Twitter. There’s been lots of buzz about it. Perhaps you even visited the site, created an account, or dabbled with tweeting. Not love at first sight, right? If you’re like most people, you’re not alone in wondering, “What’s the point? How can this cacophonous site—crammed with apparently tangential, disconnected information—possibly help my job search?”
Do keep an open mind! Although Twitter has a learning curve (as is the case with all good things), you can find value from Day One, whether just dabbling as a NOOB (shorthand in Twitter [or other Internet activities such as online gaming] for newbie, as in new user) or committing to becoming a power user. Here are 25 tips to get you started.
- Lurk First. Sit back and study what’s happening on Twitter before jumping in with both feet. You can do this even before setting up your own Twitter account by going directly to Twitter user’s streams (for example, you can see my Twitter stream at www.twitter.com/susanwhitcomb or my coauthors in The Twitter job Search Guide (JIST, 2010), www.twitter.com/chandlee and www.twitter.com/CEOCoach). You can also visit www.monitter.com and search keywords of interest to you.
- Think Strategic When Setting Up Your Twitter Account. Many people vacillate between using their own personal name (such as JohnDoe) or profession (such as CFOintheKnow). There are advantages to both, but using your real name can add to your name recognition. If you have a common name that is already taken on Twitter and want to use your name, add a designation that matches your profession, such as JohnDoeCPA or JohnDoeSalesExec.
- Write an Employer-Focused 160me for Your Twitter Profile. Twitter allows you 160 characters max to describe who you are. Give them a taste of the return-on-investment they’ll receive from hiring you. For example: “Go-to resource for publicity for nonprofits. Earned org’s cover stories in regional mags; PR delivered 10s of thousands in contributions.”
- Point Employers to More Information. In your profile, include a link to a site where employers can get more information about you, such as www.VisualCV.com or your profile at www.LinkedIn.com.
- Include a Professional Photo. Leaving off a photo is an invitation for people to dismiss you. Your photo should be as professional as you look when going to an interview—your absolute best. There seems to be a greater sense of connection between followers and followees when each of you can see what the other really looks like. If you use an avatar, be on brand. Some people use avatars rather than a real photo—these sites are great starting points for avatars: www.BigHugeLabs.com and www.SouthParkStudios.com.
- Don’t Rush to Follow at First. When you follow people on Twitter, it’s likely they will consider following you back. If your history of tweets (your “tweet stream”) isn’t interesting or it’s non-existent, you’ll lose the opportunity to gain new followers. Instead, put out some interesting tweets first.
- Tweet On-Brand. Tweet primarily about things that relate to your profession. Read news feeds, blogs, and other resources for relevant, fresh content.
- Set Up Google Alerts for Tweet Content. Go to www.google.com/alerts to set up alerts for industry trends, news on your target companies, and more sent directly to your email. You can then be the first to tweet about it.
- Use a Third-Party Application (API). Twitter can appear disorganized and confusing. APIs such as www.TweetDeck.com, www.HootSuite.com, and www.Seesmic.com help organize tweets into columns of your choosing, such as those that reference your name, those that contain a relevant hashtag or keyword (such as #forensicaccounting), or a list of followers you are particularly interested in.
- Follow People Who You Want To Know You. Follow companies on your list of target companies, employees in those companies, potential networking contacts, recruiters, industry leaders, and others who might help connect you to the people with the power to hire.
- Explore Twitter’s Advanced Search Feature. Search Twitter’s advanced search function at www.search.twitter.com/advanced to search for opportunities (e.g., #jobs #portland #finance) or people.
- Search Beyond Twitter. Use sites like www.TweepSearch.com, www.Twazzup.com, www.Tweetzi.com, or www.Tweefind.com to find people (e.g., recruiters, finance).
- Use the 75-25 Rule When Tweeting. When in job-search mode, approximately 75% of your tweets should be professional, while 25% can be more of a personal nature (e.g., “Looking forward to my 25-mile ride through the Blossom Trail this weekend.”). Use discretion with your personal tweets!
- Tweet, Tweet, Tweet, But Don’t Get Sucked In. Be careful that your time on Twitter is focused and productive. Consider a 15-minute-a-day model where you spend five minutes in the morning, noon, and afternoon. During that time, you might tweet about an interesting industry trend, retweet someone’s tweet that would be interesting to your followers, and send an “at” (@) message to someone based on an intereting comment in their tweet stream.
- Retweet—The Highest Form of Flattery. Retweet (RT) interesting tweets from your networking contacts. Imagine how impressed a prospective employer might be when he/she sees you retweeting information that will promote the company.
- Turn Your Twitter Conversations into Phone and Face-to-Face Conversations. You’ll eventually want to shift the conversation from Twitter to a voice conversation or live meeting. Watch for opportunities, and act immediately when they present themselves.
- Time Your Thank You’s. As you engage people on Twitter, people will recommend you, retweet you, and compliment you. Consider thanking these people at off-times (late in the evening, early in the morning) so they don’t clog your tweet stream.
- Schedule Your Tweets. In some cases, you’ll want to schedule your tweets in advance if you know you’ll be unable to tweet. www.SocialOomph.com is a free service that will allow you to do that. www.HootSuite.com is another.
- Go Mobile. Set up mobile alerts so you can stay in touch with Twitter friends while on the road. Tweetie is a favorite iPhone app. Android users can check out www.twidroid.com.
- Sign up for TweetMyJobs Alerts. Every job seeker, whether a Twitter user or not, should visit www.TweetMyJobs.com to sign up for mobile-phone alerts of jobs relevant to their profession and geographic area. It’s simple and free to jobseekers, and a lot less expensive for employers than some of the traditional job sites such as Monster and CareerBuilder.
- Use Hashtags. Hashtags, represented by the # sign in front of a word (e.g., #accounting, #finance, #programming, #healthcare), are used on Twitter to help users find all the tweets with that hashtag. Use them religiously! You can find a hashtag directory at www.hashtags.org. Or, simply watch for the hashtags used by your favorite tweeps to get an idea of the latest hashtag lingo.
- Let Your Followers Know You’re Looking. One savvy jobseeker posted this hashtag-heavy tweet to gain the attention of employers and recruiters: “Looking to leverage my awesome #transportation #trucking #logistics & #supplychain tweeps to find #employment in #Charlotte NC. Suggestions?” Consider tweeting this type of information on a weekly basis.
- Get Career Advice on Twitter. Follow savvy career coaches and job search strategists for great career tips (such as this list: http://twitter.com/SusanWhitcomb/career-jobsearch-wisdom) or search for hashtags such as #careercoach #resumes #jobsearch #twitterjobsearch.
- Use Lists to Find People. Check out www.Listorious.com to find lists of people of interest in your target companies or profession. Likewise, check out the lists that other Twitter users have created.
- Give, Give, Give Before You Go Asking for Help. As in all networking, look for ways to be of help to others before asking them for help. If you start off on Twitter with a tweet that says: “Lost my job. Anybody know of job openings?” You’ll not likely get much help.
Start now. In the words of master networker Harvey Mackay (@harveymackay), “Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty.” It takes several weeks to really get into the swing of things on Twitter… once you do, you’ll discover that Twitter truly is “the barrier buster.” Enjoy!