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Social media has some great benefits for developers, in their careers and in connecting with their communities. This post kicks off a blog series that will describe the value I’ve gotten from social media and what I’ve learned about specific social media platforms, including tips for using each platform effectively.

Whether you’re looking to just keep in touch with other developers or wanting to build up your personal brand, today we’ll focus on “why social media?” Read on for my top three reasons why some time on social media is worth it for developers.

#1: Connects you with tech communities

Social media helps you connect with people online around common interests, especially favorite or emerging technologies. It’s given me a sense of being part of other tech communities, beyond the people I interact with in my day-to-day job and regardless of geography.

It seems like a long time ago now, but social media today reminds me of when I was first playing video games . The communication mechanisms for that platform were all very open. When you were in a game you could talk with the other players and hear each other reacting to the game real time. Based on your skill level you were grouped up with other people who were very much like you and you’d find yourself socializing around gaming. It created real connections via the internet. It was one of my first experiences like that, where I built up online friendships with people around a common interest.

Fast forward to today. The communication mechanisms for gaming aren’t quite as open, but I’ve found that social media channels, like Twitch, have created a similarly open experience. It’s mostly text, partly voice, but the feeling is still the same — people connecting directly around a common interest, in this case programming. I’m live streaming what I’m doing, they’re seeing me and my screen, and we’re communicating candidly over chat. We’re building community. Through Twitch I’ve even made friends, who I’ve later met in person at tech events.

Also, there’s something about communication online that removes some of the social barriers, which I love. No need to worry about body language or what socks I’m wearing. It feels comfortable and more accessible. For people who have that kind of personality, maybe they identify more as an introvert, it can feel relatively easy to connect with people online.

#2: Advances your career (while helping others in the process)

Social media is a great way to broadly share your expertise and work – through online courses, blogs, video tutorials, whatever – picking the channel that best suits the content. This will not only bring value to tech communities you care about, but also to yourself. You’ll build a portfolio that showcases your work online and

As you share your expertise online, people may start viewing you as someone who can help with certain subjects. It’s a win-win all around — you’re helping other people and those people can recognize you as a subject matter expert for that topic or technology. If you don’t show your work, how are people really going to know what you know and how you can contribute?

For example, if you’re consistently sharing content about application security, that will help you build up your portfolio and your brand as a person with a depth of knowledge around AppSec. This is valuable if you’re looking to network and be open to new career opportunities. Recruiters will have more visibility into who you are and what you’re qualified to do. At Disney, and now Microsoft, it’s led to working on new projects that I hadn’t anticipated.

Here’s a recent Twitter example of me sharing a VS Code extension I created that allows your Twitch viewers to help in spotting bugs, typos, etc. by sending a command in chat that will highlight the line of code they want you to check. I was able to gauge interest in the extension simply by sharing it via Twitter and received real time feedback from people who were using or planning to use it.

Tweet example: Sharing a feature

 

Social media also helps you be better at your current job. For example, when I first started using Twitter, I was a consumer of sports news – football, basketball, whatever sport was in season. I could follow my teams and get the updates on what’s happening with them. Then, I quickly realized that I should do the same for my job. I can follow experts – some who I wouldn’t otherwise have access to – including core contributors to the different libraries, frameworks, or technologies that I use.

It keeps me current and more impactful at my job. I bring that value back to my own company because I’m staying in step with the bleeding edge. Since I can tap into “what’s next” via social media, I can “future-proof” my work projects, given the insights I have into various project roadmaps. Speaking of the future…

#3: Social media is the future (and the present)

I get it. Social media can sometimes feel like an online mosh pit. As much as you may be hesitant, social media is where people in tech are connecting and building community. As a society we’re moving more and more online – IoT, the cloud, video streaming services, the list goes on. In the US, approximately 70% of the adult population is on social media and it’s likely even higher if you look at technology professionals.

We think of our identities as tied to the physical world, but how do our identities translate online? If you’re passive about being online, you may be missing out on the opportunity to establish yourself the same way you would offline. Proactively thinking about how and where you want to present yourself on social media gives you control over how you’re perceived.

In summary, , why not be proactive and take control over your online identity? And, be authentic in the process. Never portray yourself as something that you’re not. That will get sniffed out right away.

Of course, your daily time spent on social media can be guilt inducing. Especially with the new mechanisms to track your time – like Screen Time in Apple’s iOS 12, which tracks how much time you spent on social media or other apps. It can be eye opening and jaw dropping. However, you can treat social media as just another aspect of your work-life balance. Set boundaries and goals and stick to them.

Are you convinced? If so, this blog series will continue to focus on the future (and present) of social media, looking closer at specific social platforms and how to use them. We’ll be reviewing best practices for optimizing the time you spend on Twitch, Twitter, Instagram, and more. Check back next month, when we’ll focus on Twitch.

Here’s how you can connect with me on – you guessed it – social media:

Twitter
Instagram
Twitch
LinkedIn
Website

Other topics you’d like to see? Let me know in the comments.