2018 Trends to Build Your Career through Social Media

2018 trend stories on social media are everywhere.

How do you take advice for organizational brand building, apply it to your personal brand and boost it through social media?

How do you make sense of the eye-popping list of trends? In my research I came across:

  • AI, or artificial intelligence
  • AR, or augmented reality
  • VR, or virtual reality
  • influencer marketing
  • Instagram stories
  • messaging platforms like WhatsApp
  • online hangouts like Houseparty
  • more content moderation by platforms
  • decline of organic content reach and rise of pay to play
  • social listening
  • chatbots
  • personalization
  • Generation Z in the workplace and marketplace
  • the rise of ephemeral content with Snapchat and others
  • conversational user interfaces, like Alexa
  • and video, video, and more video, including professional live video.

That’s a lot to think about. So I researched, sifted and synthesized to identify key personal branding trends. (Opinions expressed in this blog are my own.)

As you wrap up your year-end social media checklist and turn to the year ahead, here’s how you can tap into the trends for building your career through social media.

Why is this so important?

First, the personal brand you develop through social media and in real life will help you build your network, position yourself for new roles and navigate career transitions.

Start by deciding – or updating – what goals you want to accomplish in your career and how social media can help make them happen.

Maybe a goal is to attract a sponsor to champion your career. “One of the best ways to attract a coveted senior-level sponsor is to develop a strong personal brand,” Dorie Clark says in Harvard Business Review. What better way to do that than through your social media presence?

Second, there’s an element of serendipity in social media. While you can set specific goals for social media actions, you can’t entirely predict or control the outcomes.

How did this work for me? Over the last year, my social media involvement played a part in being invited to speak to mentoring circles and visiting students, being asked to be an influencer at a big company event, and joining the board of governors for an alma mater’s alumni association.

Third, people are spending more time on social media – more than 2 hours a day, and growing. That gives you more opportunities to boost your career through sharing your thoughts, posting your (non-confidential) work and building your network in social media.

Here are the key social media trends you can use to build your career through social media in the year ahead.

1. Platforms are ever evolving.

Social media is an ongoing learning opportunity, because the algorithms and features of each platform are constantly evolving and changing.

That means we individually need to be constantly observing, learning and experimenting in our chosen platforms to see what gets the most engagement.

An easy way to learn outside the platforms is to listen to podcasts during commute time. On the top of my list are The Science of Social Media, Social Pros and Why I Social.

2. Communities are critical. 

The mantra to always be connecting will help you build community in your chosen social platforms.

As a start, connect with all of your existing contacts at your company, people related to your work, people in professional associations, and so on.

Add new connections as you meet new people, ideally on a weekly basis. And you can identify people you want to meet and connect with them.

Why is this so important? Dakota Shane writes in Inc.com that you can “win” the social media game by asking,” Is my brand building community on social media?”

Building a strong community of people interested in you and what you have to share will help overcome the ever-evolving algorithms that may limit the reach of your content.

Shane gives great ideas to build community through starting a Facebook group, giving your community members a name, showing your audience love and recognition, and starting a meetup.

3. Influencers are for individuals too. 

If influencers continue to build large brands, why not apply the concept to building your career?

This idea first came up for me in an episode of The Science of Social Media. Hosts Brian Peters and Hailley Griffis talked about “pods” of people with complimentary areas of focus in social media. They come together to like, comment on, and share each other’s content.

This trend seems the most pronounced for Instagram. “Insta pods” are groups of 10 to 20 people who follow each other and engagement meaningfully in each other’s content.

You can try this concept on an informal basis by thinking of existing groups you belong to, and if it makes sense to amplify each others’ content.

This happened informally for me with three groups.

  • One is mentoring circles I lead with employee resource groups and an alma mater.
  • Another is the group of influencers who worked together on a big company event. We naturally stayed in touch afterwards and continue to engage with each others’ content.
  • And the marketing and communications team that leads social media for my alumni association involvement is another natural pod.

What groups do you already belong to that could create a pod of people who engage with each other’s social media content?

4. Employee advocacy programs are expanding. 

Employee advocacy programs are poised for big growth in the year ahead, according to the 2017 State of Employee Advocacy survey by JEM Consulting.

Adoption grew by more than 25% over the last year. In 2018, the top goal is to increase the number of employees participating as advocates. Why not be one of them?

Through these programs, companies empower their employees to be brand ambassadors, sharing official news and information about the company and its brand through personal social media channels.

This gives you valuable and ready-made content you can curate for your own social media feeds. Not only will you be building your personal brand, you’ll be enhancing your company’s brand, a win-win.

While trust has declined among consumers, peer influence is on the rise. This makes employer advocacy programs particularly important.

I can’t wait to see what my colleagues Nolan Carleton, Claire Mitzner and others at our company have in store to enhance our employee advocacy program in the year to come.

And with the growth of Instagram and Instagram stories, I’m looking forward to exploring that platform in detail in the coming year, much as I did with LinkedIn over the last year.

5. Video keeps increasing in importance.

This is a continuing trend, as video grows in popularity across social platforms. LinkedIn added video capability this year. And video capability continues to evolve across all platforms.

One of my goals over the last year was to experiment with video. I tried Facebook Live and videos posts on Instagram and LinkedIn. This was just dipping my toe into the water, and I didn’t see great variation in engagement between video posts and image posts. At least, not yet. So the coming year is ripe for more experimentation.

6. Pay to play is on the rise. 

Algorithms constantly change in social media. Organic unpaid reach in social media is declining for brands. That might help or hurt you as an individual, but it’s hard to know for sure.

One way you can measure is by the engagement trends with your posts. Over the last year, are you getting more likes, comments and shares? If not, you could conduct an experiment by paying to boost or promote a few of your posts. Then you can see what happens and adjust your approach accordingly.

It pays to invest in yourself, so consider allocating a small part of your personal budget to build your career through social media.

What do I pay for personally? Blog hosting services for my WordPress site. A subscription to beautiful visuals through iStock by Getty Images. And an annual LinkedIn premium membership. The accompanying training options alone through LinkedIn Learning make it well worth it.

7. Automation opportunities abound.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning seem to be everywhere in trend articles. The Association of National Advertisers, the ANA, even named AI the marketing word of the year. So I keep wondering how best to apply AI and automation to career building through social  media.

Can it create and maintain a social media calendar? Schedule and make posts? Help write top-performing headlines? Conduct research? Outline blog posts?

These are all areas worth exploration in the year ahead. While there are easy ways to weave social media into our everyday lives, I want to learn more about how AI and automation can help.

Given my upcoming focus on Instagram, I’m excited to check out these top 5 Instagram automation tools from Forbes contributor Steve Olenski.

8. Experiments accelerate learning.

My highest performing LinkedIn article was about my experiment in posting to LinkedIn every weekday for a month. Not only did it generate a great deal of valuable data and learning, it engaged my audience much more than other posts, with more than 900 views.

As many of the trend articles attest to, the way to make the most of social media is to take a “test and learn approach.” That’s really the only way to know for sure what will resonate with your community. And what works today might not work a month or a year from now.

There are two near-term experiments on my list. The first is to ask my LinkedIn community what topics they’d like to know more about for career building through social media.

The second is quantitative and qualitative research about why and how professionals are using social media and where they’re finding the most success. Leave me a comment if you’d like to participate.

One trend that likely WON’T work for career building through social media? The rise of ephemeral content in Snapchat and Instagram. This short-term and disappearing content doesn’t build an enduring digital footprint of your work and your point of view.

By creating and curating content in social media on a regular basis, you’re building your career, one post and one interaction at a time. Here are some ways to make it part of your everyday life.

What trends are you focusing on for the coming year?

A Year-End Checklist for Building Your Career through Social Media

In the business world, there are many year-end activities you can apply to your social media strategy for building your career.

What are they? Completing the year’s priorities. Assessing performance for you and your team. Closing the books. Celebrating the season. Connecting with people. Assessing upcoming trends. Setting new strategies and goals.

Here’s a checklist to consider for your own year-end plans as you build your career through social media.

FINISH PRIORITIES AND ASSESS PERFORMANCE

Reflect on how you did on this year’s social media goals. If you set a game plan for the year, see where you did well and what you want to do better in the future.

My plan was to:

(1) amplify my employer’s social media strategy through its Social Circle

(2) give corporate professionals a roadmap to build their career through social media with this blog (note: opinions are my own)

(3) share appropriate highlights of my work in social media

(4) learn how social media is evolving by experimenting with platforms and listening to podcasts, and

(5) help people in my network by sharing and commenting on their content.

Overall, I made progress in every area, even if I didn’t reach every numerical goal. I didn’t share many highlights of my work in social media, because some of it wasn’t content that should be posted in a public forum.

One exciting exception was sharing the news that my employer was named to Fortune’s 2017 list of 100 Best Companies to Work For. As part of a cross-functional team dedicated to making the company a great place to work for all,   I was thrilled to see this recognition and shared it in social media.

Apply your social media activity to your performance assessment. If you’ve been using social media to document your professional life, your feeds become another valuable input to summarize your performance.

You can sift through your posts and articles as reminders of the highlights of the year’s accomplishments. If some of the posts performed particularly well with audience engagement or business impact, you could incorporate those numbers into your performance assessment.

Once your self assessment is done, you have a valuable document to use to update your LinkedIn profile with accomplishments, projects, organizations, awards, and so on. Decide if you want to make tweaks to your profiles in other social platforms, to keep them aligned.

If you have visuals suitable for sharing in public, upload them to your LinkedIn profile to showcase your best work. Consider videos, photos, podcasts, slide decks, news releases and other visual representations. Err on the conservative side if you’re not sure if you should share information. When in doubt, don’t post.

CONNECT WITH YOUR NETWORK AND CELEBRATE THE SEASON

Make the most of social media for holiday networking events. Consider the social media aspect of the event, which I covered in another post.

Stephanie Vozza has a great piece in December’s issue of Fast Company with ideas about how to prepare.

“See who’s going,” says Dorie Clark author of Stand Out Networking. “The event organizer will often publish the names and bios of the people who’ll be there. Get a head start by identifying who you want to meet.”

Judy Robinett, author of How to Be a Power Connector suggests offering to volunteer. “This will allow you access to key leaders who can make key introductions.”

She also advises doing “an internet and social media search of people you want to meet, so you have something meaningful to talk about or ask.” She suggests reaching out in advance via social media.

Reconnect with people. As you’re scrolling through your social media feeds, make an extra effort to post comments for people you want to strengthen and refresh your connections with. A comment or a share means so much more to your network than a like.

SHARE HOLIDAY GREETINGS

Create your holiday greeting posts for your social networks. How will you wish your networks a happy holiday season? Are there inspiring leadership quotes you want to share? Valuable and timely articles you want to post? A fun holiday photo or video with your team to wish your business partners all the best?

To spark your creativity, look at how others are posting about the season. What resonates with you? What would you do differently?

Check out #holiday hashtags for business. Think about what hashtags you’ll use for your holiday posts to make your content more discoverable. Here’s a hashtag calendar resource for the whole year, to help with the holidays and your planning for the new year.

Take a inclusive approach to your hashtags, keeping in mind that a variety of holidays are celebrated at the end of the year.

ASSESS TRENDS AND ACCELERATE LEARNING

Check out trends for the new year. In an upcoming post, I’ll summarize the big trends ahead for building your career through social media. It will build on the format from last year with my post on how social media will change for professionals in the coming year.

Pick one new thing you want to learn. Based on the trends, what do you most want to learn? What are you most interested in? Although my social media trends post is still be researched and written, a big area of focus for me will be video. How can I incorporate more video into my social strategy? How can I tell stories with short videos?

Find a new podcast to learn from while you commute. The ones I’ve been enjoying are:

The Science of Social Media with Brian Peters and Hailley Griffis

Social Pros with Jay Baer and Adam Brown, and

Why I Social with Christopher Barrows.

These turn my commute time into learning time, making it easier to stay up to date and pick up new ideas.

Identify an experiment to conduct. In each of the last two years, I’ve done a 30-day experiment. This year it was seeing what would happen when I posted to LinkedIn every weekday for a month. Last year it was blogging every day for a month.

In the year ahead I’m contemplating primary research on how corporate professionals are building their careers through social media.

PLAN FOR THE NEW YEAR

Pick a theme for the year. A theme for your year gives you a rallying cry that focuses your efforts. It helps you prioritize what to focus on and what to ignore. Here’s how author Gretchen Rubin picks a one-word theme. For the last sever years I’ve had an annual theme, and I’ll cover this in an upcoming post.

Set your #socialmediagoals for the new year. What did you learn from this year’s social media activity? What are the trends for the new year? What do you want to learn? These are all questions to ask yourself as you create a fresh set of goals.

Clear the decks. Just as you clean up your physical and digital workspace by deleting old files, updating contacts, and so on, do the same for your social media accounts.

Clear out the message cache for each platform. You don’t have to respond to everything. Go through pending connection requests on LinkedIn. Here’s a strategy for which invitations to accept. Start the new year fresh.

What’s on your year-end social media checklist?