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Is social media a waste of time or a valuable networking tool that can help you stand out to potential employers and executive recruiters? The answer is actually both depending on how you use it. If used properly, social networking gives you a chance to demonstrate your thought leadership and set yourself apart from your competition. As an executive and leader, it is critical to demonstrate your expertise online and manage your online brand with the following tips.
 
1. Focus on the 3 major social media channels: Many executives are overwhelmed by social media and all of the options available, from niche industry networks to location-specific networks, and of course, the major social networks that most of our friends and coworkers are using. For your executive job search, it makes sense to use the networks that most headhunters and potential employers are using, which include LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. This may also include Google+ for certain industries, such as the Technology industry. To decide which 3 social networks to use, you should find out which sites are currently being used by your coworkers and thought leaders in your industry.

2. Contribute online editorial content through blogs or online publications: Publishing industry-relevant content via your blog, guest blog posts and/or other online publications is one of the best ways to demonstrate your thoughts on current industry trends. This will also allow you to potentially expand your network to an audience outside of your current network. Be sure to include your social media information at the end of each post or in your executive bio to continue to grow your network.

3. Tell your executive brand story: Resist the urge to simply list your executive resume information on your social networks. You need to pinpoint what makes your executive career interesting and focus your brand messaging around these points. Talk about your achievements, but resist the urge to brag about them; instead, support your accomplishments with quantifiable numbers.

4. Join relevant groups: Find relevant groups to join by searching for industry names, such as “Marketing” or keywords that are used in your industry. Once you find and join the right groups, you need to take an active role. You can take a leadership role in online groups by providing your opinions on current events and trends in your industry. You can also answer members’ questions and provide your expertise through comments and direct messages.

5. Merge your analog and digital networks: Actively attending various types of in-person networking events is still extremely important for executives - including executives who are actively using social networks.  After a networking event, utilize social media sites to reach out to each person you've met to connect and follow up. This will make it easier to stay connected to acquaintances you’ve met in-person and effectively expand your online network.

6. Google yourself: This is especially important for executives currently conducting an executive job search. Both executive recruiters and potential employers are googling you to find out more about your background. Double check that everything that shows up in your Google search properly represents your executive brand and remove anything that does not. In addition, you may want to set up search alerts for your name via Google Alerts (while they are still available) and Mention.net, so that you can be aware of any new search results.

7. Update your BlueSteps profile: AESC member executive search firms work exclusively on a retained basis – this means that hiring organizations pay a retainer fee to the search firm and work exclusively with that firm to fill top leadership positions. The nature of this type of recruitment differentiates BlueSteps from other online job boards and networking sites as it is not necessarily an ‘immediate’ service. Your BlueSteps Career Profile will be in the database for the duration of your career as you never know when your individual qualifications will match up with an active executive search being handled by an AESC member firm. Unlike other services, BlueSteps also offers you a suite of tools and services to help you make connections with search firms and proactively manage your career. For this reason, it’s important to update your BlueSteps profile whenever there has been a recent change in your career.

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