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Your professional web presence II: Social media

Country of origin: Denmark Danmark
Available texts by the same author here Dokument

   Have you considered your web presence on social media? I mean, really given it some thought? Not just that "I/we need one of those too, since everybody else got one".
   What do you use it for? Are you active? Do you have one for your work and one for your family and friends, or is it a mix?
   It has become standard operating procedure that before hiring new employees or companies for a job, you check the person/company on the net. If you have profiles of the various social media, these will pop up as some of the first results in a search.
   What does the profiles on the social media tell about you or your company?
   Are they helping your professional career/company?

The digital toolboxes
   Think of the social media as a toolbox, each with a specific purpose for doing a job. The job is to sell you, a product, an idea, whatever... so how do you use your tools? As a professional, as a handyman or as a klutz who's all thumbs?
   At the moment, the most important platform for professionals is LinkedIn. There is a number of alternatives to LinkedIn, if you want to go off the reservation, but LinkedIn is currently the place to be. This, of course, is provided you have a proper profile and use it actively. Otherwise it is useless. The chances of finding knowledge or specialists, or being found yourself, are staggering.
   At times it seems like the users think it's like MySpace in the beginning. You collect contacts as if that is the purpose of the site in itself, but for what? Activities like exchange of ideas and experience, is only done by a few users. It's like having books locked up in a cupboard. No one can see or use the hidden knowledge, and then it isn't any use for anybody. Not even yourself. Knowledge is like any other asset, it needs to circulate to grow and generate a profit.

Social interaction or the social bullhorn
   The most important function of the social media is the social aspect. It sounds so obvious it's almost condescending, and yet many people and companies only use the social media like some sort of bullhorn or soap box. A platform for shouting out to anyone passing by.
   Using social medias like a bullhorn is only useful, if you are relaying a message, e.g. "new catalog out now", or for press releases. Otherwise it is like putting a Band-Aid on a bullet hole. Forget it! There is a reason it is called social media and not digital soapbox. Those you can also find, they are commonly known as blogs.
   If you want to reach customers and interested parties, you have to be active and engaging. Participate in their discussions. Make yourself noticed as someone who has something relevant to ad (or show), so you come off as a resource and not a dumb loudmouth, who just have to make him or her-self noticed, in a more or less unfortunate fashion.

Which social media should you be present on?
   The short answer is "as many as possible". You can't be on all of them, that is a full time job in itself, but you can be on some, and far more than most people are. You have to choose.
   As a start I recommend three social media on which to be active.
   What other sites to be present on, depends on who you are and what you do. If you have a lot of images, Instagram and Pinterest are important, if you have many news and messages, Twitter is good, if you are a musician/band, MySpace is supposed to be good, etc. etc.
   If you are a bit strategically minded, you make a publishing platform of social media, supporting your business, whether your business is your personal career or a company. If you are not strategically minded, my advice is to get some help for a publishing platform, from someone who is. It doesn't have to be perfect, no one else has a perfect strategy either, but there has to be a bit of consideration behind your effort.
   Besides the obvious media, it's always a good idea to have a couple of outsiders or dark horses in the mix. You never know what kind of opportunities that may turn up.
   An important detail: Just to avoid any misunderstandings. It is better having a few social media in your publisher platform, that you take good care of than a lot of neglected social media.
   Another important detail: It is possible to cross post so that e.g. if you tweet something, it is also posted on other media like Facebook and LinkedIn. Here you should consider very carefully whether e.g. tweets about Married at first sight belongs in LinkedIn's news feed. The platform allowing the shortest posts is also the one defining the content. It may be beneficial to use the extra space, allowed by the other media, so you can write your updates using proper language, including the necessary hashtags, so the language and content isn't the victim of the lowest common denominator for social media.

Digital camera hogs and exhibitionists
   Most people become very self-conscious, when they suddenly have to stand up and be visible to everybody. Some self-deprecation is common. "There is no reason to write about that." or "People already know this". You don't want to be standing there, like some reality star, looking slightly embarrassing and untalented, as you desperately try to get the camera's attention and get some exposure, and that's quite understandable.
   Obviously you adjust your input to when you have something relevant to say. There is no need for the self-promoting, constructed reality widely seen e.g. on Facebook. Be professional like on the job.

Your author's tone
   One of the things you develop, as you interact on the social media and write for your web site, is an author's tone. You get a distinct tone of voice e.g. the incorrigible optimist, the one who's always ragging on things, or whatever else it might be. There is no wrong author's tone per se, every type of writer has his/her followers. There is a small issue in regards to authenticity. Words and action have to be in compliance. If you try to promote yourself as the cheerful optimist but sound whiny and needy, you have a problem.
   If you use the potential and stay true to your author's tone, it is an outstanding communications tool. Try watching a couple of TED Talks. Basically they all do the same: One person on a stage, giving a lecture... and yet they are incredibly different as they are standing there. Most importantly: they are all doing well BECAUSE they are different. It's a bit more difficult in writing, as you don't have the help of the body language, but, with a bit of training you'll get it right.

Forget about a quick fix
   Gaining a lot of followers takes time. Time where you post something, that is. Many people miss that particular detail. If you are not posting anything, no one will find you or follow you.
   Most people are aware that building a network in the real world takes time and effort. You have to attend to your connections. The same being the case for digital network appears to be less obvious. If the first posts don't result in a million followers, many people give up. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, that you post once or twice, just to confirm that it doesn't work. That didn't result in a lot of likes or traffic, so it doesn't work, just as predicted. Imagine if you did the same thing to your contacts in the real world.
   Networks takes time and effort. There is no quick fix. The closest you can get to easy and quick solutions, is by hiring someone to take care of your network profile. This is being done, e.g. by companies and politicians. The work isn't any less, it just moves the work load over to someone else, e.g. spin doctors or PR departments.

Show, don't tell
   So, if you want to cultivate your professional web presence, show that your or your company is worth hiring (and preferable to the competitors), now is the time to participate in the discussions on the net. Be generous with your knowledge and experience and let people know that you excel at what you do, instead of just having a note on your profile stating that you worked with this or that, by the way.
   ... And enjoy it! One of the first things you discover, when you start interacting with others on the social media, is that there is a lot of both pleasant and capable people out there in cyberspace, that you can have great pleasure exchanging ideas and thoughts with.