Technology is anything that wasn’t around when you were born – Alan Kay
Anecdotally, I’ve been aware since first publishing Exceptional EA that many of the readers who turn to websites such as this for professional development also choose to steer far clear of social media.
In contrast, if you follow this site’s Real Careers series, you’ll have seen that many other admin. professionals carve out time daily for social media. It’s part of their routine, and many credit social media with helping shape and grow their professional networks.
What About Those Who Don’t Use Social Media, or Limit Their Use?
For many people, it’s a highly intentional decision. Some people question the relevance of social media in their lives, while others have some interest, but aren’t sure about the mechanics – let alone the terminology. Yet others, myself included, are cautious of privacy.
How ironic is that? A blogger who reaches out to peers across numerous borders is also leery of social media. Well, it’s true. Those who have been following Exceptional EA since its inception just over two years ago may note that, yes, I reached out in the form of automated posts to Twitter and Facebook, but it’s really only this summer that I began to appreciate Twitter as a reciprocal communication tool. Now, it’s unusual to see a day go by without a few minutes on Twitter, and contacts with some highly regarded peers I consider friends.
It’s also just a week or so since I launched my own LinkedIn group, for conversations and information sharing with peers. I’m happy to remain in the cautious camp with Facebook, but have begun posting travel experiences and pictures to Instagram, and pinning travel images and career-focused articles from Exceptional EA on Pinterest.
Technology is just a tool – Bill Gates
… and, while not all tools are perfect, some improve as new generations are introduced. As I’ve begun reassessing my approach and dipping into the toolbox (where I’ve come to love Twitter), I thought that perhaps it’s worth exploring social media in general. If social media is just one more tool, I thought, perhaps others may like to test out a new tool or two … and see what may or may not be useful in their lives.
With this in mind, I turned to readers who do make use of social media. In one of my first Weekend Polls, I asked readers to identify the social media channels they use, and LinkedIn came out on top. It was closely followed by Facebook and Twitter, which tied for second place. You can see the full results by clicking here and, when you read the results of that poll, you’ll see that I invited readers with questions or advice on social media to contact me.
I also tapped in to the expertise of some of Exceptional EA’s Real Careers alumni, as well as Twitter afficionado and freelance Executive Assistant/Virtual Assistant Karen Johnson, and am delighted to share this group’s insights in a series of articles.
Our International Social Media Panel
Today, we’ll begin with brief perspectives from these seven people. Over the days ahead, we’ll be hearing from each of them again as we dive into mechanics, privacy, terminology and more.
Diana of Berlin, Germany: When it comes to my professional network, I have been a constant and convinced user of LinkedIn and Xing (a German platform) for many years now. Both channels are very professional and helpful to me regarding the expansion of my professional network and my future career path.
This is especially true of Xing, through which I receive headhunter inquiries every once in a while; it’s therefore helpful to be part of this community. My advice to every user: Make sure that your profile is always up to date. It is like your virtual business card; choose a nice picture and ensure that your photo and all information you would like to share are uploaded properly.
I connect with colleagues in the US, Canada, the UK and various countries on the African continent. I share with my network business-related articles that I have found on LinkedIn or The Muse that might be of interest. When one of my connections has a work-related anniversary or a birthday, I try to remember to congratulate him or her because everyone appreciates some form of recognition.
Jennifer Corcoran of London, England: Social media networking is no longer a “nice to have”. The modern day Assistant needs to stay on top of social media in order to be truly connected, current and up to date. It is an excellent way of following and connecting with peers, suppliers, competitors, influencers and brand ambassadors.
In 2014 I started studying for a Social Media for Business course and it finally gave me that confidence I lacked. I started engaging and even blogging and found my voice online. Being an introvert (albeit a chatty one) this was really invaluable. Social Media in addition to giving PAs a voice is also a perfect platform for introverts. We make up 50% of the population but are often not heard or valued but through Social Media you can determine and create your own personal brand. That being said, if you do not want to actively engage I would still encourage you to sign up and look, listen and learn. By following people or groups you will become aware of hot topics and trends relevant to your continued professional development – matters such as conferences, seminars, publications, training, networking groups or communities.
On a personal note, I have connected with many amazing assistants from around the globe and have found a great sense of PA/EA community. The social networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter can be an optimum platform for exchanging tips and best practices.
Karen Johnson of London, England: I first turned to social media when I started spending a lot of time working alone. I missed having work colleagues around me and being able to wander over to another PA and ask for advice on how to approach a particular task at work, etc. So, I started looking at LinkedIn and reading up on all its capabilities. I realised I could use the search option to find the many colleagues I have worked with over the years.
I discovered that, with LinkedIn, I had an electronic rolodex at my finger tips – one that updated whenever my contacts moved to another job. In short, I could keep track of people, write to them when I had questions, and link them with others I thought might be good business connections.
Michela Luoni of Busto Arsizio, near Milan, Italy: As for our beloved and hated social channels: Indeed, they are now relevant in my life. Our communication has changed in a way that suggests no return to the past, and it keeps changing; do you remember the advent of text messages? We were all brief and strictly to the point, in order to avoid exceeding the allotted characters – and having to pay for two texts! Now, we have an abundance of messages, apps and emoticons, and so we write entire words. We take pictures of what we see, and we share content. That’s dramatically changed the way we interact and engage with others, and now we create content to share on multiple platforms.
While, five or six years ago, I would have written a perfect CV, now I’m mostly worried about polishing and refining my LinkedIn profile, adding docs, links, and works. Can you imagine preparing such materials via hard copy papers?
Julia Schmidt of Norway: I use Facebook, LinkedIn and Tweeter. I wanted to focus on three social media channels. More than that would be stressful. I want to respond, share, comment and promote other professionals. Using more than three would limit the quality of my engagement.
I understood very quickly that LinkedIn is a professional channel. I use it as a share-and-learn platform to get in touch with peers and relevant people. As with many LinkedIn users, I dove into the network some years ago when I wanted to find new job opportunities. It made me learn more about the platform: how to keep privacy, have a network of add-value contacts, find groups, and send invitations to connect. I really allocated time to learn how to use LinkedIn seriously and professionally, and I listen systematically to LinkedIn experts.
Matthew Want of Staines, England: Social media is a must have for most businesses nowadays, with many different platforms (most of which are free) available, and each offering a variety of opportunities.
For me, I have always mainly used Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Facebook is more the social side of things, such as posting pictures and updates about what I have been doing. LinkedIn is more the serious side of things; I make sure I only post work related items on LinkedIn. Twitter is a happy medium; I have always seen it as a platform where you can post or retweet (RT) items to do with work, and also bits that may not be work-related.
Depending on how your privacy settings are set, anyone could see your profile – and I mean absolutely anyone. Social media sites are constantly changing their privacy settings, which could mean that even if you have your account set to strict privacy, sometimes when new terms or updates are bought in, these privacy settings can easily change without you knowing (it’s scary, I know)! I would make sure you check your privacy settings regularly.