Every once in a while a marathon post must be written about using social media to build your personal and professional brand.
This is one of those times. After speaking at a recent conference on embracing today’s digital and social technology to build your brand and stay relevant in your industry, I had several people come up after and tell me they fear they have waited too long. They admitted that they have not done anything to build their personal or professional brand and now feared being left behind by the digital natives that have come into the workplace.
Well, fear not! It is never too late to get started, and it doesn’t take long at all to build a wonderful network of people that you can learn and share with.
Here are 7 steps that will get your brand on the map in no time using social media:
Complete your social media profiles.
LinkedIn is probably the most important social media site for at least establishing yourself as a professional. Don’t leave it with bare bones information. Beef it up with rich information about your experiences, your skills, your expertise, and of course proof of these things can be shown in original content you share. Google+, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and any other social media site, provide you with ample space to tell the world who you are and what your area of expertise or specialty is.
Make sure you have a nice clear headshot that shows you smiling…even if it is just a little. You want your profile to be warm and welcoming. Invite people to connect with your smile, don’t scare them off with a mugshot that makes them afraid to connect. (Watch this interview I did with marketer and photographer, Neil McKenzie about taking great head shots)
Share regular content.
On some sites sharing once a day or once every couple days works, like LinkedIn or Instagram, sites like Twitter need more regular feeding to get your content out there and seen. Even Facebook has higher engagement rates with two and sometimes more, post per day. It really depends on how valuable your content is and how much of it you already have. LinkedIn now allows longer entries called POSTS instead of the regular status updates
Click inside the status update box to see the pencil in the upper right corner. This opens up the POST area that allows you to write a full blog post, complete with multiple photos, and have it live on the front of your profile, showing and sharing your knowledge. Regular posts on Twitter allow you to share bits of your wisdom and experience with the world. Each post is a full indexed website, which means that single tweet can be served up as a result to someone’s search for information.
Use hashtags and keywords for better branding.
To help your content be found by those searching for specific content, be sure to strategically use keywords and hashtags in your social media posts. A hashtag is simply a way to TAG content so that others who are searching for specific information can find it more easily. At an event, they may assign a hashtag to help anyone wanting to see the nuggets of content shared by those attending (face-to-face, or virtually). Simply search on Twitter (or Instagram) for the specific tag, and all content with that tag will be pulled up. Twitter and Instagram rely heavily on hashtags for curating content, whereas LinkedIn uses keywords, that are placed strategically in your profile, to help you be found more often in searches. Facebook has improved its search feature, but people on this network still have not caught on to using hashtags.
Build your network…at least get it started.
Most people I talk to admit to having a long list of LinkedIn invitations that they have been ignoring, or worse, that they have deleted! They have not created a Twitter account and see no purpose for a Facebook profile. Google their name and nothing comes up! NADA. While this used to be okay and even desirable for those not wanting anyone to know anything about them. Today, it is not okay. Unless you plan on spending the next decade tilling the land with the Amish. Having nothing show up when someone searches for you tells people that you either have been doing nothing, or that you are hiding from someone.
Creating a Facebook profile, does not mean you will be forced to share your vacation photos, and having a Twitter account does not mean you have to have 10,000 followers. The key is, you want to build a network of smart business people in your industry that you can share with. You want to connect with people who can help you continue learning and with people in your industry that you can pass on your knowledge and experience to. Regardless of your industry, you will find others on social media sites that you can connect with. Are you a project manager? Search for #PMP and #PMI on Twitter and Instagram. Do you own chickens and want to share best practices on raising happy hens? Check out the “Raising Chickens” group on Facebook and @RaiseChickens on Twitter. You name it, there are groups that are already established and most that have regular (weekly) live chats on Twitter or live Hangouts on Google+ that you can jump right into.
Having a larger network on LinkedIn will help your profile show up in searches more often because of the way LinkedIn shows first, second, and third connections in the results. So if I have 50 people in my first connection network, I will show up in skills or expertise searches when they do a search or when someone in their network does a search. So the larger the network, the broader my reach. Now this does not mean you should connect with every stranger who wants to connect with you—there are lots of wing-nuts out there…even on LinkedIn. The key is, every time you meet someone at a conference, a business meeting or a networking event, go back and connect with them on LinkedIn. It is safe and will serve you well. Your personal information is not listed on LinkedIn and even when someone contacts you, it is through the LinkedIn filter unless you want to provide them with your email address. And when the occasional wing-nut pops up, simply disconnect or unLink from them.
Create a few short videos sharing your best tips.
Start by writing down some of the questions that you get asked most often (even by your family members when you tell them what you do). Now create a short video for each question, answering them, and you will have a wonderful collection of your knowledge and expertise. Take the time to write out the answers you will give. Target 150 words of content while you are writing (A word processing application like Word or Pages will show you a word count as you type). This will ensure your video stays around one minute in length, since we speak an average of 150 words per minute, and it will prevent you from rambling off track.
You do not need to hire a professional videographer, although if you have one at your disposal, by all means use them. You can use your laptop camera or even your mobile device to create short informative videos. (Check out a short video on HOW TO CREATE BETTER VIDEOS for Social Media). Once you have your short videos, you can load them to a YouTube channel and then even place them on your LinkedIn profile (look for the ADD MEDIA box in each section of your profile). Share the link on Twitter, Google+ even Facebook.
Design eye-catching slide decks sharing your expertise.
Create one or many, slide decks that highlight your past projects, a marketing message, your top FAQs again, or a How-To presentation. Make them very visual. You do not need to have 87 bullet points on a slide to explain something. Keep it high-level and if the person wants more information, they will contact you. I love using HaikuDeck to create visually beautiful slides (it is also an app available on iPads) and then I save them to SlideShare and onto my LinkedIn profile. It is a very easy way to add visual appeal to an otherwise text-laden profile. You can use these presentations as blog posts or share them on any social network you'd like.
Stay active on social media sites.
Once you have taken the time to set up your social media profiles and load wonderful content, the key is to simply stay active. This does not mean hours each day. It can be as little as 15-30 minutes each morning or evening. Open each profile and scan to see if there are any great posts related to your industry. If there are, LIKE them, comment on them, and SHARE them with your network, telling them why you think it is “share-worthy.” Look for a few new people to connect with each time you are online. All of the social sites will recommend people to you, telling you that you might know this person or that person. If it looks like you have something in common with them, send a request to connect. And when someone follows you or sends a request to connect with them, don’t click ignore or delete it. Take a look at their profile and see if they look like they could be a person you could possibly learn from, share with, or even better, someone you could do business with. CONNECT!
I’d love to hear your ideas for branding yourself and your expertise. Share them below in the comments…let’s all learn together. I welcome your questions as well and be sure to connect with me on all the social sites…I promise, I’m not a wing-nut!