Brand Yourself Through Social Media 12/15/2011
by Michelle Vroom, account executive at Tonic Life Communications and co-chair of PRSA Philly Publicity/Web site Committee
As PR pros, we know how to help our clients with branding, but when it comes to branding ourselves, most of us do a very poor job. It’s easy to forget that branding occurs on an individual level and can lead to more opportunities in our careers. And where does most of our branding occur? In social media.
Everything we do on social media is documented — whether our profile is private or not. It’s easy to track down photos, statements, links, etc. that any individual posts. It seems very straightforward, but many forget that when they’re quickly posting a link to Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.
In today’s society, there is a lot of discussion around the division between personal and professional life. The truth is, nothing is completely personal (no, not even on Facebook). You never know who’s watching or who will be seeing that photo from Friday night at the bar (yes, THAT photo). We have to be careful how we present ourselves…or else our own brand will suffer.
So how do you take advantage of social media and use it to build your own brand as a PR pro? Here are a few tips that will help you to be known as the professional you are:
1. Ensure that the information you present is consistent across social media channels.
What is your professional goal in social media? If it’s to be recognized as a driver of PR info, then make sure that’s what you’re communicating on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. In addition, keep it cyclical. This means that if someone visits your Facebook profile, they’ll see links to your Twitter and LinkedIn channels as well. If someone receives an email from you, all they have to do is look at your email signature to gauge your social media presence.
2. Take advantage of opportunities to get in front of decision makers in the PR industry.
Are you a member of PR LinkedIn groups? Other professional associations? And if you’re a member, are you silent or is your voice heard? Posting content on the group wall and responding to discussions others post can help you stand out. People will inevitably come across your profile (and hopefully be impressed by what you say!). They’ll click on your LinkedIn profile picture and be taken directly to your profile page. What will they find there? Experience? Qualifications? Recommendations from current or previous colleagues/supervisors? That’s what they should see in order for your profile to make an impact.
One last note about LinkedIn: it can bring out the stalker in all of us. Check out your profile page — it will tell you who’s viewed your profile in the last seven days. Pay attention to who’s viewed your profile because you never know when you’ll need to connect with that person. Visit their profile and maybe you’ll notice that an opening has come up in their company. Bingo — they’ve already checked out your profile, so you know they’re interested. You’re already one step ahead.
Now on to Twitter. The biggest piece of advice I can give is to participate in Twitter chats. How many? As many as possible. It’s a great way to get to know other pros. You’d be surprised who you can meet through these chats. It’s also a great way to get new followers and get exposed to their networks. If you’re unsure about which Twitter chats to participate in, check out this list.
And of course we can’t forget Facebook. Facebook is tricky since it’s not as professionally-oriented as LinkedIn and Twitter. However, it can still be an important branding tool. That is, if you move past just writing on friends’ walls. Become a fan of other PR and marketing organizations. That way you can mingle with others who have the same interests and learn about jobs that may crop up in the industry.
3. Keep your communication relevant, newsworthy, and engaging.
Lose the article from two years ago. You can learn the latest updates in PR and stay up to date on breaking news to share with your followers by participating in Twitter chats and following publications on Facebook (New York Times and Forbes to start). On LinkedIn, don’t be afraid to use the status tool on your profile. In my opinion, it’s underused. Use the LinkedIn status tool to post an interesting link to an article or an award your agency just won. It’ll make your profile that much more impactful.
At the same time, remember that communication is a two-way street. Make sure you’re responding to others’ comments (even if they’re unpleasant), and that your responses aren’t simply self-promotional. It’s okay to ask someone to follow you on Twitter, but make sure you’re adding value to the conversation first. Nothing turns people off more than shameless plugs. Especially if they have to see it in their newsfeeds. People who do that get defriended fast.
Most of all, don’t forget the “personal” in personal branding. In order to truly be recognized and build your brand, you need to share your opinions, not just pass along content generated by others. Make sure your communication reflects who you are as a professional — what kind of expertise and energy you bring to the table — and you’ll soon have a social media presence that is truly an asset to your career.