By Maria De Moya

As a professor at DePaul’s Public Relations and Advertising program, my tweeting and teaching frequently intersect. Twitter is where I get a large portion of my news, meet and converse with pros across the country and share topics I’m looking forward to discussing in class.

So imagine my surprise when I heard from many students that they “didn’t do” or “didn’t like” social media. Sure, several admitted to having a persona Instagram or Snapchat account, but only a small minority was using social media for professional purposes. Despite my best efforts to stress the opportunities for building relationships, getting information and managing their personal brand that they were missing out on, students didn’t seem convinced. So I decided to ask Twitter to back me up and share their take on the importance and benefits of social media for young PR/AD pros.

Thankfully, people were in the mood to share. Quickly, a consensus built on that it’s very important for young pros to be active. Respondents explained a solid social media presence is vital for passing the Google test; it’s a great way to share your work portfolio; it supports building your brand and signals your interests and passions. In fact, not being active would likely be a deterrent for future employers.

The importance of a solid social media presence for networking (both making and maintaining relationships), was also highlighted. Also, it shows that you are abreast of the changing media landscape. In sum, any PR pro should not only have a presence in social media, but should also be actively using it to engage with industry people, colleagues and friends, because their career goals depend on it.

The personal and potential benefits of social media also were also highlighted in the responses. One job seeker used LinkedIn to find connections to potential employers. A recent DePaul grad landed her job thanks to Twitter. One young professional connected to people online and then looked for opportunities to talk to them about their work and career options, while another was able to explore a different sector and find a new job thanks to LinkedIn. It’s also helped pros learn about their chosen field and do their work.

Still, for young or future PR/AD pros who are hesitant to build their professional social media presence, it might be difficult to know where to start. Thankfully, pros also shared easy-to-follow steps and best practices. To start:

1. Choose your medium. You don’t have to be on all of them, but know that each one has their strength.

Twitter is a great source for breaking news and showing your industry expertise. LinkedIn is all about building connections and your professional plans. Facebook is mainly for family and friends. Instagram is a great way to share an online portfolio, showcase your work or show off your photography or video skills.

2.  Connect and follow. To make the most of the opportunities social media has to offer, you need to build your network. If you don’t know who to start with, our PRAD program curated a short list. Also, look at who your closest colleague or mentor is following and follow those most relevant to yourself. You can also connect with people when you meet them at professional events via LinkedIn.

Young pros shouldn’t be afraid to be strategic about it. Follow thought leaders in your areas of interest. If you always wanted to work for XYZ, then follow their PR/AD people, experts and recruiting managers (it worked wonders from one of our graduates!). Once you’ve connected or followed them, look for opportunities to engage. I’ve heard that students hate the transactional nature of networking, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You can do it authentically, naturally and thinking of how you can help them. Also, make sure to pay-it-forward and help connect people to each other.

Also, take advantage of the opportunities to engage with your industry. Easiest, and most rewarding, is joining twitter chats hosted by PRSA, The Plank Center or any other professional organization you are interested in engaging with. It’s also a great place to find people you want to connect with.

3. Go with your real interests. If you are following experts or media, focus on the topics you are really passionate about. Look for the people that write about the topics you care and/or want to learn more about. Better yet, engage with them by commenting or sharing. Everyone loves getting retweeted!

4. Be consistently present. How frequently you post depends on the medium, your industry and your own personal preference. I’m on Twitter several times a day, but once a day could suffice to get started. LinkedIn moves a bit slower, so once or twice a week could do. But whatever your frequency, try to be consistent. Don’t be quiet or absent for too long if you want to stay connected and reap the benefits of your social media use.

Once you’ve got into the habit of following, listening, liking, sharing (or retweeting) and commenting, you are ready to make it you own.

Don’t know what to share? Follow Andrew Davis’s, author of Brandscaping, 411 rule for a healthy social media account, share:

  • 4 parts other people’s content
  • 1 part original content
  • 1 part (self) promotional content

To make the most of other people’s content, remember you can share content across media (for example, share an interesting LinkedIn article via twitter). You can make it your own by including a good quote from the article. For your original content you can share your own blog posts, photos, videos or commentary on news/books, etc. Lastly, the promotional content is all about you. It can include events you are hosting, reflections on news or current events, as well as awards, promotions, or even (appropriate) anniversaries or personal news.

You should also have fun with it! Yes, I share a lot about PR/AD news, case studies and articles related to #PRADEthics, but I also share comments about baseball and television shows I like.

One last word of advice: Whatever content you choose to share or medium you use, take your social media presence seriously. Remember, you are managing your professional brand and reputation. Keep it professional.

 Maria De Moya is the academic director of DePaul University’s Masters in Public Relations and Advertising. She teaches and does research in Public Relations, with a special focus on Communication for Social Change, Latinx Communication and Public Diplomacy. You can connect with her via Twitter or LinkedIn.