Schooled in Social Media 2016: Lessons Learned for Personal Branding

Even students born into a daily use of their personal Facebook and Snapchat discovered that social media marketing for personal branding and job search requires time management, consistency, a good PLN, and a career focused strategy.

schooled in social media 2016

Lessons Learned for Personal Branding & Job Search

Use of social media for personal branding and job search is not as easy as first expected.

It takes time.

It takes consistency.

It takes planning and strategy.

So says the students of my Spring 2016 Social Media Marketing class at the Monfort College of Business at the University of Northern Colorado.

In the fourth year of this marketing class, 38 students used social media networks and tools to define a career focus and personal brand identity, craft social media profiles, and develop a content marketing strategy for personal branding.

The networks: Twitter, WordPress blogging, LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook page, and Pinterest or YouTube.

The tools: Hootsuite (with certification) for social monitoring and management, Feedly and AllTop for building a personal learning network (PLN), Klout for influence measurement, and Canva for graphic design.

Lastly, they used social sharing activity to amplify their personal brands to their chosen target markets of like-minded in career focus, career stakeholders, and potential employers.

“Social Media Marketing is a beast difficult to take on. Nonetheless, I have stared this beast in the face, and defeated it.” ~ John-Patrick Murray, @Murray_jpm

Social Media Lessons Learned.

As a final question in their end-of-semester project report, my students were asked:

“What are the top five most important lessons learned about social media marketing for personal branding with completion of your project this semester?”

Here are some of the student responses:

  1. Prepare to be Googled.

“One of the most important lessons I learned this semester was to always know what is found online about you. It is not only important to know whether or not your profiles are conducive to search engine optimization, but it is also extremely important to make sure you are promoting a professional image of yourself to potential employers. By doing a Google search, you can see whether or not you are putting your best foot forward and showing your professionalism.” ~  Alyssa Van Amerongen, @A_VanAmerongen

  1. Develop a PLN.

“Developing a personal learning network (PLN) is one of the best things you can do for your career. In developing a personal learning network, you are able to stay up-to-date on what is happening in your industry and constantly learn new things to stay on top of your job and career. Also, showing a potential employee that you are constantly learning and seeking to know more in your industry shows your value and that you are the right choice for a particular job or even for a promotion because you are able to apply what you learn to your work.” ~ Jordan Buchholz, @Buchholz_Jordan

  1. Social media growth takes time.

“The greatest lesson I learned while working on this project was that it takes a significant amount of time to grow your social media networks and maintain them. It is best to maintain a consistent level of activity so that your growth is easily measured and your efforts aren’t wasted.” ~ Alex Nuttall, @alexsnuttall

  1. Consistency is the key.

“Social media doesn’t take a day off, and if you want real results, you won’t be taking a day off either. I saw how my actions affected my growth (or decline) on social media, and I now know that consistency is the key to being successful.” ~ Anna Keefe, @akAnnaKeefe

  1. Be authentic, not a robot.

“It is very important to maintain a level of authenticity when approaching any social media. It is becoming very easy to appear robotic to others. Clicking a ‘like’ button doesn’t create engagement.  Regularly update your status and share what you are doing.  It is even better to share the content from your connections with an added comment or a personal message. Social media is about being social and engaging, so be sure to add some personality. Don’t be a robot.” ~ Chad Allen, @ChadCephasAllen

  1. Engagement is the secret sauce.

“I found that after lots of effort and disappointment, that even the smallest actions such as a thank you or acknowledgement could have a profound effect on my overall social experience. While many individuals tend to overly focus on numbers and measurements such as shares and likes, engagement is the true measurement of your ability in social media. If you can get people talking you know you’ve made it.” ~ Jesse East, @Jesse_W_East

  1. Thank you Hootsuite.

“Good posts are all about timing. Before taking this class I posted things at night and hoped that people would read it the next morning. But because there are so many posts shared every day, my social shares got lost very quickly. Thanks to Hootsuite I learned how to schedule my posts at the best possible time with the best gaps between each and according to the increasing number of followers this was the better way to do it.” ~ Jiri Papousek, @JirkaPapousek

  1. Blogging showcases your authority.

“Blogging is a great way to show your authority on a subject. The ability to write regular posts on a career focus can really show your knowledge and understanding of the field. This is a great way to show off what you know to future employers.” ~ Hilary Walters-West, @HilaryWaltersWe

  1. Content is king.

“A very important lesson I learned this semester is that content marketing is the future of marketing. Throughout the semester we learned how to curate content that would grow our engagement with our target audience. My content marketing strategy started off with defining my personal brand identity and career focus. Once I figured out who I was and what I wanted to do, I curated evergreen content that reinforced my brand. I curated content that showcased my knowledge about the subject.” ~ Savanna Schuster, @SavannaSchuste

  1. Social media networking complements physical networking.

“Social media networking is not a substitute for physical networking. You need to use the personal brand you have created on social media to complement the things you do with physical networking.  I have physically networked multiple times and talked to prospective employers. Now I am much more confident about having my social links on my resume and email signature, and having professionals reviewing my social media when I apply for a job (as we all know that they do).  Social media gives me a great place to show off my work and experiences, who I am, and who I would like to become with respects to my future career.” ~ Ryker Nelson, @RykerNelson

  1. Keep on learning.

“The final important lesson I learned about Social Media Marketing is that it is a great way to learn and continue to keep learning. Among all of social networking sites and other accounts such as Mashable and Feedly, the most important lesson is to use these resources as tools for learning. Using these social networking sites, people share their favored topics of interest and can easily and freely pass their ideas along for others to learn from.” ~ Natalie Allen, @NatalieMMAllen

The Take-Away.

You and I can learn (and relearn) a lot from the younger generation and their perspective as first-time users of social media for personal branding and job search.

One thing is clear, personal and private use of social media is quite different from the professional and public use of social media.

Heed the differences and prosper.

These are my students’ thoughts and now they are yours.

What early lessons of using social media for personal branding have you learned and worthy to pass on to students or recent grads?

Image credit: Denny McCorkle

For more insights from my students read:
Schooled in Social Media 2015: Millennials Share for Personal Branding
Schooled in Social Media: 12 Undergrads Share Lessons Learned

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Denny McCorkle

Professor of Marketing, Monfort College of Business at University of Northern Colorado
As a nationally recognized and award winning Marketing Professor in the Monfort College of Business at the University of Northern Colorado, I help students, professors, and professionals to gain a Digital Self Marketing Advantage through the use of social media marketing for personal branding, job search, skills development, career advancement, and life-long learning.