Social media is not just for abusing celebrities and finding your ex-partners. It can get you work too. We reveal 20 ways to use Twitter, Facebook and other networks to send your career soaring.
Social media isn't just for annoying famous people or wasting time when you're supposed to be working. Used in the right way, it's a great resource for designers, enabling you to find inspiration, get advice from your peers and boost your profile.
Are you using Twitter, Facebook and other sites as intelligently as you could be? In this article we reveal 20 great ways to get more from your online networking...
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01. Share, don't sell
Using any social network as a sales megaphone is likely to backfire: nobody wants a news feed or stream to resemble a bunch of carnival barkers, and it's particularly important to craft your content for the social network(s) you use: don't just post once and use services such as IFTTT to blare the post across every social network you've ever seen.
02. Be open minded
Social media can be a superb source of design inspiration, and the wider your social net the wider the range of inspiring things you're likely to come across. Spread your social net widely and focus on the inspiration, not the industry: it's better to follow interesting people from other creative fields than follow dullards just because they're designers.
03. Present your portfolio
An online portfolio showcasing your very best work is essential, and if the images can't tell the full story of your creative genius then provide commentary and context to explain why you're so awesome. If you don't want to build your own, you could use a Tumblr with a theme such as SimpleFolio, or build a WordPress site with a theme such as Sideshow, Garnish or Cameron Moll's Briefed or you could use somebody else's site.
There's no shortage of contenders in that latter category, including Behance's ProSite, Cargo, 4ormat and Carbonmade. There are also skill-specific sites such as deviantArt for digital artists and 500px for photographers.
Such sites aren't just static galleries: many are social platforms in their own right, enabling designers to solicit feedback and comment on others' work.
04. Get recommendations
Recommendations from other people carry a lot of weight when you're pitching for work, and social sites such as LinkedIn enable past employers and clients to provide such recommendations. You can ask your connections for a nice comment about something specific to display on your profile, or you can ask them to introduce you to someone they're connected to but who isn't part of your network.
Quality is more important than quantity here: don't contact everybody you've ever worked with, for or near - and if you can return the favour, please do.
05. Get a bird's eye view
Staying on top of multiple social media channels can be a pain, but there's no shortage of apps and services to help you stay current. For example, Tweetdeck enables you to monitor and manage multiple accounts, schedule tweets for later posting and save searches for instant access. We particularly like Bottlenose, which enables you to spot what others are sharing including URLs and images.
06. Get stuck in
Bar the odd bit of backstabbing and murder, the online design community is a welcoming one, and you can give your profile a boost by being a valuable contributor to comment threads, Twitter conversations and portfolio sites. It's a karmic thing: if you're helpful to others, then others are much more likely to be helpful to you.
07. Follow people who follow people
Many jobs and commissions are filled without agencies or employers advertising them: organisations with reasonably large social media followings can save advertising cash by blogging or tweeting when they need some new blood. The better-connected your social network, the more likely you are to find out about such opportunities.
08. Get your RSS in gear
Many jobs boards - including our very own Creative Bloq jobs board - publish RSS feeds of new positions, enabling you to filter your search and see when new vacancies matching your criteria are published. One of the easiest ways to stay on top of such feeds is to stick them into a Google Reader folder so you'll see the alerts as you're catching up with your various blogs and news sites.
09. Time it right
Most people's news feeds are like Niagara Falls, with tweets and status updates roaring past at frightening speed. If you're posting work-related items or things you think will delight your peers, make sure you post when people will actually be online - which, in most cases, means during office hours (in their time zone) or the early evening.
10. Get some fresh air
The conference circuit is a great source of both inspiration and new connections, and laying the groundwork in advance can reap dividends: sites such as Lanyrd help you to find out what's on, where it is, when it's happening and who else is going, enabling you to make introductions, organise meet-ups and plan your schedule. Twitter's great for local recommendations while you're there, too.
11. Go where the work is
There's no shortage of social networks, but the time and energy you can expend on them is limited - so don't waste your efforts on networks that won't benefit you. Concentrate your energies on the networks where your peers and potential clients are. Who knows, that might even mean Google+.
12. Find your niche
In addition to the big social networks, there are social sites focused on specific sectors. For example, user experience designers and IAs have networks such as the London IA, while lovers of all things HTML5 can talk code on sites such as HTML5 Rocks. Such sites are great places to learn new things and stay on top with technologies and trends.
13. Emulate your idols
Take some time to analyse the way people you follow actually use social media. Are they prolific with praise and retweets? Do they post often, or only when they've got something big to talk about? Are they on-message or largely off-duty? Identify what works, and decide what's worth emulating - and then do the reverse for the people who annoy you.
14. Get Dribbbling
It's been described as 'Twitter for Designers', and that's not a bad description: Dribbble is a great resource for designers of all kinds, and if you can wangle an invite it's an excellent place to show off your completed projects and works in progress to peers and prospective clients. To get an invitation you need to sign up as a prospect and then be invited by an existing Dribbble member.
15. Look local
If you're looking for business in your local area, following and interacting with local organisations, media outlets and businesses on services such as Twitter can introduce you to potential clients, boosting your profile without any ad spend. Combining search criteria with geotagging can also help identify opportunities near you.
16. Ask for feedback
Social media's a great way to get feedback on designs or code, and there is also a wide range of dedicated design-sharing sites where you can solicit feedback from clients and collaborators on all kinds of creative work - although such sharing usually has a fee attached. Examples include Conceptshare, Cageapp, Noteboxapp and ConceptFeedback.
17. Change your profile
A basic one, we know, but make sure your profile page(s), blog, show you at your best: whether it's a LinkedIn CV or just your Twitter profile page, it's all part of the marketing mix and should make it abundantly clear that you're awesome and should be hired immediately. Don't forget the contact details.
18. Stay on trend
One of the most important benefits of social media is that if you follow the right people, they'll keep you abreast of the things you need to know about, whether that's the latest apps or the latest enfants terribles. You can find the right people by seeing who other designers follow, and in some cases those designers have helpfully organised their news sources into Twitter lists.
19. Think long term
Social media is a marathon, not a sprint; you want people to follow you because they find you interesting, not because you've followed the entire Twitter user base in the hope that some of them will auto-follow you back. It sounds wanky, we know, but you're building a brand here.
20. Don't get blocked
Hijacking trending topics to promote your URL, posting inane comments purely to get some profile, using irrelevant #hashtags #every #monday #tuesday and #wednesday to get your #design #business into as many #twitter #feeds as possible; these things will get you a block, not a boost. And quite right too.
Words: Gary Marshall
Gary Marshall is a freelance journalist, columnist, author, copywriter, scriptwriter and radio talking head, who writes features, news stories and tutorials about technology, the Internet and pop culture.
Have these tips helped you? Do you have any you'd like to add? Tell us in the comments!