This is Part 4 of our Back to College series, which aims to help college students thrive as small business owners. In Part 3, we covered running a freelance business while in school. To view all the posts in the series, click here.
Building Professional Social Media Accounts for Your College Side Business
Being a college student in 2016 can be complicated and challenging. However, there is one big advantage that today’s college students have over previous generations – with social media technology, it’s easier than ever before to start building a professional reputation and begin running a small side business while you’re still a college student.
For college students running a business on the side, or any college student who wants to start thinking more seriously about conveying a professional reputation with an online presence, here are a few key tips and insights on how to set up a professional social media account.
Keep Business and Personal Accounts Separate
If you’re running a side business while in college – whether it’s by selling products online on Amazon, working as a freelancer, mowing lawns, or doing other types of service business – you should have a separate social media identity for your business that is isolated from your personal life as a college student. Create a separate Facebook page or Twitter profile for your professional work, and consider using a different anonymous social media account where you can share irreverent jokes with friends and argue about sports and do whatever else you like to do online to relax and blow off steam.
By maintaining separate accounts, you can build up a more serious, credible image for your business without intermingling your posts with photos from keg parties and football tailgates. And you can keep your college fun separate from your professional image.
Be Strategic About Your Posts
Many college students use social media as a way to have fun, make new friends, and blow off steam – which is totally fine and understandable. But it’s important to be mindful about what you post on social media, especially if it’s under your own name or the name of your business. Try to keep the tone of your professional social media posts positive, constructive, and profanity-free. Think about what you would say and how you would act if you were at a party with your parents’ friends – and then comport yourself the same way on social media. Also try to set up privacy controls on your accounts to keep people from being able to tag you with pictures or unprofessional content that you might not want to have associated with your name. Your friends might not always be as discreet and disciplined as you, so make sure to avoid getting tagged with boozy party photos or racy adult content or vulgar memes, even if it was meant as just a joke. Don’t let other people speak for you or taint your reputation on social media.
Go Where the Professionals Are
Sign up for LinkedIn and start sharing ideas and information related to your business or future career interests. You can even join groups on LinkedIn that are directly related to your major area of study – go online and start talking with people and learning from people who are doing what you want to do with your business or your career after college. This is a great advantage that today’s college students have over previous generations – the whole wide world of business and careers is largely at your fingertips. Anything you want to learn about running a business or building a career is available to you if you spend some time doing research, following the right experts on social media, starting conversations, and asking good questions. Make LinkedIn into your own special “career classroom.”
Build a Portfolio
When you graduate from college, your degree will serve as a credential of your educational progress. But if you’re running a side business as a college student, there is another way to show the world what you’ve learned: build a durable online portfolio to show the success stories of your business.
This can be as simple as starting a blog for your business – talk about what you’ve learned from selling products online or getting paid to organize fundraisers or whatever else you do to make money. Share your ups and downs, and offer insights and advice to other people in your field.
Or use social media to share the visual impact of your business – whether it’s running a pop-up restaurant or tutoring kids after school or doing landscaping during the summers, you can use social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat to share the latest projects you’ve completed, triumphs you’ve achieved, and smiles you’ve created for your customers.
Ideally, social media should give your business an ongoing, updated presence of what you do and why it matters. You should be able to show your prospective customers why they might want to work with you or buy from you. And this will be highly valuable to making introductions to new customers or new business partners or employers who can make a big difference in your future life after graduation.
In a way, your online social media portfolio – whether it’s a blog, YouTube videos, Instagram photos, Facebook page, or all of the above, is the new “resume” for college students. And there’s nothing holding you back from creating a great business story and a powerful professional image right now, before you even graduate.