Over the past two weeks we have been talking about social media and how to use this powerful tool to your benefit. We have explored the positive and negative aspects of social media and last week we focused on LinkedIn and how to build your professional profile. 

In this final instalment of our social media blog series, we’ll be talking about three of the biggest and most important social media platforms – Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. These platforms typically cater more to social networking but they can benefit your professional development if used properly and that’s what we’ll focus on in today’s post.

Although social media is a relatively new phenomenon, it has evolved a great deal in a short space of time and has grown significantly in popularity over the past 10 years. For example, the most popular social media platform, and also the most popular website in the world, Facebook, has grown from 100 million users in 2008 to over 2 billion users today. How those users access Facebook has also changed with the number of people accessing the platform on mobile devices growing rapidly as a proportion of total users. And it’s not only the way that people access social media that has changed. The platforms themselves have evolved and developed from their initial conception as a way to connect with friends and fellow students, to platforms that can be used for sharing news, promoting causes, advertising, marketing and generating income.

The primary social media platforms have now become tools not only for social networking but also professional development. Here is an overview of how to use Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for professional purposes.

The first important thing is to ensure your education and career history is up to date in your Facebook profile. Depending on your settings, this can be one of the first things people see when visiting your profile or searching for you. Facebook is also a great way to build your personal brand by sharing interesting content and engaging with your audience. Try and connect with people who you think will be good professional contacts and follow and like pages and companies that interest you. If you are starting your own project or business, create a page and promote it to your target audience. The most important thing if you’re using Facebook as a professional tool is to keep active and engaged, and to post fresh and relative content on a regular basis. And please remember, if you are using Facebook for both professional and social purposes, be very careful how your personal profile is curated as this can also affect your professional reputation.

Twitter is the hugely popular microblogging site that allows users to post updates in 280 characters or less, in which they can share anything from what they had for breakfast to important news and links to other content. It has become popular among a huge variety of users including celebrities, sports stars and politicians. Just like Facebook, Twitter can be used for both professional and social networking. From a professional development point of view, Twitter has been dubbed the ‘virtual water cooler’ because it allows users to connect and converse with professional connections and colleagues in a quick and convenient way. If you are a twitter user, there are few ways you can maximise the professional benefit of this platform. Firstly, follow relevant and important people in your field or industry and keep up to date with what they are talking about. You can also search for hashtags that are relevant to your profession and get a general overview of which people are speaking about certain topics. You should also join the conversation and contribute to discussions so you can attract your own followers and enhance your profile. But remember, just like any social media platform, be careful of what you post and share because you never know who might see it.

With over 300 million active monthly users, Instagram is one of the biggest and most popular social media platforms, allowing users to upload photographs and create a visual profile. And while it is primarily a way for people to share images from their everyday lives, it is also a great platform to promote your personal brand, especially if you are in a creative industry. To get the best professional use out of Instagram, start by using your Twitter profile name for your Instagram account so that you have a consistent profile and you can share content across the different platforms. Focus on building a community of people who are relevant in your industry and use engaging and practical hashtags to attract more followers. You should post regularly and occasionally go ‘behind the scenes’ to keep your followers engaged. As always, be careful of how far ‘behind the scenes’ and be conscious of how much and what you are sharing.

Social media platforms are versatile, powerful tools that can be used for your social, personal and professional development. We hope this series has given you some useful hints and tips about how to get the most out your profiles. Remember to have fun, stay engaged and be thoughtful when you post. Happy scrolling!

This content was originally published here.