Social Media for Professional Networking

Take steps to establish a positive web presence

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Learning Scope #395
1 contact hour
Expires Aug. 20, 2014

You can earn 1 contact hour of continuing education credit in three ways: 1) Grade and certificate are available immediately after taking the online test. 2) Send the answer sheet (or a photocopy) to ADVANCE for Nurses, Learning Scope, 2900 Horizon Dr., King of Prussia, PA 19406. 3) Fax the answer sheet to 610-278-1426. If faxing or mailing, allow 30 days to receive certificate or notice of failure. A certificate of credit will be awarded to participants who achieve a passing grade of 70 percent or better.

Merion Matters is an approved provider of continuing nursing education by the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association (No. 221-3-O-09), an accredited approver by the American Nurses Credentialing Center's Commission on Accreditation.

Merion Matters is also approved as a provider by the California Board of Registered Nursing (No. 13230) and by the Florida Board of Nursing (No. 3298).

The goal of this continuing education offering is to provide nurses with current information on how to use social media to improve professional networks and establish a positive web presence. After reading this article, you will be able to:

1. Define current technologies available for establishing a professional presence using social networks.
2. Identify available social media resources for establishing professional networks for nurses and healthcare professionals.
3. Implement effective strategies for creating the professional presence profile utilizing the internet and social media.

The author has completed a disclosure form and reports no relationships relevant to the content of this article.

The rise of social media has created tremendous opportunities for healthcare professionals and changed the landscape for how nurses communicate, connect and access networking circles and career resources. For example, in the past, nurses typed up resumes on pricey business paper and sent them out via snail mail. Later, applicants faxed resumes to potential employers. Today, much of our communication takes place through email or social media. A LinkedIn profile is the equivalent of a hard-copy resume.

As of October 2011, more than 1,200 hospitals used social media, including Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.1 In addition, nursing organizations such as the American Nurses Association and the National League for Nursing as well as countless others look to social media to solicit feedback and update the nursing community about policies, events and career opportunities for colleagues worldwide.

In this article, we will discuss social media that can assist the nurse in maximizing professional opportunities. We also will look at select professional and social networking sites, resources and tools to help create a proactive profile, and strategies for building a professional network.

Current Technologies
Technologies available for establishing a professional presence include professional and social networking sites, electronic profiles, the vCard and email. (Blogs and collaborative groups will be outside the scope of this offering.) These tools and applications that help to create a professional presence are easy to implement. What's trickier is learning what content should go into each of these modalities and what content should be left out.

According to eBizMBA, the professional and social networking sites most commonly used today include Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter and Orkut.2 For the purpose of this article, we will focus on Facebook and LinkedIn; however, the guidelines that follow can be applied to any networking site.

One of the most popular professional networking sites is LinkedIn. LinkedIn allows the user to create a profile that lists details that ordinarily would be found on the resume. This profile is the basis for the individual's "network." For example, in my profile, I list my experience integrating technologies; consequently, the site matches me up with other people that share this same experience. LinkedIn works with your current contact list from your email account and can match up other professionals with similar profiles that use the site. To network with a person on LinkedIn, there is a connect tool that allows you to select and email the potential connection. LinkedIn also attracts recruiters, potential employers and professional organizations, and the user has the ability to both join and create groups.

Facebook is a social networking site many people use to connect and reconnect with friends and family. With Facebook, users create a profile that includes their personal and professional information. The difference between Facebook and LinkedIn lies in the type of information shared. Facebook was designed for personal use; therefore, information such as birthdate, hobbies, religion, politics, likes and dislikes are shared with your "Facebook Friends."

Much of this personal information is considered private and illegal for use in employment hiring decisions. However, to be safe, if connecting with professionals via Facebook, maximize the privacy settings to control what your professional contacts view on your page. A better alternative would be to create a professional Facebook page using a professional email account and not sharing your personal profile.

Branch Out is a Facebook application geared toward professional networking. In essence, you "grow" your network by starting with your Facebook Friends and then the application matches your profile and career interests with matches from your friends' profiles. For example, if you were looking for a staff position in a local hospital, the app will scan your contacts' profiles to see who works at that facility and what their positions are. The idea is to contact that person to see if he or she would pass your information to the hiring manager.

Effective Strategies
I teach all levels of nursing and include social media in learning assignments. I once had a learner post a status update to her Facebook wall that belittled her college and the professors (myself included) using profanity to express her dissatisfaction. Fortunately for this learner, the college did not have a social media policy in place just yet and I talked the learner into deleting the post. As it stands now, this particular instance would have been grounds for dismissal from the college.

Remember that with social media, you are producing a powerful, written account of your life. At least 45 percent of employers use social networking sites to screen job applicants.3 According to a 2010 report by Microsoft, "Take Charge of Your Online Reputation," 15 percent of consumers surveyed believed what they posted online affected their ability to be hired by a potential employer.4 Conversely, the same report found 75 percent of recruiters surveyed reported they were required to perform an online search when an applicant applies for work.

According to Vicky Rinehart, president at InSync Healthcare Recruiters LLC, "[s]ocial networking is all about making connections." Rinehart believes social networking is becoming the preferred way of initiating contact with job seekers and is an alternative to advertising on job boards. Social networking helps the recruiter identify candidates who may not look at ads for jobs but are willing to post information about themselves on a website.

Rinehart goes on to say when hiring, many businesses expect social media to be the only way to get results. In today's competitive market, all avenues of hiring must be considered. Candidates looking for work must remember employers review everything they post on social networking sites and make hiring decisions based on what they see. Rinehart cautions professionals from placing specific opinions about political, religious or other topics that could be considered controversial on their personal and professional pages.

Stop Signs
To continue this thought and identify what specifically might hinder employment prospects, take a look at the following statistics compiled by CareerBuilder.com.3 The survey polled employers and recruiters regarding what information contained in the background checks influenced their decision not to hire a candidate:

• 53 percent of recruiters stated the candidate posted provocative or inappropriate photographs or information.
• 44 percent of recruiters stated the candidate posted content about drinking or using drugs.
• 35 percent of recruiters stated the candidate badmouthed previous employers, co-workers or clients.
• 29 percent of recruiters stated the candidate showed poor communication skills.
• 26 percent of recruiters stated the candidate made discriminatory comments.

Check with your facility to see if they have a social networking policy. If they do not, use common sense in what you share online, particularly on social networking sites. This means being consciously aware anything you say is being recorded for the entire world to see. Even if you have privacy settings and delete the content, employers can extract posts typed on company computers. In terms of practical examples, this means don't use foul language or post updates about work, patient information, or pictures that depict you drinking alcohol or wearing compromising clothing. The written word can and will be used for or against you. Choose to be proactive and make it work for you.

Creating a Proactive Profile
Start with your resume to create your professional profile. To assist in identifying attributes that you may want to include, see what employers consider when hiring candidates after conducting the online screening.3• 50 percent of employers thought the profile provided a good feel for the candidate's personality and fit.

• 39 percent of employers thought the profile supported the candidate's professional qualifications.
• 38 percent of employers thought the candidate had a creative profile.
• 35 percent stated the profile showed a candidate who had solid communication skills.
• 33 percent of employers could see from the profile the candidate was well-rounded.
• 19 percent of employers stated positive recommendations on the candidate profile contributed to hiring the candidate.
• 15 percent of employers listed rewards and accolades as influential in the hiring decision.

In addition to the statistics above, take a look at other profiles to get an idea of what your new profile should look like. Also, LinkedIn has an application that will automatically screen your profile and suggest improvements. You also may want to include a professional picture of yourself for your profile. (I use the same picture for all of my professional sites to maintain consistency.) Then, try to get recommendations from previous employers, colleagues and mentors - and offer to return the favor. Keep your profile updated and include any blogs or websites that display your professional presence.

Once your profile is 100 percent complete (LinkedIn will let you know when you hit that mark), add connections to your network. Allow LinkedIn to scan for potential connections. From there, you will want to look for groups that interest you and add connections from them as well. If connecting with people you don't know, send them an email through the site requesting the connection, stating why you would like to connect and thanking them in advance for considering the request. Try to expand your network by adding fellow members of groups, colleagues, former co-workers, and old and new classmates.

Email and vCard
Once you establish or redefine your network, you will want to be sure to keep in touch with your colleagues. Email has become the new cover letter, thank you note and business letter. To present yourself in the best light, be sure to address each email with a subject line, a proper citation and a signature. Most email systems allow the user to create a standard signature. If you have a professional profile, now is your chance to add that to your signature line. Also, many professionals like to add their contact information such as phone number and email.

Here's a sample signature line:

Take Care,
Maria Lauer-Pfrommer, PhD, APN-C, CNE
Cell: 609-555-1070
http://www.linkedin.com/in/drlauerpfrommer

Another option is to create a vCard (the "v" standing for virtual). A vCard is the equivalent of a business card. To create a vCard, follow your email provider's instructions. For general information on how to create a vCard, check out Microsoft's website. If you have a smartphone, see if there is an application like Bump, which allows the sharing of your vCard via your cell phone when both parties have the application. It is currently available for the iPhone and Android smartphones.

Organizing Contacts
We no longer need the Rolodex card files or a phone book. You can use your email account to create a contact management system. Organizing the contacts in your network is an important organizational skill that will save you time and pay off when you need to reconnect with someone you met in person and through professional or social networking.

To create a contact management system, utilize the contact feature of your email provider and follow the directions for downloading the file. With some accounts, you can even import your Facebook and LinkedIn connections into the contact system. Then, the contact list can be downloaded to your computer. GIST is a helpful application that can be used on the computer or smartphone to import and organize contacts. It also keeps you current on their latest updates, profile changes and posts.

Endless Possibilities
In this article, we discussed social media and select professional and social networking sites, resources and tools to assist in creating a proactive profile, and strategies for creating the professional network. In particular, we looked at strategies for turning the resume into the professional profile and tools that will assist in maintaining the network - namely, a contact management system, a vCard, the signature line on email and the professional profile.The resources discussed in this article will serve as a start to exploring the endless possibilities and advantages that social and professional networks bring to the nursing field.

References
1. Bennett, E. (2011). Hospital social network list. Retrieved Aug. 14, 2012 from the World Wide Web: http://ebennett.org/hsnl
2. EbizMBA. (2012). Top 15 most popular social networking sites. Retrieved Aug. 14, 2012 from the World Wide Web: http://www.ebizmba.com/articles/social-networking-websites
3. Graxz, J. (2009). Forty-five percent of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates, CareerBuilder survey finds. Retrieved Aug. 14, 2012 from the World Wide Web: http://www.careerbuilder.com/share/aboutus/pressreleasesdetail.aspx?id=pr519&sd=8/19/2009&ed=12/31/2009
4. Microsoft Corp. (2010). Take charge of your online reputation. Retrieved Aug. 14, 2012 from the World Wide Web: http://www.microsoft.com/security/online-privacy/reputation.aspx

Resources
1. Dealing With Your Digital Dirt: http://www.abilitiesenhanced.com/digital-dirt.pdf
2. American Nurses Association's Social Networking Principles Toolkit: http://www.nursingworld.org/socialnetworkingtoolkit
3. National Council of State Boards of Nursing's White Paper: "A Nurse's Guide to the Use of Social Media": https://www.ncsbn.org/Social_Media.pdf

Maria Lauer-Pfrommer
is chief clinical officer/owner of iHealth Services LLC, Moorestown, NJ.




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