While your friends might care about the mouth-watering cheesecake dessert you are about to devour or the beautiful bouquet roses that your boyfriend just sent you, the professional world certainly does not. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have long been accepted as not only ways to keep in touch with friends and family, but also as professional networking tools. With more and more companies utilizing newly emerging mediums like Instagram to interact with their customers, this app might just be the newest way to land your Insta-career.
Branding yourself and networking are the two most efficient ways in which Instagram can help you navigate your career path. While it should not be the only way you choose to internship hunt, there are simple, effective ways that you can customize your account to grab the attention of potential employers and supplement your other efforts. Follow these networking and branding tips from Eddy Cruz, the Assistant Director of Alumni Programs at the University of Miami Toppel Career Center, for some keys to Insta-success in the professional world:
Eddy recommends that students research a company that they are interested in, possibly through other social media outlets such as Twitter. That way, you can find out what the company values and express your interest in it through your own Instagram account.
“For example, if you are interested in fashion, post pictures that show this, like your favorite designers on the runway, certain patterns, you working in a studio, whatever,” Eddy said. “Show that you are immersed in the industry. Show that you really live this and show your creativity, especially if you are in a creative field.”
Meaghan O’Connor, a collegiette from the University of Michigan and volunteer for She’s The First, begins by following specific, powerful people from a company and then branching out from there.
“Tammy Tibbetts, the founder of our own organization, goes to a lot of events and tags a lot of people in her Instagram pictures,” Meaghan said, “so the most direct benefit for me is seeing people she has tagged, and then I follow and network with them.”
You can start by Googling the company to learn who the most influential people are in that business. Then find them on social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn where you can connect with them! Keep in mind, however, that there is a chance that these people will follow you back, so make sure that your account reflects what you want potential employers to know about you!
“Make sure that what you are using it for makes sense. Think about that your profile reflects who you are as a person and what you want to portray to people,” Meaghan said. “I think before I post. I look at some people’s profiles and think, ‘I hope mine doesn’t look like that!’”
Interested in fashion design? Upload your favorite clothing pics! Interested in having a job someday? Ditch the pics of your awesome keg stand from last Friday night!
If you want to “tag” a company in your post to get their attention directly, make sure that what you’re posting is relevant to them!
“I believe what an individual should be showcasing in their Instagram, if they are using it for job searching, is their knowledge and interest in the industry, specific company, and their services/products,” Eddy said. “This way they illustrate to the organization that they may be a good fit and they are worth engaging within these platforms and possibly in-person in the future.”
There’s nothing wrong with a little flattery when it comes to job hunting, either! If you’re satisfied with a company’s product, Instagram a picture of yourself while using it, then make a caption praising the company’s service and tag them at the end so they can see your work. Remember to do this sparingly, though! You don’t want to annoy the person in charge of social media. Besides, you want to make everything look natural—there’s a thin line between appreciation and obsession.
One of the most effective ways to get a company to stumble upon your account is by using hashtags. You can mimic the hashtags a company is already using, Eddy said, but do so with caution! He recommends using only a few hashtags at a time, otherwise they can look unprofessional.
“The one thing I’ve noticed is that when people use too many hashtags… it turns out distracting and annoying,” Eddy said. “Keep the hashtags to a minimum. Three, tops.”
Eddy also suggests researching a company to see what type of skills they look for in employees, then making sure to hashtag those skills whenever you tag the company in a post. Companies use hashtags to view the social conversation about their image, so make sure that you have something positive and worthwhile to say in your post!
Once you’ve found the right people to follow and have uploaded and tagged the appropriate content, the next step is to interact! If you want to comment on a company’s photo, be sure to say something relevant that corresponds with their values. Demonstrate your knowledge and admiration for their work, and always remember to tag them in the comment to ensure that they will see it.
A great strategy is to ask a question in your comment. You can direct the question either at the company itself, or at its consumers to strike up a conversation among them.
Asking the company a question is a good way to get in touch with employees at the company, which could help you take the communication to another a platform where you can begin to establish a relationship. On the other hand, if you decide to start a conversation among the consumers, you may earn respect and appreciation from the company by demonstrating leadership skills that every employer desires in an intern.
“Think of this as another way to showcase your knowledge and interest in the industry,” Eddy said. “This way you illustrate to the organization that you may be a good fit, and you’re worth engaging within these platforms and possibly in person in the future.”
Taking it to the next level
“After they have had the ability to engage with someone through social media, then they will sooner or later want to meet with the individual, as appropriate, either over the phone, email, or in person for coffee,” Eddy said. “In the initial message through e-mail that you may have found through LinkedIn or over the phone the individual will want to provide a specific purpose for their correspondence and request for time to meet.”
When Meaghan sees that professionals ‘like’ a photo of hers, she usually reaches out to them and fills them in on what She’s The First is currently involved in. “I’ve learned that Instagram is a great way to get attention, develop relationships, and initiate connections in a non-invasive way,” Meaghan says.
Show your stuff
Instagram lends itself well to creative industries, so Eddy recommends that students take advantage of this. Show off your style!
“Anything with the media, communications, photography or fashion will benefit from Instagram,” Meaghan says. “What I love most about Instagram is it is much more visual than any other social media platform, so careers that require you to tell a visual story should definitely utilize Instagram.”
Showing off doesn’t have to be limited to your work! Meaghan enjoys using it to show that she has met important people in her desired industry, and encourages students to not hesitate to upload pictures of their own. Show that you have met certain people by uploading pictures with them, and then that can establish mutual friendship and connections with other people. Think of it as “visual networking.”
Overall, you want to use your Instagram account to show potential employers the kind of intern or employee that you would be for them in a manner much more creative and visual than your Twitter or Facebook. “Share interests, passions and ideas,” Eddy said. “Enhance what they see and intrigue them.”