BUSINESSES are increasingly looking towards social media as another platform for their communications, and an understanding of social media is becoming a key skill that employers are looking for.

Regardless of your level of expertise and job focus, the quickest way to demystify social media and turn it into a powerful business communications platform is to dive in and use the channels available to you.

Public relations companies use social media platforms as a way to communicate with audiences more effectively.

What used to be dissemination to the public is now a dialogue — through our blogs, Facebook and Twitter — bringing the relations aspect of public relations to an entirely new level.

Facebook, a social networking tool, has let us reach a receptive and far-reaching audience. I personally use Twitter to keep updated on news as it happens, while Facebook is a great tool for me to keep up with clients.

Given the usefulness of social media platforms to generate publicity for organisations, it is high time job hunters also tap the power of the medium as a legitimate platform for getting noticed by prospective employers. Job seekers should stop regarding their Facebook and Twitter accounts as personal platforms.

It is reported that as many as 50 per cent of employers screen social media profiles of prospective employees, and with good reason.

An employer can’t tell what a prospective employee is like from what is stated on his or her resum�, but a quick online check can reveal a lot more.

Think of your social networking profile as brand management — for example, if a search on a company results in a lot of negative reviews, it is unlikely that you’ll be using their services.

This is especially relevant in public relations. If a prospective employee can project a positive image online, it is likelier that they can expand their social media skills to project an organisation’s image positively.

Online image

For an employer, danger signs can present themselves in a variety of ways. Does the prospective employee have any questionable pictures, habits or interests?

Do their names come up in a Google search? And if they do, is it a mention of a professional achievement, or does it have a negative slant? What do they write about on their blogs?

When choosing between two candidates, I firstly check their LinkedIn profiles to see if they have received any good recommendations and if they participate actively with their peers through groups and discussions. I see what is written on Twitter and their blogs, and how it is written.

Do a search on yourself and your e-mail address and see what it reveals about you. Is there any questionable content and can you remove it?

Is your social media profile complete and presentable? If there is any questionable content, remove it immediately and replace it with something positive that you have done.

If you don’t contribute to a blog about your field of expertise, consider getting one. A professional blog demonstrates that you are knowledgeable about your field, and allows you to express your opinion on recent matters.

This assures your employer that you are connected in your field, and lets him know if your opinions align with those of the organisation.

When you produce your own content, this is also an indication of the quality of work that can be expected from you. A blog can also be an avenue to get noticed by future employers.

Build up your profile

For a start, understand how each platform can aid the other in boosting your social media profile. Start amassing a network of helpful contacts, and in return, offer them something useful — your personal insights.

The point of this exercise is to establish your personal social media profile, so it is no use if you create amazing content and provide excellent insights, but nobody is there to read it.

Look for groups in LinkedIn where people from your field of expertise already have a community. Do a search on a blog search engine or look through a blog directory to find people with the same job focus as you, and initiate contact. There is a social aspect to social media, after all.

So if you are not there yet, join Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Start a blog, and start writing. Always keep updating and expanding your social media profile, and your efforts will eventually pay off.