Social media: Can it help us professionally?

Campus experts weigh in on productive social media use

by Hannah Gullickson
Feature Editor

Social media is exciting. People find so many outlets for networking and blogging, yet some worry about wasting their time. Fortunately, these University of Northwestern – St. Paul experts say that social media can be a place for networking, promoting and budgeting one’s time.

Networking on LinkedIn

For Diann Lloyd-Dennis, director at the Center for Calling & Career, social media connects people who may not have been able to connect before. LinkedIn, for example, provides key networks for applicants seeking positions. She stressed that applicants must update their LinkedIn status at least twice a month—and comment on others’ posts in their desired field—if these applicants want to be accepted.

“A static LinkedIn profile is not going to help your job search,” she said. “Because the greatest value of the LinkedIn profile is to demonstrate your active engagement in your field or a group you’re a part of, or your professional development as a whole,” she said.

For example, she said users can post updates related to their field, such as, “Interesting article on the future of the liberal arts in the job search. Here’s a link.”

“Networking is always about giving and getting,” she said. “And traffic, however it’s generated, is good.”

Blogging for promotion

Within the realm of social media, certain perks attract users who are promoting their work. For Judith Hougen, professor of English and creative writing at UNW, social media lets her not only network with other professionals in her field, but also showcase her creative writing.

At her blog, “Coracle Journeys,” she posts her personal essays and creative work that reflect on faith, writing and life as a writer.

“There’s a certain instant gratification around blogging that I like,” she said. “So it’s helpful for me to feel like I’m getting content out to people, and it’s good writing practice for me.”

Budgeting time on social media

But with all practices, social media can present itself as a portal of ill opportunities. Dr. Kent Kaiser, professor of communications and public relations, stressed the importance of strategy when budgeting one’s time on social media.

“It’s with any communication method. You have to be deliberate,” he said.

When he and other professors reviewed their students’ essays, the professors noted that many of the paragraphs seemed disjointed. Kaiser said he thinks the reason lay in the students’ “shotgun approach” to writing. Every other paragraph, students check social media and they thus end up writing an essay that doesn’t flow.

“The most efficient students and graduates are coming in and talking about budgeting their time,” said Kaiser. “Every minute is budgeted. For this half hour, they’re doing this. For this half hour, they’re doing that. And those are the people who are getting the most done and are the busiest.”

Honing in on social media

Both Kaiser and Lloyd-Dennis recommend that students and web users pick a few select social media outlets and hone in on them.

“One of the things that’s annoying to people is when there’s multiple posts of the same thing across different media,” said Kaiser. “And so I usually recommend that you specialize in one thing.

“On Twitter I follow 90-some people,” he said. “And I used to follow more, like 250 or something. But then I scaled back because I found out that many of the reporters were tweeting the same stuff or overdoing it,” he said.

“If your industry has a standard, follow it,” said Lloyd-Dennis. “Otherwise, pick those which represent for you the things that you would be most able to professionally maintain. For instance, if you’re a not blogger, don’t start a blog. If you love to write, do! Because that’s going to be the best venue to maintain your presence and promote yourself professionally.”

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