Whether we’re sharing life experiences or posting photos, social media connects us all—and it’s no longer just friends talking. Today, social media has become a new frontier for employment. It expands how jobseekers and employers interact before and during recruitment. A 2016 survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that 84% of organizations use social recruiting methods to both post job descriptions and “passively” recruit candidates before descriptions even go out. As such, it’s more important than ever for jobseekers to improve their appeal as potential candidates by crafting their own digital brand.

Last month Ted Drake, a front-end engineer, developer and accessibility expert at Intuit, joined us for a PEAT Talk on what it takes to successfully build a digital brand. He discussed how jobseekers with disabilities can use social media to start successful careers. Though not a human resources or talent acquisition professional, Ted’s experience using social tools led him to a job with Yahoo! and ultimately to the position he holds today.

The Case for Building an Online Brand

By following his passion early in his career, Ted began learning new skills and working on projects he enjoyed, all while building a “web of an online brand.” He spread his expertise across social media platforms, as many of his colleagues with disabilities have done. For example, Ted highlighted the story of Jennison Asuncion, who now leads digital accessibility initiatives at LinkedIn. Jennison leveraged his passion for web accessibility to make a career change into the field, in large part by becoming known nationally and even internationally for his high-quality Twitter postings on the subject.

Ted advises creating a persona online to showcase expertise, talent, and passion in order to catch the eye of recruiters. Ted shared the following tips for developing an online brand:

  1. Make sure people can find you. Jobseekers should have profiles online that are connected to their name and accurately represent their interests. One way to check this is by Google searching your name and reviewing the results.
  2. Share content that makes you, you. Focus on sharing information about your passions, specialties, and other skills that are eye-catching to recruiters.
  3. Connect your content. Blogs, social media platforms, videos—your professional online content should be linked across different networks.
  4. Own your brand. Creating a personal blog or website provides a showcase for your social media accounts and the projects you work on. Recruiters want to see what you’re creating.
  5. Keep your brand consistent. Choose one username for every platform. This ensures a strong, recognizable brand. For example, PEAT uses www.peatworks.org, @PEATWorks on Twitter, and Facebook.com/peat.works.
  6. Jobseekers need LinkedIn. This employment-oriented social network is ideal for sharing professional history and accomplishments. Recruiters may reach out directly on LinkedIn.
  7. Take it offline. Personal connections strengthen brand identity. Attending conferences puts you face-to-face with people you’ve interacted with online and allows connections to deepen. Ted recommended lanyrd.com and meetup.com as two sources of event information. And if you’ve presented at a conference, be sure to add your speech or slideshow to your social media accounts.

Tips for Resumes and Online Media

Ted also passed on a few lessons about managing your online presentation and reputation:

  1. Recruiters aren’t interested in school assignments or GPA. They want to know what a person has accomplished with what they learned in school or through personal projects.
  2. Hiring managers look for signs of bad character. Ted warned participants not to post insulting comments, to always interact cordially with others online, and to provide constructive (not mean) criticism.
  3. The Internet is permanent. Jobseekers should refrain from posting content they wouldn’t want anyone to see, especially if they want to protect their privacy while curating their digital brand.
  4. Use correct spelling and proper grammar. Ted encouraged participants to use spellcheck, proofread their work, and get comfortable with writing.

Ensuring Social Media Accessibility

Ted acknowledged that social media isn’t always accessible, but it’s evolving. Most platforms are making positive strides toward accessibility. Twitter now allows users to add alt-text to images, for example. Ted emphasized the importance of both employers and jobseekers in making their posts accessible through methods like captioned videos so that they can find each other. For more information, PEAT’s video and tipsheet on social media contain advice anyone can follow.

To learn more about Ted’s tips for building an online brand, view the archived PEAT Talk. Please also share any experiences with building a digital brand and how it has impacted your job search below!