Book review of Social Networking for Career Success, by Miriam Salpeter
I am going to confess that the reason I have felt motivated to start writing a blog for my business website is the knowledge that freelancers benefit from maintaining an active social media presence and that I am nowhere near as active on the major forms of social media as I could and should be.
I use Plurk, and I do so with my Second Life persona. What is Plurk? you might wonder, especially if you’re neither Taiwanese nor active in SL (it's based in Taiwan and popular — seemingly because of a snowball effect — among Second Life users). In an acquaintance’s words, it's “Twitter lying down.” It’s a microblogging site where posts and comments are up to 210 characters each, with a horizontal layout instead of Twitter’s vertical listing.
I plurk pretty comfortably and very regularly, so you’d think I’d feel no weirdness in joining and becoming active on Twitter. I should feel right at home on Facebook. Or entering new frontiers on Google+. But I’ve needed a bit of help trying to figure out how and where to dip my toes in.
My first introduction to using social media for professional purposes was at the 2013 Communication Central conference for freelance editors and writers. Erin Brenner and Janice Campbell’s social media session was one of the most valuable I attended. They broke down the most popular forms of social media, how to use them, and what to post to them (and what not to) for building your social media presence. Nonetheless, I was busy with other aspects of my business in the months after the conference and didn’t get very far putting their advice into practice.
I picked up Miriam Salpeter’s Social Networking for Career Success at a bookstore some months later and thought it might be useful in providing another angle on the topic or at least giving me some renewed gumption for testing the social media waters.
It has done both. Salpeter’s approach is very similar to Brenner and Campbell’s. The book is organized by different types of social media, with a focus on the same platforms the conference session had covered: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, as well as blogging and the larger ocean of smaller and more specialized social media platforms available (I enjoyed a tiny sense of assurance in finding Plurk briefly mentioned, albeit with no firsthand insight on the author's part). When these sources talk about how to jump in and develop your presence in these networks, it sounds so easy and exciting. I have a sense of optimism about establishing my professional self online.
Inevitably, my take on Salpeter’s book has been influenced by the conference session, which had been targeted specifically toward freelancers in fields like mine. It’s hard not to see, similarly, how strongly influenced Salpeter is by contacts in her own professional area. Examples and anecdotes seem disproportionately to be from those who work in social media for a living. On the one hand, it might have been nice to see quotations and testimonials from people representing a wider variety of careers, but on the other hand, it’s a perfect illustration of successfully focused social networking. As Salpeter notes many times over, narrowing down your social media energy toward the niche you want to succeed in is essential for effectively navigating this potentially massive terrain. She has a plethora of quotes from people who’ve gotten jobs in social media through their use of social media because that’s what she does, too. Naturally, those are going to be her main contacts.
The book’s other weakness is that it’s packed a bit like a set of electric toothbrush heads I ordered from Amazon last month. I received a box about the size of two telephone books placed side by side, and inside I found layers of bubble wrap surrounding a blister pack with an enormous cardboard slab of the kind that is supposed to make the product harder to shoplift. The toothbrush heads will last me three years and keep my teeth sparkling, but I had to pull them out of a lot of fluff to reach them.
I waded through a lot of what felt like filler to get to the concrete suggestions in the book. Once I got to them, they were exactly what I was looking for, and I’ll be able to refer back to them for years to come. But the book could have used an editor with a far heavier hand, who could have trimmed down the pages-long third-party anecdotes and snipped out around two-thirds of the quotes (as well as an additional proofreader, but that’s a different matter; let’s just say that I like using proofreading marks when I read a physical book, and this one has helped me stay in practice).
Among the concrete suggestions, here are some highlights I found especially useful:
(These might say as much about me as they do about the book.) The last subject is especially notable because I smiled when I read the list. “Review books,” it said, and I knew the first one I’d be reviewing when I finished reading it. The universe of social media is still largely a mystery to me, but I have a guidebook in hand that makes the prospect of increasing my professional online presence feel a bit more achievable.
I'm Lea, a freelance editor who specializes in academic and nonfiction materials. More info about my services is available throughout this site.