Who hates the satisfying feeling of getting lots of likes or double taps on your Facebook or Instagram posts? I don’t know many people who do.

But some take it to the next level, elevating the importance of social media popularity and allowing it to be a boost to the ego among a virtual world of fans friends. It almost becomes a competition as to who can get the most attention, the most shares and the most viral response, and some will spend hours trying to win the Mr. or Ms. Popular crown as if it will somehow directly enhance their life in the real world.

Research shows that Americans aged 18-64 spend an average of 3.2 hours per day using social networks. More specifically, there are 1.6 billion likes per day on Instagram and users post an average of 60 photos daily. In terms of Facebook, there are, on average, 350 million photos posted and the average daily overall likes stand at 4.5 billion.

Big brands see dollar signs behind these figures and use them to market to consumers, but as a millennial professional, I see immense career advancement and professional branding opportunities. It’s great to use social media for fun and hijinks, but if you’re trying to get a new gig, position yourself as a competitive leader in your industry or re-brand yourself, it’s a good idea to use your time on social media to attract employers. (As many of us know, hiring managers turn to the Web, especially social media, to vet and find talent.)

Here are 3 great ways to actually turn likes into career capital:

1. Whether it’s Facebook or Instagram, give people industry-related information they can use and engage in and that gives you social cred. If cute photos of your fabulous shoe collection will help promote you as a fashion industry leader, by all means, post. But if you’re trying to land a new gig in an industry, such as banking, for example you may want to use your time providing news on the latest regulations, industry promotions or polls about various issues in the industry. Keep posts short (you’ll get 23% more interaction) and find a way to present stats in a visually appealing way by sharing infographics using tools like Visual.ly. If you don’t want to bog down your Facebook or Instagram profile with too-serious updates, keep them exclusive to Thursdays and Fridays. (Statistics show engagement is 18% higher on those days.)

2. Determine how to measure your popularity and how to put those measurements in perspective when professionally marketing yourself. This measurement includes a combination of factors that go well beyond how many friends or followers you have. Engagement measurement tools like Klout, PeerIndex, Kred and Crowdbooster take into account factors such as how much you update, what topics you’re most known to have an interest or show expertise in, who you influence most with your updates and your reach in terms of visibility of information you share. Celebrities have been able to use this information to get endorsement deals or increased brand interest. You too can include this information on your resume and during interviews as a way to supplement information on your hard and soft skills.

3. Monitor the growth of your popularity (based on measurement factors mentioned in No. 2) and leverage it for a side hustle. Whether you’re in the medical field or media, having multiple streams of income is always a good idea. (Plus, who likes a one-trick pony?) Social media can be the easiest and cheapest way to get started building a side hustle, and utilizing your popularity on social media to partner with industry leaders, get speaking gigs or share important leadership insights via a blog can point you in the right direction in getting that side hustle off the ground. For example, let’s say you love baking, and you post photos of your cake creations. It’s great that people like your photos, but if an event planner or celebrity party promoter likes it, shares it (along with a branded watermark with your company logo), the popularity capital increases and can lead to new customers.

Social media can be used for so many purposes and gaining popularity is both fun and flattering, but learning to leverage that popularity for career gains will put you ahead of the pack.


CareerCareer advancementSocial mediaYoung professionals

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