might not have the money or budget to perform big studies for research, they can provide detailed insight into the studies that are released within their industry. Influencers most likely have a more prominent presence on social media, and tend to connect with their fans and followers there.

As you can see, there is a lot of overlap between these definitions, which is why I think they can be used pretty interchangeably. In short, thought leaders tend to be known more for being connected to a big company (ex. Steve Jobs to Apple, Mark Zuckerberg to Facebook), while influencers tend to be known more for being connected to their industry (ex. Gary Vaynerchuk to social media). They are all similar in that they are forward-thinkers whose passion is changing their respective industries for the better.

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