Use social media to prove how skilled you are and to demonstrate your knowledge, aligned with what you tell potential employers in your resume.
Many jobs today require employees with good communications skills, and that need is increasing. Secretaries and other administrative people are no longer available to "cover up" for the poor communications skills of their bosses and other staff.
Increasingly, employees at all levels in an organization need to be able to communicate clearly via keyboard. Their jobs require the ability to coherently present ideas in writing using good spelling and grammar.
Online, we see communications skills demonstrated (or not) in LinkedIn Groups, Facebook, Google+, and other social media discussions and professional forums.
The employer's assumption: if you can't communicate clearly online, you probably won't be able to do it on the job, either.
Act like a grown-up when participating in social media using your professional name.
The employer's assumption: if you attack people in social media, then you will probably attack people at work and be difficult to manage.
If you feel that you absolutely must rant about political or religious issues online, do it associated with a different version of your name - unless your goal is to be the next Rush Limbaugh or anti-Rush Limbaugh.
When you consistently use social media appropriately, you are demonstrating that you understand how the online world works today.
Post a tacky photo or do a tacky political rant, using your professional identity, and you will demonstrate that you do NOT understand how the online world works.
Participation in LinkedIn is not optional for most professions and careers. Lack of participation in LinkedIn, or whatever social network is appropriate for your field, is often viewed as being demonstrably out-of-date.
Once you have established a 100% complete LinkedIn Profile, and made it public, you shouldn't need to spend more than a couple of hours a week updating it and monitoring the Groups that are important for your field. LinkedIn has many email options that can keep you in touch without requiring you to visit the site multiple times a day.
[More: Job-Hunt's Guide to LinkedIn for Job Search]
Many venues provide opportunities to demonstrate your knowledge and skills, like LinkedIn Groups, Google+, Quora, and, of course, your own blog and/or YouTube Channel.
Do be aware that recruiters are constantly monitoring LinkedIn Groups, looking for knowledgeable people, thought-leaders, and people with good communications skills. Also be aware that they may be following your activities for weeks or months before they contact you
With time, skill, and the right topic, you can also write a Kindle book to publish on Amazon.com, even if being a writer is not your career goal. [Check out kdp.amazon.com for details.]
Chances are slim that you will make thousands, or even hundreds, of dollars from your book, but publishing a book entitles you to add the word "author" to your LinkedIn Profile and resumes. And, writing a book is a great learning experience.
Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.