In the world of social media, Twitter is a 500-pound gorilla. It’s a veritable powerhouse that has changed how people get their information and created a forum for global conversation never seen before.
Best of all, by enabling you to network with people you wouldn’t normally be able to reach and to create an online profile that attracts potential employers, Twitter can help you build a professional presence that just might get you that dream job — and position you as a thought leader in your field.
On the flip side, if you don’t create a professional looking profile, if you follow people who post nonsense, and if you share things which are offensive or controversial, Twitter can end up wasting your time and damaging your reputation.
We’ve put together a list of tips to help you make the most of Twitter and leverage it for your professional success.
Choose a professional username
Your username is the first thing people will see, so make sure it paints you in a professional light. If you’re new to Twitter and just now creating your account, use your actual name as your username, if possible.
If it’s already taken, however, try some variation of it using your middle initial, a number, your company name, or your school. Tip: Incorporate something that defines your degree or what you do, e.g., @JoeTheWriter.
Create a custom background
Try to avoid using stock photography or one of Twitter’s template backgrounds for your account or you’ll blend into the Twittering crowd. Instead, create a unique, custom look that reflects who you are and what you do.
If you have a logo, design a background that incorporates it. Or, you could use photo of your company building or your workspace. If you’re still in school, consider using a nice photo of your town or campus, or even of yourself. Tip: PicMonkey is a great free tool for creating custom images.
Use a professional-looking head shot
This is the first impression that many will have of you; make sure it’s a good one. If you have a professional looking photo of yourself, use it for your profile image. If you don’t have one, you consider having a few head shots taken by a photographer.
If that’s not in your budget, find a friend who knows how to work the light to ensure that you’re looking your professional best. Tip: If you’re DIY-ing it, search for “professional head shot” on Pinterest for pose and outfit ideas.
Put some thought into your bio
Lots of folks use their Twitter bio to say something cute or funny. And for most people, that’s fine. But if you’re trying to create a professional aura, you need to use this part of your profile effectively. Think of it as a mini-résumé or elevator pitch, and say who you are, what you do, and why people should follow you.
For example: “Personal Branding and Marketing Specialist with 12 years of experience. I help people excel in who they are.” Or, “Active college student with a strong work ethic and passion for helping others.”
Tip: be sure to use keywords to make your bio as SEO-friendly as possible.
Tweet about relevant topics
It’s important to have a professional profile, but unless you’re sharing valuable information, it won’t do you any good.
Your tweets are your chance to position yourself as a thought leader in your field or particular area of study. Before you tweet, ask yourself what value it will offer to the kind of people you want to follow you. It’s fine to share something fun every once in a while to reflect your interests and unique personality, just make sure it’s not something off-color or offensive.
Don’t believe me? Just ask Justine Sacco, the PR exec who was fired after her inappropriate tweet caused a social media maelstrom.
Tip: be consistent with your tweets; two or three a day is fine. Just don’t overdo it.
Follow leaders in your field/industry
Who you follow is just as important as what you tweet to others. It demonstrates what you’re interested in and what kind of information is important to you.
Search for leaders in your particular area of expertise or interest, share their best tweets, reply to them and engage in conversations. You never know where it may lead you.
One hundred and forty characters may not seem like a lot, but Twitter can play a major role in helping you establish yourself as a pro and getting you exactly where you want to be.