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Is Social Media Really Worth Your Time?

Today's business world is moving faster than ever. Finance professionals don't have time to waste using social media if it won't create any value for them. However, there are several benefits to establishing an online presence, and social media and online community sites give finance professionals an easy and free way to do it. Many are already on sites, waiting to find connections: A 2010 study from The Mergis Group showed 46 percent of finance professionals use social sites for networking, and that number has surely risen since.

Can Facebook Be Used for Your Career?
While Facebook has far and away the most active users with more than 1.11 billion active profiles and counting, it may not have a clear return potential for those who want to use social media sites solely for professional reasons. For busy finance chiefs in particular, who have to watch their time carefully while online and offline, Facebook is not necessarily on their radar screen. Indeed, while it is a great tool to keep up with family and friends in any corner of the world, can it actually help finance professionals expand their network? Jason Buss, vice president of global talent management at Proformative, addressed this question, among many others, during Proformative's recent "Build Your Personal Brand and a Competitive Advantage with Social Media" webinar. He said people have had varying levels of success on Facebook, but it all comes down to how they manage their privacy settings.

"There are things you need to do," Buss said. "One is take into account the privacy settings to make sure you're sharing the right information, whether it's public or not. The second is that you need to invest some time up front and when you're connecting with people on Facebook, make sure that you set them up in the right category."

So while you may want to make sure your name, company name, and title are visible to everyone who stumbles upon your profile, you may want to keep your posts and photos private so that only your family and friends can see them. This way you can increase the likelihood that potential employers, employees, investors, even the media can at least find you (you don't have to connect with anyone unless you want to) but also avoid getting bombarded by unwanted solicitations.

What About the Other Popular Social Networks?
While Facebook reigns supreme in terms of overall popularity, Buss believes Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter can be better for finance professionals. Each of these sites can provide a different and unique value to its business users:

  • Google+: As one of the world's best search engines, Google is known for helping people find the information they want in a matter of seconds. Google+ is no different. Buss says it is the one of the easiest networks to find people quickly and help finance professionals expand their networks.
  • Twitter: With only 140 characters to work with, Twitter users must provide short, useful bursts of information. The social networking site can also be useful to help finance professionals follow clients, leads and brands, share links while including their own personal opinion, and keep up with the latest news in their industry.
  • LinkedIn: Known as the most popular professional network, LinkedIn is a great way for finance workers to connect with co-workers, learn about companies, and let others learn about their present job and work history. Buss asserted it's important to have a professionals picture and keep in mind that endorsements and recommendations matter on the site. LinkedIn is also a growing way for finance leaders to search for new team members; 5.7 billion people were searched on LinkedIn in the past year.

Can the Sites Aid in Job Search?
"The No. 1 way people find jobs is through referrals." Buss said. "That really isn't disputed."

Keeping that in mind, finance professionals can use online resources to must expand their network and build the connections that will help them to land their dream job. Tools like Newsle, a site that alerts users when members of their network are mentioned in the news and Job Change Alerts - which sends users updated job changes relevant to their network - can be enabled when using social media. When asked the best way to find a job online, Buss stated a strong professional network is the secret sauce that will get people noticed.

"The real answer is leveraging and relying on your network because without the introductions, you're less likely to get noticed, an interview or a conversation," he said. Moreover, social networks makes it easy to stay connected to past colleagues and coworkers so you can easily connect with them when you're looking for a job – or you have an opening at your company and want to fill it with someone you know.