The Power of Social Media

YP Nation, Empowering America’s Young Professionals – linked here

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Justin Herman, 29, organized a voter registration campaign at the Nationals’ ballpark in Washington D.C. To get the word out, he set up a Web site, blog and Twitter account, and after one week of marketing, his SEO rankings rose above the Obama campaign’s own voter registration events.

“People talk about how social media is the future of things. It’s not the future, it’s now,” Herman said. “If you’re choosing not to engage in the conversation, you’re limiting yourself.”

And it’s becoming more difficult to escape its influence on our culture. At networking events in the nation’s capital, people write their Twitter username on their name tags instead of their actual names, Herman said.

Young professionals like Herman are discovering the power of social media, and are using it both as a complement to their professional pursuits and as an emerging career field on its own.

Michael McClure, 23, graduated from college in 2008 with a political science degree. At the time, he assumed he would get a job in politics or finance. But after the recession hit, he found himself in need of a plan B.

McClure was living with Herman then, and was impressed with his social media campaigning. He also happened to be working at an Apple store when the company released the Apple TV, which connects a computer to a television screen.

“I realized, soon people will be watching YouTube on TV, and they won’t be watching NBC,” McClure said. “I thought, [social media] is something that is going somewhere, and whoever is doing this stuff is going to be making money–whoever does it well and does it first.”

McClure, who is from a suburb in lower Fairfield County in Connecticut, decided to start a social networking site called Connecticut Social. The site is a social network specifically for young professionals in the state. Through the site, he organizes meet-ups at bars and social events so young professionals can meet others like them in the area.

McClure started the site on his own in October, but now has three other teammates. He also started a complementary blog, The two bloggers write about a myriad of subjects from a “Connecticut perspective.”

The sites are not turning a profit right now, but that is the goal.

“Facebook and other global social networks have gotten rid of local networks” as they have expanded, McClure said. “The goal is to capitalize on the niche market.”

Right now, the site is marketed to all young professionals, but McClure said he sees the site going in a direction where it targets, “young, urban professionals aspiring to be wealthy.”

Whether as a means for self-promotion, to network or to start a business, the message is clear: The social media platform is not one to be ignored. So it’s surprising to Herman, now a graduate student at the University of New Hampshire, that many of his peers are still not on Twitter or don’t have their own blog.

“The perception among young people is I’m not going to get involved with these things, because I don’t want potential employers to see embarrassing things,” Herman said. “Employers are Google searching you, but not to find a photo of you drinking beer. Whatever job, whatever field, there is a community and a discussion going on, and those are increasingly moving online. Employers want to see if a new hire is actively engaged in that discussion, or even leading it–that they’re not only contributing to it, but shaping it.”

Herman is also the president of the New Hampshire branch of the Social Media Club, an organization that works with government agencies and groups to expand their media literacy.

“Social media is where the entrepreneurs are right now,” Herman said.

If you liked this piece on using social media, take a look at this post on entrepreneur Ryan Connolly and his online tv show Film Riot.

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