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How To Network And Market Yourself Using Online Tools


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Conference paper to accompany presentation given at New Professionals Conference 2009. Introduces online professional networking, share my own experiences of blogging, microblogging and social networking, and gives ten top tips for online professional networking.

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How To Network And Market Yourself Using Online Tools

  1. 1. How to network and market yourself using online tools Jo Alcock, University of Wolverhampton Abstract Professional networking is an important part of any career, but is particularly important at the beginning of a career to develop knowledge and build contacts within the profession. With the development and growth of online technologies such as blogging, microblogging and social networking, professional networking can be achieved virtually as well as physically. The paper discusses the benefits of professional networking; how it can be used to both further professional knowledge and market your skills. It also provides an introduction to different methods which can be used to network online and discusses how to integrate these into working routine. Introduction As a new professional, networking is an essential skill to be learnt. Professional networks can be used to get expert advice, exchange ideas, get a second opinion, obtain a reality check, test new ideas, gain moral support, and engage in collaborative problem solving (Ramsey, 2004). In addition, professional networking can also be used as a form of marketing yourself and your skills to other professionals, including potential employers, collaborators, and co-workers. Professional networks take time to build but there are a few key ways to develop a network of contacts. One of the first places to begin networking is within your study cohort (particularly if you are working towards a professional qualification) or your work colleagues. Colleagues can be a useful way of beginning to build a professional network; and each will have their own professional network which can help you reach further contacts for your own network. Attending courses and conferences of interest to you is another networking opportunity, where you are likely to meet like-minded professionals with similar interests to your own. This can lead to sharing of good practice, collaboration, and expansion of your professional network. However, networking often only takes place during the course/conference, and rarely continues afterwards. In recent years online networks have changed networking capabilities; Nielsen Online (2009) found that social networking and blogging are more popular online activities than e-mail. The growth of these online networks now enables professional networking without physically meeting; or as an extension to a physical meeting. Conversations and sharing of ideas such as those occurring at conferences and events can now take place online, both synchronously and asynchronously. As learning about emerging technologies is part of today’s information professional’s role (Greenhill, 2009), online networking is a good way to develop skills which can transfer to the workplace (e.g. use of social software for your institution). Murphy and Moulaison (2009) recently highlighted social networking competencies for librarians including understanding and articulating social networking sites, creating content, searching and navigating, and interacting; each of which can be developed by professional networking online. Page 1 of 5
  2. 2. How can you network with information professionals online? There are many ways of networking online including blogging, microblogging and social networking. Blogging A blog is a type of website with regular entries (called posts) arranged chronologically. Blogs can be used in a number of different ways; to share resources, experiences or views; to report on new services or ideas; as a news tool; or as a reflective tool. Open source blogging tools such as Wordpress and Blogger enable users to set up blogs with minimal technical knowledge. Many new professionals use blogs to track career progress (for example during their studies or throughout the Chartership process). Writing blog posts can help organise thoughts on a particular issue, share points of view on a topical debate, share knowledge and experiences, or act as a repository for commentary on useful websites/articles. Subscribing to the blogs of other information professionals can provide insight into the profession, enable learning from their experiences, and lead to conversation in blog comments. Readers can often track comments by subscribing to the comment RSS feed or subscribing by e-mail. The comment string of a blog post can be as interesting and insightful, if not moreso, than the blog post itself. Blogs can aid professional networking by encouraging regular reading through subscription and conversations within comments. Microblogging Microblogging is similar to blogging, but uses short pieces of text up to 140 characters. Microblogging can also be used for a number of purposes such as sharing links, points of view, current work/ideas, or as a conversation tool. Microblogging tool Twitter has gained popularity recently, and with careful selection of choosing who to follow, Twitter can be an extremely useful tool for professional networking. Twitter is also being used as a back channel at conferences (Reinhardt et al., 2009), and a way to become involved in events when you are not physically there. Social Networking Social networking sites (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Ning) are used in a more traditional network building way. Each user has their own profile page which includes items such as general/career information, photographs, links to other online accounts (e.g. blogs, Twitter), and updates of activities. Contacts can be added as “friends” to keep up to date, and groups can be created/joined to share resources and encourage conversation. At the time of writing, Facebook was the second most visited site in UK (Alexa, 2009). My own experience and lessons I’ve learnt Reading blogs I started reading blogs before beginning my distance learning course began, mainly to gather a greater understanding of the profession. This introduced me to key issues and developments of the time and enabled me to keep up-to-date with new developments. It also introduced me to a number of key professional role models who have provided me with motivation to try new things and develop my career. I use a feed reader to aggregate the blogs I follow so that I only need to visit one place to read all the new posts. I’ve found it’s a good idea to get into the habit of reading feeds on a regular basis so that you don’t fall behind and feel overwhelmed by a large number of unread posts. This also ensures you keep up-to-date with new developments in the profession as they happen. Page 2 of 5
  3. 3. Writing blogs In 2007, I started writing my own blog, Joeyanne Libraryanne, which I planned to use to jot down any thoughts about the profession as well as charting the progress of my distance learning course. As more people read the blog, I particularly enjoyed the conversations that took place within the comments. People engage in debates on topical issues, or offer advice and potential solutions to any problems mentioned on the blog. The blogging process has become integrated into my reflection time – if something interesting happens at work, I find a useful tool for librarians, read an interesting book/article or attend a conference/event, I write a blog post about it. The process of writing blog posts help me bring together my thoughts and share useful resources. Blogging has expanded my network as other professionals read and comment on my blog posts or contact me via the blog. Microblogging In 2008 I joined Twitter, the popular microblogging service. Initially I was unsure of the usefulness of the tool, but as more people joined Twitter I began to see the power of the community (which some refer to as the Twitterverse). Information professionals are often early adopters of such technologies, and I soon built up a network to follow. My network on Twitter grows almost every day as I discover more tweeting librarians. I find Twitter incredibly useful for networking; it gives an insight into both professional and personal lives of fellow librarians, and is another way of keeping up-to-date on new developments as they unfold. Recently, I participated in CILIP’s Web 2.0 Open Session via Twitter. The aim of the session was to discuss ways CILIP could use Web 2.0 technologies, and in order to engage with the community, members were encouraged to follow and participate in the discussion via Twitter. The Twitter posts from the community were fed into the event via a screen, so they could form part of the discussion at the event despite the geographical distance. My involvement in this event also introduced me to a number of new followers from the UK. Social networking I have a public profile on many social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn,, Netvibes, Delicious and FriendFeed (which combines my online activity). I use each of these tools for slightly different reasons, but all can be used to develop network contacts. Of those listed, I find Facebook and LinkedIn particularly useful for making professional contacts. Nielsen Online’s report (2009) demonstrated that during 2008, 47% of people online in the UK visited Facebook, showing the huge reach this network now has. There are many groups on both Facebook and LinkedIn for information professionals which can be used for information sharing, discussion, and building further contacts. Facebook’s Librarians and Facebook group currently has almost 10,000 members (Facebook, 2009). Top tips for using online tools in a professional capacity The following are tips I would recommend to get the most out of online professional networking. 1. Build a brand identity Decide if you are going to use your real name, a nickname or an anonymous pseudonym (e.g. The Annoyed Librarian). Ensure you are consistent and try to use the same name on each service wherever possible. If you are planning to use online networking to market yourself and your skills, it will probably be useful to include your real name on your accounts. Page 3 of 5
  4. 4. 2. Think about the purpose of each of your accounts It may not be appropriate for you to use each of the tools I have mentioned, think clearly about the purpose of the account and how you want to use it. For example, if you set up a blog, be sure to have an idea of the sort of topics you will cover, the style of writing, the frequency and length of posts etc. You will need to be a little flexible to allow your blogging style to develop, but you should have a general idea of what you want to use the blog for in order for it to succeed. 3. Decide on a professional/personal balance This is a matter of personal preference; some people have one account for both personal and professional reasons, others have two separate accounts. Personally, I have one account which I use for both personal and professional purposes, and a lot of my personal networking is now with other information professionals. 4. Link your online identities Be sure to feed your blog into your Twitter account, list details of your blog and Twitter account on social networking sites, and enable links between services wherever you can. This allows your network to be able to follow your activity across different platforms if they wish and alerts people to your different accounts. 5. Find people to follow to get best use from each tool I found more value in tools once I had found a few people to use it with. Find some key information professionals to follow, and exploit their friend lists as you are likely to find other professionals you may be interested in following. Feel free to use my accounts where applicable. 6. Use the tools regularly, even if only for short updates Once you have decided to use a particular service, you will get the most out of it if you use it regularly. You don’t need to necessarily spend a lot of time on it; regular short amounts of time will be more beneficial than accessing it infrequently and trying to catch up. 7. Integrate the tools into your routine The easiest way to use the tools regularly is to integrate the tools into your routine. If you always check the news in the morning, why not check your RSS feeds and Twitter updates then too? This is particularly useful if you follow professionals from America due to the time difference. Personally, I check my RSS feeds and Twitter updates each morning, and sometimes in my lunch break. I then usually check them at the end of the day or in the evening. You may not need to dedicate this much time to networking, but even if you only check once a week it’s useful to integrate it into your working routine otherwise it’s easy to forget. 8. Engage with your followers/readers/friends Networking is a two-way process, therefore it is just as important to reply to/comment on other people’s profiles/blogs as it is to update your own. In this way you will truly connect with other professionals and build rapport. 9. Don’t become too wrapped up in the tools themselves; give new things a go At the moment Twitter is one of the main tools I use for networking. However, if Twitter became unpopular or ceased to exist and most of my network moved to a different service, I would move too. Web 2.0 tools come and go, but your network (or potential network) will always find somewhere to talk. Some tools may not be for you but you won’t know until you try them – most services will allow you to delete your account so there’s no harm in testing a service and deleting your account if it’s not right for you. Page 4 of 5
  5. 5. 10. Most of all – enjoy! Networking may be a professional activity, but it is also an enjoyable one. It can help make your life easier (many heads are better than one!) and can also be a source of entertainment as well as helping you in your career. Best of all it allows you to become more involved with your profession and can lead to interesting discussion and potential professional activities. Conclusion Blogging, microblogging and social networking have all helped in build and expand my professional network; some professionals I converse with on many different platforms. I learn a lot from my network of contacts; keeping up-to-date with new developments, collaborating to solve problems, discussing hot topics within the profession, and offering moral support as well as knowledgeable advice. Networking in this way has also opened up opportunities for me – I have been invited to co- write conference papers, author journal articles, and write guest blog posts. One of the great things about networking within the information profession is the willingness to collaborate and share ideas; I enjoy contributing to the community, but also feel I get a lot back from it. The more I invest in professional networking, the more I get from it; “*t+he main feature of a good network is that it is mutually beneficial” (NACM Communications Dept., 2006). References Alexa (2009) – Traffic details from Alexa [Online] Available from: (accessed 30/05/2009) Facebook (2009) Librarians and Facebook [Online]. [accessed 30 May 2009]. Available from: (accessed 30/05/2009) Greenhill, K. (2009) Why learning about emerging technologies is part of every librarian’s job. Paper presented at the EDUCAUSE Australasia Conference, Perth, Australia. [Online]. Available from: .doc (accessed 06/05/2009) Murphy, J. and Moulaison, H. (2009) Social networking literacy competencies for librarians: exploring considerations and engaging participation. Paper presented at the Fourteenth National Conference of the Association of College and Research Libraries, Seattle, Washington. [Online] Available from: (accessed 23/05/2009) NACM Communication Dept. (2006) Make Every Connection Count, Business Credit, 108 (2), 54. Nielsen Online (2009) Global Faces and Networked Places: a Nielsen report on social networking’s new global footprint [Online] Available from: content/uploads/2009/03/nielsen_globalfaces_mar09.pdf (accessed 23/05/2009) Ramsey, R. D. (2004) What’s new in networking, Supervision 65 (4), 6-8. Reinhardt, W. et al. (2009) How people are using Twitter in conferences. Paper presented at the 5th EduMedia Conference, Salzburg, Austria. [Online] Available from: http://lamp.tu- (accessed 28/05/2009). Page 5 of 5