A few weeks ago, I was invited to speak at The Canadian Chamber of Commerce here in Hong Kong at their monthly TECH-W@TCH meeting on how social media could be leveraged for business success. I spoke from my own experience on the power and prevalence of social media and the influence it has had on my career – from job opportunities and key business relationships to sales leads and knowledge sharing. All of this came as a result of leveraging social media for my personal and professional branding.
I don’t believe in privacy on the internet or on social media. Anything you tweet, share and publish can eventually turn up somewhere on the web so why not make the most of it? Use it to showcase who you are as an individual. Who are you on social media?
Anything you tweet, share and publish can eventually turn up somewhere on the web so why not make the most of it?
1. Choose Your Social Networks
First, ask yourself what your objectives are and who your audience is. The latter would also entail relevant geographical markets where a certain network may be more prominent. As a fresh graduate at the time, I wanted to establish a presence in the digital community, engage with thought leaders in the industry and make sure I was easily searchable for recruiters looking to fill entry-level positions. It made sense for me to start with Twitter and LinkedIn but not everyone will be the same. If you’re starting a wedding business, Pinterest could be the primary network for you. If you’re targeting primarily Chinese customers, you would want to focus on Sina Weibo or WeChat perhaps.
2. Master The Fundamentals
Regardless of which social networks you’re on, you’re showcasing yourself. Make yourself look good. Just as you wouldn’t give your boss an unfinished project with coffee spilled all over it, make sure all your social personas are complete and look fantastic overall. This means you shouldn’t have an ‘egg’ as your Twitter display photo and your LinkedIn profile should have a punchy headline. In an age of information overload, it’s also crucial that you are succinct and to-the-point. Remember, in social – less is more. Be creative with how you write about yourself and most importantly, leverage visual content. According to this Hubspot article, 90% of information transmitted through our brands being visual and processed 60,000 times faster than text. Don’t believe me? Facebook’s introduction of the visual Timeline increased engagement by 65%. Incredible what an image can do. Why else would LinkedIn enable rich-media for profiles (yes, you should include that too) and Twitter redesign it’s layout to include a statement cover photo?
3. Curate And Share Content
Once you’ve got the basics down-pat, you want to start building your social brand and persona especially through open networks. Follow influencers within your industry and re-share some of their interesting blog posts as well as industry publications which might have the latest news and trends on what’s happening. Always add your own perspectives to what you’re sharing and highlight key points which really resonated with you – it shows your followers that you’re not simply an RSS feed and provides an opportunity for them to interact with you. If you’re ever stuck for content, make use of some great apps which pull in the latest trending topics – I personally have Trendspotter and Scoop.it installed on my Hootsuite dashboard which helps me keep on top of what’s gone viral on social media and marketing. I also set aside 30 minute blocks in a day to schedule some of this content which not only ensures that I’m not spamming my followers, it also frees up time for me to really engage with my audience.
4. Engage With Your Peers And Audience
Social media is a two-way street; a dialogue. When you’re first starting out, it’s easy to fall into the trap of pushing out content exclusively and relying on certain apps to pull content and auto-populate your feed. I’d be the first to admit this mistake. What I soon realised was how useless this was – if I was only going to push out content and not interact with my followers, I might as well not be on social at all. As you would in real-life, social media should be leveraged to build and nurture long-term relationships. This ranges from a simple thank-you for a retweet or seeking advice on a topic area to a longer form comment on an influencer’s article which could leads to further discussion. I’ve not only connected with people globally, I’ve also found sales leads without intending to and shifted some of these online relationships to offline friendships. An example of someone I recently connected with is the CEO of PureMatter and author ofThere is no B2B and B2C. Human to Human: #H2H, Bryan Kramer who teaches us to “Just be human and meet [customers] where they are; listen, respond, have a conversation, and you’ll create customers for life” for doing business in the digital age which is equally applicable to every aspect of social. Regardless of your objective, make sure you’re being authentic and genuine; listen and talk to your audience.
5. Create And Publish
Finally, it’s time to create and publish some original content. The realm of content marketing is not exclusive to large brands, especially with so many channels to build individual thought leadership. I was lucky enough to be one of the earlier users privy to LinkedIn’s latest content publishing platform here but setting up your own blog or utilising fantastic services like Medium are perfect channels as well. No matter what your personal and professional experience or your writing ability, everyone has a different passion, perspective and opinion to share. Use that. I was completely blown away by the amount of engagement I received on my second LinkedIn post: When Your GPA Doesn’t Matter because it started only as what I thought about my own educational experiences. It was not my professional expertise as such and much of it was anecdotal. But it doesn’t matter – it’s a perspective that people want to read and engage with you on. Once you’ve published it, don’t forget to share across your social networks!
At the end of the day, social media will only be as beneficial as the time and effort you put into it – it’s not a magical way for you to close a large deal or find a new job the next day. At the event, one of the questions I was asked was, “How much time should one place in social media to build their personal and professional brand?” and whether or not this would eat into the time otherwise spent learning the ropes or up-skilling oneself specific to their roles. The key is ‘balance’ – make sure you’re comfortable with the amount of time you spend on social and make the most of this time by leveraging the array of tools available. Most importantly, recognise that society has embraced social media as a primary source of information and content so it’s only in your best interests to leverage for your personal and professional brand.