With the steady increase in unemployment rates, I've found there is a growing interest in utilizing social media for building personal brands, as well as corporate brands. Based on my years as a networker, marketer and early adopter of Web 2.0 technologies, I've devised ten tips for optimizing your online persona. These insights are meant to help readers increase awareness, credibility and desirability to potential employers.
Get In The Game
The most commonly asked question I get from people interested in creating a social media presence is, "where do I start?" My short answer is, by creating a social media presence, literally. It's as easy as creating basic profiles on all the major sites, starting with the tier 1 players: LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. With nothing more than basic profile information, you've put a stake in the ground. Over time, you can update and expand your profiles, and add tier 2 players (Biznik, Naymz, MySpace, YouTube, Flickr, Plaxo, etc.). Of course your career background may influence which profiles you start with and build out over time. For a complete list of top tier sites, visit my blog post, 15 Places to Find Me.
Follow The MCE Process
With basic profiles in place, the next step is to get your bearings. I recommend following the simple MCE process I've outlined in an article on the Anvil Media Web site, Three Critical Elements of a Successful Social Media Marketing Campaign. The "M" in MCE stands for monitoring relevant Web 2.0 communities to get a feel for the industry and potential opportunities. The "C" stands for creating timely, unique, relevant and valuable content and publishing to your social media profiles and communities. The "E" stands for engaging in online communities - starting conversations and building relationships.
Build Your Network
There are three primary ways to utilize social media platforms: publish, network and vote. You can expedite the development of your network by leveraging all three aspects: publishing and syndicating content, identifying and connecting with new friends, fans and followers and voting for content, people and ideas that inspire you. Focus a majority of your energy on the three most influential platforms: LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, as they generate the most traffic and usage. For specific tips on optimizing your LinkedIn and Twitter profiles, read the article, LinkedIn and Twitter Profile Optimization for Dimwits.
Be A Writer
When it comes to generating awareness for your personal brand, the first step is to create content, and the easiest form of content to create is text. It all starts with 140 character updates on Twitter. The unique challenge with Twitter is to pack a punch in one sentence; making it interesting, memorable and worthy of "re-tweeting" by your followers. The next logical step is to commit to creating and managing a blog. A typical blogger posts 2 to 3 times a week, each post averaging 1 to 3 paragraphs. Tweets may inspire longer blog posts, which in turn, inspire articles. Articles are typically longer and less time-sensitive, but can be posted on Web sites and syndicated via RSS for additional visibility. All content can be inter-linked and cross-promoted (blog posts can be fed to Twitter automatically, and vice versa).
Be An Artist
Not everyone is a writer, unfortunately. There is hope, however. Those predisposed to speaking or performing can utilize media sharing platforms like Flickr, YouTube and MySpace to share images or video. You can also integrate video or audio into your blog (aka iTunes podcasts or vlogs). In fact, the most viewed video of all time on YouTube is The Evolution of Dance, in which an unknown comedian takes the audience through various popular dances over the years.
Become A Thought Leader
Getting the "word" out may not be enough these days. In order to cut through the noise and differentiate yourself, it's critical to develop yourself as a thought leader in your area of interest and/or expertise. Beyond developing a following in the blogosphere and Twitter, engaging in forums and expert communities is a good way to kick-start your credibility. Specifically, LinkedIn Questions & Answers offers a unique opportunity to ask and respond to questions, broken down by industry. When chosen as the "best answer" by the person asking the question, you can build visibility and credibility as a though leader. Similarly, engaging in LinkedIn Groups discussions and industry threaded forums offers visibility within your professional community.
Easier said than done, separating from the general population is essential in today's noisy social media community. With a deeper first-hand knowledge of social media, you can form platform-specific communication and engagement strategies. For example, Twitter is all about timely news and entertainment, whereas LinkedIn Q&A is all about brilliant industry insights. Overall, you should have a consistent and authentic voice, with a unique perspective and offer value to your friends and followers. For more insights, read, Ten Secrets to Getting Your Dream Job. Seth Godin says it best, "be remarkable."
Pay It Forward
As a big believer in karma, I've built my career off of helping others before helping myself. In fact, I've developed a methodology for professional networking, as outlined in the article, Referral-based Networking, Portland Style. Translating into a Web 2.0 world, paying it forward can be done in many ways. In Twitter, "re-tweet" posts you like, or reference other people and profiles that inspire you. In LinkedIn, recommend people you trust, reference others as experts in LinkedIn Q&A and forward as many introductions as possible. In the blogosphere, comment on related blogs and posts (linking back to your own content of course) and linking to related posts within your own blog.
Heed The Grandmother Rule
A client recently asked me about social media as a component of corporate communications policies. I told her we'd certainly help her build out a cohesive policy for employees as part of our overall strategic plan, but that they should follow The Grandmother Rule in the meantime. Simply put, do not post any content you wouldn't want your grandmother to see, and you'll be safe in the eyes of just about every corporation. This also applies to the under-employed, self-employed and business owners.
Play It Safe
While it can be tempting to do everything you can to get yourself noticed, there are potential dangers in having highly visible social media profiles. As outlined in the article, What Social Media Networks Don't Want You To Know May Hurt, there is a possibility that your identity can be compromised (hijacked or stolen) by enterprising criminals. Be sure to lock down your privacy settings if you have highly personal information in your profile or if you're like me and have a very public profile for marketing purposes, remove any content that might provide key personal information that can be used to access banks and related confidential online accounts.
In the not-too-distant future, employers may require additional social media metrics on resumes, particularly for those in the sales and marketing discipline. Those metrics are likely to include LinkedIn connections, recommendations and best answers as well as Twitter followers and Facebook friends. Employers are likely to hire candidates based on those metrics, as the network becomes a core component of your value proposition. Hopefully these tips will help readers that are a little behind the social media curve, catch up, get ahead or even stand out.