You might use Facebook to keep up with friends and family and Twitter to broadcast your week’s highlights, but did you know that you could also harness the power of social media to improve your financial situation? From finding the best deals at your favorite stores to boosting your salary through clever personal branding tricks, social media can give your bank account a real boost.
Consumers are just beginning to recognize that social media can be an incredibly powerful shopping and career tool. A 2013 survey of over 5,000 Internet users by the Pew Research Internet Project found that three in four online adults use social networking sites, with Facebook being the most popular by far, followed by LinkedIn and Pinterest. Just 18 percent of respondents used Twitter. The Pew report emphasized the social and relationship aspects of the tools, as so much discussion of social media does, with personal finance and career implications being largely overlooked.
Social media experts point out that with a few carefully executed strategies, tweeting or posting to Facebook can also help you save and earn more money. Here are some of their top suggestions:
1. Use Twitter to fix your problems. Banks, retailers and other brands are increasingly dedicating their best customer service representatives to social media accounts. That means if your Internet service is out, or you can’t figure out why your bank seems to have added unexpected fees to your last statement, Twitter can be your first stop. Send a tweet directly to the company’s customer service Twitter handle, and you’re likely to get a faster response then if you send an email. That likely explains why a 2012 Nielsen study found that one in three people who use social media prefer interacting with companies via Twitter, Facebook or another network than via phone.
One caveat to this suggestion: Never share personal details in a public space like social media. if you need to share account numbers or other information, follow up by phone or email. At the Bank of America Twitter handle for customers, @BofA_Help, customer service reps quickly move customers into a direct message environment if they need to discuss account details. Then, their identity is verified through an authentication process, similar to one that would be used on a phone call.
2. Declare your niche. Snagging a promotion at work often depends on how your colleagues perceive you and if you stand out because of certain skills you bring to the table. Make sure your social media accounts showcase just why it is you’re well-suited for the next job you have your eye on by featuring endorsements and experience relative to your dream job.
Dan Schawbel, author of “Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success,” also suggests immediately updating your social network status when you land a new job or freelance opportunity, and even to occasionally tell your network the types of opportunities you’re looking for. “If they come across them, they’ll notify you,” he says. Developing a signature style and profile description that’s shared across your multiple pages will also help people immediately understand who you are, what you do and the audience you serve, he adds.
Twitter and LinkedIn can also help people make valuable connections that can pay off later, Schawbel says. “The more people you follow, and that follow you, the more opportunities you will become aware of and the more people that can help you find what you are searching for. You need to be a giver on these networks if you want to gain traction,” he says, which means retweeting other people’s tweets and regularly commenting on posts before asking for anything in return. “You need to be a good community member before the community accepts you and helps you find better paying jobs and freelance gigs,” he says.
[Read: How to Tweet Like Dale Carnegie.]
Robin Fisher Roffer, a personal branding expert and the author of “Make a Name for Yourself,” says sharing useful information on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and even Instagram helps establish your reputation as a thought leader and authority on your subject. “You'll become sought after and increase your sphere of influence when you curate and share great information and create your own – like short blogs, photos with interesting captions or tweet out meaningful quotes, beliefs or opinions that set you apart,” she says. She adds that her own large following (she currently has more than 16,000 Twitter followers) helps her command higher fees for speaking engagements and webinar requests than her competitors.