The Personal and Professional Benefits of Social Media

By: Kevin Kelley, Account Associate for PA Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association

Multiethnic Group of People Socail Networking at Cafe

Image Credit: Social Media Today

As someone who hasn’t posted on Twitter in over a year, updated their Instagram since March, or changed their Facebook profile picture since 2014, I can’t pretend that I’m active on social media. However, I’m still utilizing social media constantly. Why? It is an amazing tool to grow both professionally and personally. Although I enjoy seeing posts from family and friends, I spend the majority of my time on social media learning about new topics. These are some of the ways I try to utilize social media to its maximum potential.

Discover information you want or need

Social media revolutionized the way that people consume and share news. However, the amount of available information can quickly become overwhelming. Organizing your social media accounts makes info consumption more manageable. For example, you can use lists on Twitter to segment accounts into particular categories. During my social media internship with the Malini Foundation, lists were a lifesaver. I could find the most pertinent information to share with the organization’s audience. This helped expand the number of followers for the foundation, which was a goal that I set at the start of my internship. Even when using my personal account, I make lists when I want to filter the information on my feed.

Engage with a wide range of representation

On social media, I try to follow accounts that expand my worldview. This could be information relevant to my professional interests, such as the rise of tech in media (Wired), world events (Truthout) or general PR news (PR Daily). This helps me gain a better understanding of the industries that I potentially want to work in post-graduation. I also utilize social media to explore new personal interests, like trans politics (Darkmatter) or zine culture (Born n Bread). The information I’ve read has shaped the kind of person that I am, and consequently, the kind of content that I create. Thus, I hold the belief that if you aren’t passionate about an account’s content, unfollow them. There are so many accounts begging for your attention; challenge yourself to discover something new.

Stay on top of trends

I believe one of social media’s biggest influences is how trends originate. Hashtags seemingly create trends overnight. Conversely, these trends can end fairly quickly. By the time that I finally understand the references of social media trends, they seem like old news. Yet, it’s important as an aspiring PR professional to stay on top of this content. Engaging with data analytics helps to put into perspective what is truly important and what is a passing fad. For example, Google Trends is a great free tool to see how often a particular search-term is utilized. This is especially helpful in investigating terms that have a sudden rise in popularity. By understanding the contemporary media landscape, you will benefit both personally and professionally.

Study brands that engage properly (and critique those that don’t)

Certain brands and companies manage to stand out from the crowd through their unique social media executions. One of my favorite examples in recent memory is the Snapchat content for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). LACMA’s Snapchats combine the museum’s artwork with captions that reference contemporary culture. It works effectively as it shows the kinds of art the LACMA houses and makes the audience invested into the future social media posts. Buzzfeed’s Tasty has also done an amazing job utilizing the visual nature of Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube to expand its fan base. Its videos only last about 60 seconds, which helps to keep viewers interested. Tasty has 75 million likes on Facebook alone — a very impressive feat. These strategies used have made me consider the importance of creating content that an audience finds intriguing. If you haven’t already, I’d suggest studying brands or companies that you enjoy. It’s a great way to understand what does and doesn’t work on social media.

Utilize social media for research

As a senior, I’ve completed all kinds of communications projects. Beside utilizing library resources (which are also underrated!), I’ve found social media is very beneficial for additional background research. It is extremely helpful with understanding the branding strategy that a company is using at a given time. An organization’s social media can demonstrate its needs, tone, and target audience. You could even look at what the CEO or other top executives are posting about. Since PR is all about comprehending the interests of the client’s audience, studying their social media ensures that your own work will reflect this. However, this is assuming that your client uses social media effectively, which many corporations do not. If so, recognizing areas for improvement will help you plan how to effectively advise your client. Investigating social media is also helpful for an internship/job search. Trust me, this additional research will give you a multi-dimensional understanding of the company or brand!

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