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The Best Social Sites for Networking

We live, play, interact shop and work online. In fact, the first place recruiters often engage with a candidate is via their professional and personal profiles. But which sites are worth your time when it comes to job hunting—and how do they differ?

LinkedIn

"LinkedIn is megaphone," says Katie Fogarty, a career strategist and the founder of The Reboot Group, which has worked with employees from American Express and Fox News. "There's no cheaper, easier, faster way to reach a global audience." In other words, you cannot afford to not have a LinkedIn profile.

If you do not have an account, create one. When you begin fleshing out your profile, start with the 'About You' box, which should be a value statement about what your work delivers. Then purposefully and thoroughly complete the many sections available on a profile.

"Don't be shy," counsels Ann Burr Clevenger, a social and digital media evangelist who's worked with Consumer Reports and CBS News, "If you have published work, upload it. If you've been on camera, link to it," she says.

Another tip: Engage the banner that can now appear at the top of your profile to let recruiters know you are actively looking for a new opportunity. And ask former employers or colleagues to write endorsements for you, which serve as solid recommendations from credible sources who can vouch for your skills and work ethic.

Twitter

Twitter is great for connecting with others in your field and participating in real time conversations about relevant hot topics. Use the link in the bio on your profile page to direct followers to your LinkedIn profile or your personal website — and make sure to follow both your industry's leaders and relevant hashtags.

But be careful: no one likes a Twitter feed that is nothing but self-promotion. The ratio you should aim for is 1/3 new content, 1/3 retweets of others' related content, and 1/3 promotion of your own work.

Instagram

If you work (or want to!) in any sort of visual field—graphic design, gardening, hair or skincare — you need to be on Instagram. Opting out is a missed opportunity to showcase your creativity and to have others discover it by using hashtags. To create an impressive profile, start by isolating what appeals to you on the profiles you like. Is it the font? The fact that all images use the same color palette. Or the amount of white space? Then try to emulate that.

Another strategy:
Take stock of your own content to determine what shows best—and then curate your profile to highlight it. "Maybe you usually shoot from one perspective, or the best images are black and white," says Dorie Herman, who has worked as a designer for companies including House Beautiful magazine and Guardian Life Insurance. "Purposefully veer toward that."

Pinterest

Another visually-oriented site, Pinterest is great for showing off your artistry and style. On this site, you create "boards" or groups of images that can be links to content you like, or your own uploaded content. When creating boards, think through the visual vibe (colorful? simple?) that you'd like to have for each, then pin photos that match.

One way to gain visibility:
contribute to boards that are "collaborative;" meaning, anyone can join the (visual) conversation by pinning relevant content. Leaving thoughtful comments on pins related to your own vibe and content will prompt other users to follow you, which demonstrates expertise and credibility to any potential employers who might check out your Pinterest presence.

Facebook

Facebook works well for networking because it has privacy options that can help you hide personal content from professional contacts. Do this by assigning your contacts to lists such as "professional" or "personal," and then specify which lists have access to your various posts.

Joining public groups related to your field is another way you can network on Facebook. First. make sure you've filled in your own profile with contact information and your professional biography so that it's easy for potential employers or valuable contacts to connect with you. Then participate in group conversations and leave well-crafted comments on threads to distinguish yourself.

The most important thing to remember when it comes to using any site to network is that it is a conversation. "It's not about tooting your own horn," Katie Fogarty says. "Online networking is a chance to check in with your network and share information. Above all, it's a dialogue."

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Audrey Brashich

Audrey Brashich

Career Advice Contributor

Audrey D. Brashich covers lifestyle trends, pop culture, and parenthood for national publications including The Washington Post and Yahoo. She is also the author of "All Made Up: A Girl’s Guide to Seeing Through Celebrity Hype and Celebrating Real Beauty."

More Articles by Audrey Brashich