Job seekers who are not taking advantage of social media tools could be missing out on opportunities. According to Jobvite's 6th Annual Social Recruiting Survey, employers and recruiters use or plan to use social media to fill positions.
However, it's not always clear to job seekers exactly how to make the most of these online tools. Ian Greenleigh, author of "The Social Media Side Door: How to Bypass the Gatekeepers to Gain Greater Access and Influence", suggests focusing on sharing valuable information. He says, "If every online interaction you have with someone is helpful, he or she will notice and may feel inclined to reciprocate." He believes that job seekers should use social media to establish a track record of adding value and attract the attention of decision makers.
These are Greenleigh's suggestions to use social media to create social proof and add value:
Keep an eye on what's hot in your field. Before you can posit yourself as an authority in your field, you need to be sure that you are up-to-date on the most recent news and information. Set news alerts and follow credible sources in your field so you will be among the first to know what people in your field need to know.
Read everything you can find from the leaders and up-and-comers in your space, and share the best of it via social media. Greenleigh says, "When you disagree, explain why. Make a point to expand on the work of others, and let them know you featured their work. Look for an emerging trend in your space, and write about it obsessively to become an authority."
Provide social proof. Greenleigh describes social proof as "the mental shortcut that tells us to choose what other people have chosen." For example, people are more drawn to share content that others already shared. Greenleigh notes, "In the social media era, content is validated by social signals and discussion. No matter how far up the ladder someone is, he or she desires validation—and you, no matter who you are, can provide it in the shape of blog comments, shares, retweets, favorites and even constructive criticism.
Help the gatekeepers. It's easier to get someone's attention using social media if they also are active online, but Greenleigh cautions job seekers not to give up if the people you want to reach don't seem so savvy on social media. He suggests aiming for indirect access. "Indirect access is when your message is carried by someone familiar to, and ideally, respected by, the person you're trying to reach. This is often better than direct access, because the fact that someone he or she holds in high regard is making the introduction and/or conveying your message makes you look good. There's that social proof concept again."
How can you make this work for you? Find people at your target company and start interacting with them. When you follow them closely, you'll likely find opportunities to respond to their questions and offer recommendations. Greenleigh says, "Validate their work and give them social proof that you know what you're talking about. Make them laugh. If you know someone is hiring for a role for which you're not suited, use social media to make an introduction to a friend who is (provided you have your friend's consent)."
Once you've contributed and provided value, look for signals that your target audience appreciates your insights and information. Hopefully, these people will follow you back on Twitter or even respond online to your comments. Once you establish an online relationship, it's ok to make a request for an introduction or an in-person meeting.
Become a content resource. Your goal online is to try to be indispensable. Greenleigh says, "Create and curate content that is interesting and helpful to individuals in the field you're trying to enter. As you earn credibility, you'll also learn an incredible amount from everything you're soaking up and sharing, so you'll be better prepared for interviews (and the job you get)."
Post and share useful information online via LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook and Twitter. If you're a good writer, you can also consider sharing your insights on a blog, or offer to contribute content to other established blogs managed by your new contacts.. When you follow this advice you can warm up cold calls and open doors that may have otherwise stayed closed.
Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer, and owner of Keppie Careers. She is author of Social Networking for Career Success and 100 Conversations for Career Success. Miriam teaches job seekers and entrepreneurs how to incorporate social media tools along with traditional strategies to reach their goals.