From Likes to Leaps: Best Practices From 3 Experts on Professional Use of Social Media

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November 13, 2023
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min read

3 key takeaways:

  • Best practices for building a professional social media presence
  • Stories from 3 experts on building your brand across platforms
  • Using Teal’s LinkedIn Review Tool to optimize your social profile

Love it or hate it, social media is here to stay.

And while it's not the only key to your career path, learning about the professional use of social media can open doors you might not even know existed.

In today’s digital age, social sites aren't just for sharing cat videos or your favorite dragon book series (though they're great for that, too); they've also evolved into dynamic spaces for networking, personal branding, and job searching.

But how exactly can social media give your career a boost? What are the best practices for using it effectively? And how do you make connections that really count?

The article below highlights best practices for using social media professionally. It also shares stories from three social media experts who've built impressive careers across different platforms. Discover their top tips and insights for a hands-on guide to leveraging social media for your professional growth.

Understanding the professional use of social media

 Think of professional social media as your digital handshake in the business world.

It's all about using platforms like LinkedIn, X, TikTok, and Instagram to showcase your skills, connect with other professionals, and keep up with industry trends.

Why does social media matter?

Well, it's a game-changer for career growth, networking opportunities, and personal branding—like having a 24/7 networking event at your fingertips.

The difference between personal and professional use of social media

What is professional use of social media vs. personal use of social media?

Here's the deal: personal social media is like your virtual living room—a place for sharing vacation photos, what you had for lunch, or that run you went on three months ago. It's where you convey the more intimate details of your life with people you trust and know—usually outside of your job.

Professional social media, on the other hand, is more like your digital business card. It's where you share achievements, what you're learning in a way that teaches others, thoughtful insights and opinions on the latest trends, and more. The key is maintaining a more professional tone and brand while focusing on content that adds value to your career.

Can the two overlap? Yes, of course. But be mindful that if they do, the personal level at which you share information should be considered appropriate for your professional life in whatever industry or field you work in.

Best practices for building a professional social media presence

Navigating the professional social media world is exciting but can be a bit daunting when there's so much to consider.

Whether you're just starting or looking to improve your existing online presence, below are some best practices to guide you in creating your professional profile in a way that not only showcases your skills and experiences but also resonates with the community you're trying to build.

Choosing the right platforms for professional social networking

Every social media platform has its unique flavor and audience. 

LinkedIn, for instance, is a powerhouse for professional networking, while Instagram might be the go-to for creatives, and TikTok spans the dynamic with visually engaging content that appeals to a very diverse audience (depending on your algorithm, of course).

Identifying which platforms align best with your profession and target audience is crucial. Spend your time, effort, and energy where it counts!

Develop professional profiles

Here's where the art of balance comes into play. Your social media profiles should reflect your professional persona while showing off your personality.

This balance between professional and personal lives can make your presence relatable and more engaging to your audience.

Optimize your professional profile

A well-structured and organized social profile can be your ticket to new opportunities.

For example, optimizing your LinkedIn profile by using a professional photo and crafting a compelling summary helps align your online persona with what recruiters or collaborators are searching for.

Research across every social media site you use, and fine-tune the details of your online presence based on the best practices for that specific platform—ensuring that your skills, experiences, and brand resonate clearly with the needs and interests of your target audience.

Think of this approach as turning each profile into the Bat-Signal, making it easier for the right opportunities to find their way to you.

Pro Tip: Use the Teal LinkedIn Review Tool to optimize your social presence by following personalized suggestions. Then, re-run the analysis to see how your profile stacks up. And if you're struggling to generate the perfect "About" section—try using Teal's AI summary generator to beat the blank page.

Optimizing professional use of social media
Optimize your LinkedIn profile to stand out in a sea of connections and creators.

Posting relevant and engaging content

Your content reflects your professional interests and areas of expertise.

Share articles, thoughts, or stories relevant to your field and audience. Engaging, relevant content attracts followers, sparks conversations, and builds your professional network.

Showcase your achievements and projects

Don't shy away from sharing your accomplishments and ongoing projects. Remember, this is how you build trust in your expertise—highlighting your skills and impact.

Engage with your community

Active participation in your professional community can significantly boost your social presence. 

Comment on posts, join groups and contribute to conversations. Rather than exclusively focusing on yourself, your engagement shows an interest in others.

Stay updated and continuously learn

The digital world is ever-evolving.

Stay up to date and informed about the latest trends in your industry, and social media shows your commitment to growth and continuous learning.

This dedication not only keeps you at the top of your game but also demonstrates your adaptability and eagerness to stay relevant in a rapidly changing environment.

Building a Network of Professionals

Networking is at the heart of social media. But doing so correctly takes a bit of work.

Connect with peers, mentors, and industry leaders. Engage with their content. And remember, it's about building relationships, not just adding contacts.

Pro Tip: If you find yourself not getting interviews, networking and building solid relationships is another helpful way to get your foot in the door.

Align your personal brand

Your social media can be an extension of your personal brand. 

If this is the case, be consistent in how you present yourself across platforms. For example, if you have a professional Instagram, it should somewhat mirror a similar personality to your TikTok. This consistency is key to building a recognizable and trusted identity.

Maintaining professionalism on social media

While the definition of what's considered professional may have shifted over the years (gone are the days of three-piece suits from the Mad Men era), maintaining a level of professionalism on social media comes down to a few factors that are still relevant and important to understand. (Without the three-martini lunch, of course.)

Importance of consistent activity and engagement

Professionalism on social media isn't just about what you post but also about how often and how you engage with your audience. 

Whether on LinkedIn, TikTok, Instagram, or Facebook, consistently publishing quality content keeps your profile active and engaging. (And it demonstrates dedication and reliability.) 

To show attentiveness and a willingness to interact (in turn promoting a positive and professional image), engage with your audience through:

  • Comments
  • Thoughtful conversations
  • Messages
  • Likes and return follows or connections

Recruiter Mike Peditto's transformative journey through social media, particularly TikTok, is a story of finding his voice, brand, and career.

TikTok example for professional use of social media
Build your professional presence on social media sites through authentic engagement.

Despite not having a background in big tech or notable companies, Mike leveraged TikTok's video format to showcase his relatability and expertise. His authentic approach rapidly built a community of over 100,000 followers and 1.7 million likes in just eight months. He says:

"I always stress (and cannot stress enough) how much joining TikTok absolutely changed my life and built me a career and a brand when I had never done any of this before."

This success took hard work but also led to unexpected opportunities, including coaching requests and contract work, ultimately allowing Peditto to launch his own consulting business.

5 essential tips on how to use social media professionally from Mike's experience

  1. Embrace your authentic self: There are a ton of gurus who will tell you the hack or the trick to success, but long-lasting social media appeal comes from being authentic and letting the right audience find you. Going viral vs. building an audience who wants to see you are two very different things.
  2. Build a community: Social media isn't just about you. Engage regularly through live streams and interactive content to build a dedicated following.
  3. Use metrics to your advantage: Numbers talk. Highlight your social media metrics to prove your influence and expertise when approaching potential clients or employers.
  4. Branch out: Don't just stick to one path, especially if your career feels stagnant (by choice or by circumstance). Leverage your social media success to explore new opportunities, like coaching or consulting in your area of expertise.
  5. Stay consistent and persistent: If you want to build a professional network using a social media strategy, you have to give people what they want. Regular engagement and content creation are key to building and maintaining a strong online presence.

Guidelines for interacting professionally on social media

The way you communicate across platforms reflects your professional persona. 

  • Always be respectful, courteous, and considerate in your interactions. (And while digital autonomy is very prevalent, it's important to remember there are real people on the other side of the screen.)
  • Avoid controversial or polarizing topics unless they're relevant to your field. 
  • Use clear, concise language.

And, of course, it's important to recognize what you post on social media can often be seen by potential employers, clients, or business partners—if you can't keep it within these guidelines, consider leaving it for your personal social media platforms.

 Dealing with negative comments or feedback

Not everyone is going to like what you say. In fact, even the most simple, least controversial statements can cause an upset. 

In a professional context, handling criticism or negative feedback with balance is crucial. 

Mike Peditto says,

"Handling negative comments is an art. You can ignore, confront, or roll with them. I've learned to use them as a stepping stone for more content.

For instance, after a comment about my appearance (and how I should change specific things for my wife), I got a haircut and shaved—presenting myself in a suit and tie. This was met with a mix of amusement and a clear message from my followers: they valued the real me, not a version shaped by others' ideas of 'professionalism.'

Remember, it's not about taking it personally, but about deciding how you respond and what you make of it."

Leveraging personal social media for professional opportunities

Former recruiter Leah Dillon could give a masterclass on how to leverage your personal social media for professional opportunities. Leah transformed her career path to become a social media manager for Teal, predominantly through her strategic use of LinkedIn. 

Professional use of social media on LinkedIn
Leverage your social media for genuine connection and professional opportunities.

Dillon began by self-educating and sharing her knowledge and insights on LinkedIn—engaging in relevant conversations and posting content people were interested in—balancing her personal brand with professional content and becoming a thought leader among recruiters.

“When I started looking for work, I was told LinkedIn is where you find jobs. What I didn’t see was advice only on how to do it, how to get your resume right, and how to network… it just felt like a wall was up between recruiters and job seekers.

I began by talking about things I learned: for example, as a recruiting coordinator, I talked about the importance of an RC in the recruiting function, and I’d make posts about communicating with scheduling.

When I started recruiting recruiters, I’d post about how we want to see the types of positions and requisition volume in past roles—sharing what hiring managers were asking for to help boost someone’s resume and chances of getting interviews.”

This approach of giving advice like she’d like to receive it humanized Leah’s interactions and avoided inauthenticity (for example, chasing likes or flaunting follower counts). She built real relationships.

Over time, Leah's genuine approach to sharing her expertise and networking built her reputation and personal brand. The level of growth she experienced eventually turned into a nontraditional job search—introducing her to new career opportunities in social media, leading to a career pivot that matched her skills and interests in recruiting and social media.

7 tips on how to use social media professionally from Leah's experience:

  1. Become a subject matter expert: Do your research. Develop expertise in your field through self-study and practical involvement.
  2. Share your knowledge: Don’t gatekeep information. Regularly post insights and interesting articles and join relevant conversations on LinkedIn with others in your industry. Give advice or context like you would need or want.
  3. Focus on authentic engagement: Don’t just post for clout or status. Create content based on your knowledge, and avoid inauthentic tactics like asking for likes or boasting about follower counts.
  4. Build a personal brand: You are not your company’s brand. Consistently share your expertise and interests to establish a recognizable personal brand.
  5. Humanize interactions: Your connections are human—just like you. Relate to your peers by sharing personal insights and experiences, making your content more relatable and engaging.
  6. Proactive professional networking: Don't just network when you're in need. Regularly engage with connections to stay top of mind and maintain genuine relationships through consistent communication.
  7. Quality over quantity: You don’t need to share something every day, especially when you’re first starting out. Focus on building meaningful connections rather than amassing a large number of superficial contacts.

Communicating professionally through social media

Videographer Liam Boehning's professional journey demonstrates the impact of social media in creating a variety of opportunities outside of one streamlined career. 

Communicating and using social media professionally
Stay truly connected by engaging with your audience as often as you can.

Initially, Liam used social media to share his passion for tech and gaming (and he still does with a combined 200k followers across YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram), unaware that a story about a fake job opportunity would open doors to an unforeseen position. His engaging content attracted the attention of Teal CEO Dave Fano, leading to an unexpected job offer that went beyond his initial social media focus. 

Boehning's story is a vivid example of how versatile and influential social media can be in professional development, especially when infused with the right intention and creativity.

One thing he emphasizes is the importance of communication, interaction, and engagement on social media platforms. When it comes to ways to communicate professionally through social media, Liam says:

"The core of my approach is staying connected with my audience. While it's challenging for big brands to engage with every comment, it's something I try to focus on.

I see responding to comments and answering questions as part of being a good creator; for me, it's about how I engage in those conversations—it's about tone and language. You’re not putting on a show; respond like an average person.

And it's this style of direct communication that's enabled me to help my audience with something they need and opened doors for me to collaborate with other brands."

5 tips for how to use social media professionally from Liam's experience:

  1. Create content in your niche: Focus on topics you're passionate about—something that genuinely interests you. The more you love it, the more people will feel it.
  2. Engage with your audience: Respond to comments and engage with your viewers to establish a strong connection with your audience and increase visibility to brands or other collaborators.
  3. Be authentic: Share your genuine thoughts and opinions in an engaging way. Authenticity in your content will resonate far more than trying to be something or someone you're not.
  4. Leverage audience interaction for opportunities: Use your platform to interact with brands and your audience—creating potential collaboration opportunities.
  5. Balance creativity with professionalism: While being creative, present yourself in a way that appeals to others. It's a delicate balance, but ultimately, it's about crafting a unique and relatable persona while still maintaining a professional image t. that people want to partner with. 

5 mistakes to avoid when using social media professionally

Now that you know what to do, let's review some common mistakes to avoid when using social media platforms professionally.

  1. Inconsistent branding across platforms: Failing to maintain a consistent personal brand across different social media platforms can confuse your audience and weaken your professional image.
  2. Overlooking profile optimization: Not optimizing your social media profiles with a professional photo, a compelling summary, or relevant keywords can make you harder to find for potential employers or collaborators.
  3. Neglecting network building: Focusing solely on increasing follower count rather than engaging and building genuine relationships is a missed opportunity for meaningful and deep growth.
  4. Mixing personal and professional content inappropriately: Blurring the lines between personal and professional content without considering the appropriateness for your professional audience can harm your image. (And truthfully, it all depends on your industry. So it's important you know it well.) 
  5. Ignoring engagement: Everyone is busy, but Failing to actively engage with your community by commenting, sharing, or participating in discussions can limit your ability to build a strong network.

Upgrade your professional social media presence with Teal

Social platforms are more than just random digital landscapes for endlessly doomscrolling cooking fails; they're springboards for networking, opportunity, and even some self-expression.

Navigating across LinkedIn, TikTok, X, Instagram, and beyond is about strategically sharing achievements, engaging with your community, and continuously evolving with the changes in each platform. It's a balance of showcasing your skills, having meaningful conversations, and staying ahead of the curve.

Are you ready to curate, connect, and captivate? Start by optimizing your LinkedIn profile—sign up for Teal for free today.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some common mistakes to avoid when using social media for professional purposes?

Common mistakes include mixing personal and professional content inappropriately, neglecting to engage with your audience, posting inconsistently, and failing to tailor content to different platforms. It's important to maintain a professional image, actively interact with followers, and understand the unique culture and etiquette of each social media channel.

How can professionals measure the success of their social media efforts?

Success on social media can be measured by setting clear objectives and tracking relevant metrics such as engagement rates, follower growth, website traffic from social media, and conversion rates. Tools like analytics dashboards can provide insights into how well your content is resonating with your audience and contributing to your professional goals.

Can you share a tip for effectively networking on social media platforms?

One effective networking strategy is to actively participate in industry-related groups or discussions by providing valuable insights and advice. This helps establish your expertise and can lead to meaningful connections. Remember to personalize your outreach and follow up with new contacts to foster relationships beyond the initial interaction.

Kayte Grady

Kayte, Senior Copywriter at Teal and Champion of ADHD professionals, is a seasoned writer passionate about storytelling and career growth. With a data-driven approach to content marketing and a word-nerd knack for resume builder analysis, Kayte’s on a mission to empower job seekers to land a job they love. Constantly pivoting and reinventing herself, this social-worker-turned-marketer found growth and camaraderie in tech—a genuine surprise given her never-ending devotion to the paper calendar.

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