A Beginner’s Guide to Social Media

Even though social media is one of the most popular ways for people, companies, and organizations to connect in today’s world, for many people it’s still hard to know how to get started. Although it can be intimidating, it’s worth your time to learn the basics so that you can be more successful in the professional world.

Here is a basic overview to help you out. While this article provides an overview for each social media channel—from Facebook to Twitter and beyond—it’s important to realize that many social media channels connect to each other. Images posted on Instagram are also frequently shared on Facebook and Twitter as well. And links to personal blogs are often listed on profiles for other social media channels. To learn more about each social media channel, expand the sections below. 


LinkedIn is a social media site designed for professionals. This is where you connect with colleagues and professors as well as classmates and friends. You can input your work history and a portfolio, and your connections can endorse your skills.

The majority of LinkedIn posts are business-specific articles. They can be professional articles you’ve written and published through LinkedIn, or they can be links from external sites to articles you thought were interesting.

A benefit of LinkedIn is that you can include much more detail about your qualifications than on a traditional paper résumé. And, if you get a promotion or new certification, you can publish that accomplishment to your connections when you update your profile. Another helpful feature is that you can write notes that are only visible to you about how and when you met a person as well as give yourself a reminder to contact him or her in the future.

The key with using LinkedIn comes in taking advantage of the platform to tell your professional story. Much like your “Me in 30 Seconds” statement, your LinkedIn presence is one of the first ways that employers will meet you, so make sure that everything you include has a specific purpose in the professional story you want to tell.

Key LinkedIn Terms:

Profile: Your profile is like an extended résumé. It’s where you include your job experience, but it also has links to your projects, publications, awards, educational information, and interests. Really, any information that can help you catch the eye of a potential employer or partner should be included here.

Connections: These are people that you know and add to your network. They are the people who will see any posts that you publish and any changes to your profile. You can contact your connections directly through private messaging.

Groups: There are over 2.1 million groups on LinkedIn. Some of them are open to anyone, and others are closed groups. They align with career specialties, companies, regions of the world, alumni of educational programs, religious institutions, and so forth. You should look through groups that some of your connections are a part of and see if any of them pertain to you. Then join and contribute to the discussion.

Professional Network: Your professional network encompasses all of your connections, their connections (these are called second-degree connections), and members of the groups you’re a part of. These are the people that you share common ground with and can reach out to. 


Facebook is currently the most widely used social media channel. It is a networking service that allows you to share messages, links, photos, and videos with family, friends, and other connections. Facebook is often used for personal contacts and acquaintances, so the interactions on Facebook are generally more casual. This is a good place to connect with old classmates, friends, and people in your ward, though more and more companies are using it now to research potential employees.

Key Facebook Terms:

Friends: Every website calls this something different, but on Facebook you are connected to friends. These are often personal contacts—people with whom you would share your vacation photos or wedding pictures.

Status: A status update is a place for you to share your thoughts with all of your Facebook friends. You can share insights, photos, movie trailers, articles, websites, and so on. Almost anything online is shareable via Facebook.

Timeline: Your timeline is where all of your status updates are stored. Your Facebook friends can also post comments and links to your timeline.

Facebook Profile: These are personal profiles for Facebook users. Each individual user has one.

Newsfeed: After you log in to Facebook, your newsfeed is the first thing that you see. It is a list of recent posts from your Facebook friends that you can then interact with through comments or liking.

Like: On Facebook, a like indicates that you have read a post and that you enjoyed it or want to offer support.

Facebook Page: These are used by companies, brands, and organizations. You cannot add these in the same way that you add Facebook friends. Instead, you can like them and then subscribe to their updates on your newsfeed.

Facebook Group: These are a place for groups of people to join and share information. They are especially helpful when you want to frequently communicate with a group of people rather than your entire Facebook friends list. 


Twitter is used for sending and receiving short messages and images called tweets. You can follow as many people as you like: friends, colleagues, companies, organizations, and leaders in your field. Because anyone can follow anyone on Twitter, the audience is broad, even if the posts are often quite personal.

On Twitter, people usually follow hundreds of other users, so it’s easy for your tweets to get lost in their Twitter feeds. For this reason, you should be active and involved on your account. Be sure to retweet interesting and insightful things and reply to those who tag you in their posts.

Most companies have Twitter accounts. Sometimes they tweet about job openings, and most companies tweet information about key initiatives and projects. Follow all of your favorite companies so that you’ll be aware of these openings and news items. When preparing for an interview or while doing research, see what types of things a company is tweeting, as this can give insight into what’s new and exciting in the company as well as the company culture.

Key Twitter Terms:

Tweet: A tweet is the standard form of communication on Twitter. It’s similar to a Facebook status, except you are limited to 140 characters. You can include a link or image as well as text.

Hashtag: Hashtags are used throughout social media now, but they originated on Twitter. They are a pound symbol (#) used to identify related social media messages and engage in a discussion throughout the web. They are created by combining the pound symbol with the idea you would like to communicate and eliminating all spaces between words. Here are a few examples: #lookingforajob #nursingjobs #jobinterview.

Followers: These are people who subscribe to your tweets. Every time you publish a tweet, it will show up in their Twitter feed.

Twitter Feed: Your Twitter feed is the home page of Twitter once you’ve logged in. This is where the tweets of all the people you follow appear.

Retweet: If someone tweets something that you like, you have the option of retweeting the post. This will make the tweet appear in the Twitter feeds of all your followers.

Twitter Handle: A Twitter handle is like a username on Twitter. Every Twitter user has a Twitter handle that links only to him or her. For instance, the Church’s Twitter handle is @LDSChurch. If you were to write a tweet and include the Church’s Twitter handle, the Church would be notified that someone had tagged them in a post.


YouTube is a platform where videos can be uploaded, viewed, shared, and rated. While not essential for all job seekers, it can be helpful depending on your field. If you work in the digital world, YouTube is a key place to share your media portfolio. But even beyond media-specific fields, YouTube is a place where people go for information. There are workout videos, cooking shows, and vlogs. If you give a career-related speech, it’s not a bad idea to record it and upload it to YouTube. In fact, after Google, YouTube is the world’s second-largest search engine.

Key YouTube Terms:

Upload: When you upload a video, you are transferring it from your personal file to YouTube. 

YouTube Channel: These are accounts that post videos. For instance, the Mormon Channel is an account that posts Mormon Messages and Bible videos.

Subscribe: When you subscribe to a YouTube channel, you will be notified whenever a new video is posted.

Vlogs: These are a new social genre made possible by video sharing. They are video blogs. Rather than writing down your thoughts and opinions, you can record yourself saying them and post them to YouTube.


Instagram allows the sharing of pictures and short (15-second) videos. When you post an image or video, it will appear to all of your followers and be visible to anyone through an Instagram search. Instagram is a great way to participate in ongoing conversations through hashtags, and it works particularly well for showing what is important to you and who you are.

As with YouTube, this is not necessary for everyone. But if you work in the public relations, fashion, travel, or photography fields, it’s probably something you should consider.

Key Instagram Terms:

Home: This is where you can see all the newest photos and videos posted by the people you follow.

Heart: This is similar to the like function on Facebook.


Pinterest is a virtual bulletin board used to share content and images from around the web. What can you share on Pinterest? Almost anything. Some popular categories are clothes, recipes, interior designs, workout regimens, inspirational quotes, DIY projects, and photography. But don’t let that limit you. On Pinterest you can store and organize hyperlinks to ideas, so any ideas or information that you want to share are worth pinning. What you pin shows a lot about what you value and who you are, so remember that as you are pinning new things.

Key Pinterest Terms:

Pin: A small image, quote, or infographic that links to related content that you want to remember.

Board: A page where you can post similar pins.

Follow: When you follow a person or a board, any new pins will appear on your home page.

Infographic: A visual chart or diagram used to present specified information or data.

With so many social opportunities online, it can be a little overwhelming. Be sure to start small—don't try to tackle every channel at once. Pick one where you have friends and colleagues to connect with or one that is particularly important for your career, and use that social channel for a few weeks or months before starting another. As you’re getting started, you might even consider talking with a peer about how he or she uses social media. Through all of your online interactions, remember that social media should reflect who you are, so be yourself.

For more articles about networking through social media, check out:

How to Network Through Social Media

5 Things You Can Do On Social Media Today to Find a Job

How to Use Social Media to Advance Your Career


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