If you're only use sites like Facebook and Twitter to check in with friends, employment experts say you're missing out on a golden opportunity.
Social media is the perfect way to not only network, but search for and interact with potential employers.
"Social media has completely changed the way companies hire," said Mike Santoro, president of Walker Sands, a Chicago-based full-service marketing agency for technology companies in the region. "Walker Sands isn't alone in that it relies a lot on referrals for hires - and one of the best ways to meet and connect with new people is social media."
One of the most popular sites for networking is LinkedIn, which is growing rapidly worldwide, said Holly Simpson, assistant director of the Career Center at Valparaiso University.
"There are more than 175 million members in over 200 countries," she said. "Another reason to take LinkedIn seriously is that according to Jobvite.com, 89 percent of employers are regularly using LinkedIn to find talent."
For those having a difficult time grasping how social media like LinkedIn can help, Shelly Robinson, director of Career Services at Purdue University Calumet, said to think of the site as another extension of a resume.
"The difference is, it has the ability to touch much further and faster than traditional word of mouth networking," she said.
Often, companies will use Facebook and Twitter to advertise open positions.
"These are gaining popularity because they reach a lot of people and don't cost the company anything to utilize these services for advertising key positions," she said.
Here are some other tips to help you successfully navigate the world of social media when searching for employment.
Make your profile complete
Creating a profile on any social media site is a good start, but Robinson said your goal should be to reach 100 percent completeness in your profile.
"Add your resume and expertise, get recommendations and endorsements, and join groups and discussion boards," she said. "All of these tools are designed to get you connected quickly and get you noticed."
Simpson also recommends keeping your profile updated on a regular basis, adding new certifications or responsibilities, for example.
Megan Troppito, communications specialist with Loyola University Chicago and Lansing, Ill., native, advised to think of social media sites as your own personal branding.
"Your social media accounts allow you to build your personal brand and it's likely one of the first places an interviewer is going to search," she said. " My advice would be to share content about your professional successes, current work and industry news with a little bit of fun mixed in."
Join alumni groups with social media pages, which may provide information on career events from the university, job postings from those within the network or opportunities to connect with other alumni, Troppito said.
"Did you stumble across the profile of a former co-worker from 10 years ago?" she said. "Send them a note and tell them you are looking for a new job opportunity. It will likely have a warm welcome, as social media is all about relationships and connecting with others."
It's important as well to have a strategy in advance when beginning a job search using social media, Santoro said.
"LinkedIn is a great way to find out who works at your dream company and get to know them," he said. "Even if the company of your dreams isn't currently hiring, getting to know the right people ahead of time will allow you to have an inside shot once a job opens up."
Allyn Hane, vice president of digital strategy for Naperville-based Launch Digital Marketing and Crown Point resident, said to be successful, job seekers must market themselves just as businesses do.
One way to do this is through a job seeking strategy that ensures the employer is aware of your abilities and skills.
"On LinkedIn specifically, you can do this by connecting with key players who are associates or leaders of the company you are interested in, as well as following their company updates and offering useful comments on their postings," he said.
This is especially important for recent college graduates, Troppito said.
"Recent grads are very savvy on social media, but still need to be able to convey smart, professional and grammatically correct messages," she said.
Avoid posting any controversial or inappropriate photos or comments on social media sites, said Sharese Dudley-Mora, director of career services at Indiana University Northwest.
"Make sure the site is locked if you don't want potential employers seeing things," Dudley-Mora said. "A lot of times we hear that HR departments can Google you, so you have to be really careful."
Dudley-Mora suggests creating a separate page for professional use.
"It's no different in how we tell students how you can have a personal fun email address, but you have to have a business email as well," she said.
Try up and coming sites
There are several more social media sites that can be used when job searching, Simpson said.
About.me, for example, provides a great way for people to find content and learn about potential employees. It provides a short, easy-to-remember URL, space for a large picture, convenient ways to interact and bio information that tells a person's story, she said.
"About.me also has an analytics feature that describes who is viewing information about you or your business and captures what the viewers do on your page," Simpson said.
VisualCV.com allows job seekers to build a dynamic, Internet-based resume with the ability to combine audio, video and a digital career portfolio, she said.
"All of these features can be accomplished on a single website," she said.