Allie McCormick left her full-time public relations position to be a stay-at-home mom. Once she was ready to get back to work, she posted to Facebook that she was looking for a job.
"I believe my status was something along the lines of 'Allie McCormick is officially job hunting. I have over 10 years of experience in PR and marketing and am overall awesome [smiley face],'" she recalls.
McCormick says she received several messages instantly. "Within four weeks, I had interviewed formally with three companies and had two offers on the table," says McCormick, now a PR consultant with Innography, an intellectual property software company.
Social media, also referred to as social recruiting, is on the rise. And if you're not familiar with it, you had better get to know it soon.
"Social media is where the employers are and where they're investing," says Adriana Llames, Career Coach and author of "Career Sudoku: 9 Ways to Win the Job Search Game."
In a recent study by Jobvite, an online recruiting website, 55 percent of employers said they plan to increase their investment in social recruiting. Eighty-seven percent of them are already using LinkedIn for recruiting and 95 percent hired a new employee from their LinkedIn recruiting efforts alone, not to mention Facebook or Twitter.
Additionally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that up to 85 percent of career opportunities go unadvertised, which means that you have to use your network.
"Word of mouth and friend referrals are huge [in a job search]. The new word of mouth is through social media," says Sarah Cullins, president of Finesse Staffing, a recruiting firm based in Southern California. "It is often still who you know, not what you know, and social media helps you to know a lot more people."
Echoes Llames, "If you know of a company or a job you want to land, get your network working for you. With 350 friends, they know 350 friends who know 350 friends. You've just reached more than 1,000 people, and the likelihood is someone knows a hiring authority at your target company."
In fact, not having an online presence will hurt job seekers, says Morgan McKean, a consultant and writer who specializes in recommending "green" fashions, beauty products and home décor for women.
"These days, any business that doesn't have a Web presence isn't taken seriously. What job seekers have to understand is that their career is their business. They must have a place to send potential employers to see their background. The product or brand they are selling is their skill set. They need to have a place to showcase their features and the benefits to working with them. Without these things, they lack credibility in this new job market," she says.
If you don't already have a social networking or social media profile, the first thing to do is get one. Then follow these steps:
1. Be clear on what you want.
"Candidates need to have a clear focus of what they're looking for in a position. If you want your network, online or offline, to help you, you need to know what you're asking for first," Llames says.
Saying that you are looking for a job isn't clear enough, Cullins says. "People won't take that seriously," she says. "If you clearly define what you want and what you can do and ask your network to actively help you, you will get led or pushed in the right direction."
2. Give help first.
"When someone asks if you know of a good mechanic or if they paid too much to the plumber, help them out. Be sincere and helpful. Refer your social media contacts to others and they will reciprocate," Cullins says.
3. Consistent branding.
"There are a plethora of candidates and job seekers I see that have one profile on Facebook that says 'restaurateur,' another one on LinkedIn that says 'social media marketer' and yet a third on Twitter that says 'food blogger.' Who are you?" Llames says. "Create a consistent, clear and precise brand across all the social networks and on your résumé so hiring managers and companies know what you do and that you're an expert in your industry."
4. Protect yourself.
More often than not, employers will do a search for you before or after an interview, in a search engine or on a social network.
"To avoid giving away too much information, keep your profiles private. Only accept Facebook friend requests from people you know, and while keeping your LinkedIn profile public is recommended, you can chose to publish on certain aspects of your public profile on LinkedIn," Llames says. "Avoid those summer beer-guzzling Facebook profile shots; your profile picture is always public."
5. Be social.
"Social media is not just about blasting your opinion or your accomplishments to the world. Social media is an online party," McKean says. "If you engage people in conversations, compliment them on their work, ask questions and acknowledge their expertise, they are more likely to respond."
Ultimately, if you don't have a presence on social media, you look outdated and will get left behind.
Rachel Farrell researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues for CareerBuilder. Follow @Careerbuilder on Twitter.