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“Immigrants are said to be highly motivated to understand events of the new society in addition to those within their minority circle and news of events in their home countries. According to this ‘need to be informed’ explanation, the immigrant consumers are likely to spend more time with media than the majority.” [1]

While online users can find social media websites useful for keeping in touch with friends, family or for seeking new job opportunities, newcomers to Canada can find the networks a lifeline for cultural integration into their new society. This week I decided to explore these somewhat overlooked but important users of social media.

Ask an immigrant what their primary concern is when moving to a new country and many will tell you it’s finding a new job, and one that is similar to the work they did in their home country. Since 68 per cent of companies would hire a candidate based on their online profile on a social networking site, according to social media monitoring service Reppler, it’s extremely important for immigrants to create the right profile online when seeking that new job in the new country.

One indicator of how newcomers are flocking to the digital world is the website, an online community which is exclusively dedicated to connecting immigrants to services and groups that can help them settle. It has over 80,000 Canadian newcomer members and can be a perfect springboard for immigrants beginning to use other social networking sites which are popular in Canada but might not back in their native countries.

The site’s aims to “improve the Canadian immigration process for the millions of people involved: applicants waiting in the queue, new immigrants adjusting to life in Canada, Canadian employers waiting for skilled workers to arrive, and the many people around the world who dream of one day making Canada their home.”

With all this in mind, I decided to talk to a Canadian newcomer who is currently using social media channels to settle into a new Canuck way of life. Sandhya Ranjit is a former manager of corporate communications, from Bangalore India. She immigrated to Canada two years ago and is focused on trying to find similar work in her field.

Ranjit said in the social media arena, Ranjit has found the most success with LinkedIn for her job hunt. Two years ago, when Ranjit was working in India, she said that no one was on LinkedIn, which was launched in May 2003. She only created her profile after coming to Canada.

She doesn’t have Facebook and isn’t active on Twitter, but she likes LinkedIn for its professional feel and the fact that it generates lists of other users who she might want to connect with, and notifies her of discussions she might want to be a part of, which are relevant to her field.

Ranjit said there can be a hesitation for people of her culture to become very visible in the social media world, so they might have an initial fear of creating visible profiles on channels like Twitter. While she is very comfortable writing emails because they are a one-on-one interaction, she said a social network makes the user more visible, which some people from her culture might hesitate to do because it’s not something they do normally. But she said she has to do it because it will help her with her job search.

“We don’t come out; socially we’re not very active,” she said, adding that in Canada she hasn’t met anyone who is uncomfortable with creating social media profiles, especially the more professionally-oriented ones. “When you’re using LinkedIn for professional purposes, it’s a little different. You’re not talking about hobbies like on Facebook,” she said.

“My friends, most who are here, are also active. I’ve met so many immigrants on LinkedIn, the learning curve is the hesitation to use it,” she added.

She said that now, everyone she knows in India is active on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, but the idea of making oneself visible professionally isn’t as popular, because of the hesitation that a company might see a user’s profile and they may not like the open visibility of their employee. But she said that more people might be opening up to the idea, especially if limited the information posted.

Ranjit said she likes to use LinkedIn because she can connect to hundreds of people, which would be impossible to do in real life in the same amount of time. She said when she finally talks to them or meets them, she feels like she already knows them, which really helps with her networking efforts in trying to find a great job.

[1] Wei Na Lee and David K. Tse in their paper, “Changing Media Consumption In A New Home: Acculturation Patterns Among Hong Kong Immigrants to Canada.”

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