Regardless of your role in education, social media can be a very powerful tool. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn give educators the opportunity to connect with others, find new resources, share what’s going on, and expand their network. However, what does it look like to maintain a professional online presence, and why should you consider creating one in the first place?
Let’s take a look at how social media can help you grow as a professional but can also help you promote the great work that you’re doing in your role. Making a great impression in a professional profile can go a long way.
Why maintain a professional presence online?
There are several reasons why it’s beneficial for you to maintain a professional presence online. Let’s begin with some statistics.
In 2020, 67 percent of employers used social media sites to research potential job candidates. A fun fact about me is that I recently experienced a direct example of this statistic. For the job that I currently have, the very first thing the recruiter told me was that she looked me up on social media and she was very impressed with my scope of work, my knowledge of education and educational technology, and the way that I present myself online.
She also mentioned that the hiring manager positively remarked that I’m “all over social media”—the hiring manager had already been following me on social media for some time because they were a fan of what I do, and I didn’t even know it.
You never know who you’ll come across on social media, and maintaining a professional presence helps people know who you are, what you do, and what you are passionate about before they meet you.
Seventy percent of employers (in the same survey) believe in screening potential candidates’ social media profiles when considering them for a job opportunity. We’re in an age where looking for new employees on social media is becoming the norm, not the outlier. Even if you’re already employed, if you have a public profile, anyone can read it. Students and families can also look up public educator profiles, and your online presence can yield positive and negative results. There are, unfortunately, educators who have lost their jobs or lost out on job opportunities due to improper conduct online.
In 2019, 93 percent of schools used Facebook for marketing purposes. Other schools, districts, and organizations may have other means of marketing and promoting themselves (such as a school Instagram or an organizational LinkedIn), but ultimately they’re using social media as a means to get their messages and information out. From student events to staff celebrations to community involvement, they’re using social media—and may also be checking other social media platforms as well.
5 Steps to Create and Maintain a Professional Online Presence
1. Consider keeping personal accounts and professional accounts separate: Some people may prefer to keep their personal and professional accounts intertwined, but consider keeping them separate so that your social media feed doesn’t get clogged with multiple posts that may be unrelated to what you want to see. Keeping your accounts separate can also help you curate what kind of professional content you want to post and also what kind of professional content you want to see.
If you do choose to commingle your personal and professional presence into one account, my general rule is that you can be authentic on social media, but post wisely and try to keep it as appropriate as possible (e.g., limit or eliminate rude language, refrain from online bullying, don’t share too much personally identifying information, avoid posting any inappropriate pictures, etc.). I personally use Twitter only to adhere to this strategy. My LinkedIn is strictly professional.
2. Make time management part of your social media strategy: When maintaining a professional social media presence, it’s often a misconception that you need to be “on” all the time or post constantly. A general rule of thumb is to post twice per day, and some platforms (such as Twitter) even give you the option to schedule your posts so that you can move forward with your responsibilities without having to take time out of your day.
Also, try to make a concerted effort to go on social media at least once weekly to see what thought leaders in your field are doing and posting. Many of them use hashtags (examples include #math, #edtech, #professionaldevelopment) to share their work.
3. Post your work in your current role in a positive light: Schools, employers, and recruiters or hiring managers (if you’re thinking about pursuing a new role) like to see what people are doing. It’s a great way to stand out among your colleagues and other candidates.
Posting about activities that students or staff are doing, webinars, conferences or seminars you’re giving or attending, or just any general learning that has piqued your interest are great to share out on social media. Doing this shows what you’re interested in and passionate about in your work. As a guideline, don’t include pictures of students’ faces, and be sure to ask faculty, staff, or colleagues for their consent before posting a picture with them in it.
4. When applicable, share resources related to your field: Sharing resources, articles, and information can lead to other folks wanting to exchange other ideas and resources with you and—at times—can even lead to a collaboration. This can also help establish your professional profile: Sharing field-related information gives the audience a picture of who you are and what you do.
5. Participate in asynchronous social events: You can attend several online events that can help you grow as a professional. My personal favorites are Twitter “slow chats,” where a host asks questions and people respond with their answers in their own time, such as one from ISTE Community Leaders. However, there are also virtual meet-ups and virtual working spaces where you can meet other folks in education and get to learn more about them and what they do.