I’m back for my final instalment on personal branding, particularly building a strong personal, professional brand online. This week focuses on the finer details, looking at how you can fully take advantage of available social channels and tools, and touching on how you can really get yourself in front of the right people.
Use More than One Channel
Many would agree that LinkedIn is the professional social network, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only place to network; many professionals use Slack and even Twitter to communicate and interact with other professionals and brands. This means that you should be active on more than just LinkedIn. Depending on how much time you have I think investing in Twitter and LinkedIn is well worth it.
Connect, Follow and Grow
It’s not enough to be on social media without having a following otherwise your message won’t reach anyone. If you’re on LinkedIn, find professionals in your field or in the field you want to work in and connect with them. Be sure to connect with any of your old work colleagues and ask them for recommendations by leaving one for them first. This will help give your profile more depth; character references and personal recommendations are invaluable. If you are on Twitter start by doing a search and following relevant professionals and brands, most will follow you back. In my experience, it’s those with a more modest following that will follow you back. Always send them a message to thank them for connecting with you. You can use Crowdfire and set up an auto DM (Direct Message) as a thank you, just be sure to make it as personal as you can and give your follower an overview of what they can expect from you; i.e. what are you going to be posting about?
Stay Up to Date
Whether or not you want to break into a particular industry, you need to stay up to date with industry news. Not only do you want to be sharing interesting stories with your network you also need to be able to provide a commentary and add your own opinions to the latest developments. It’s about more than just being able to regurgitate an article you’ve read, you need to read around the topic and give your two cents. Remember an opinion isn’t right or wrong, so I encourage you to just put it out there. Don’t be afraid of other people’s responses. Mediate your comments section and get involved. Just don’t argue. Be professional.
Post Relevant Content
There are two life-saving tools out there for this. The first is Feedly, a website that allows to collate multiple news sources and put them into lists. It’s great because it gives you all the latest headlines and a little blurb from all of your news sources all in one place. If I find something interesting I’ll take the link and add my own thoughts to a post in Buffer. Buffer is a scheduling tool that you can use for all your social channels. You choose the times and the channel and Buffer does the rest. Another great feature of Buffer is its link shortener, which is automatic.
Put Your Name on Everything
Make sure that your handles and custom URLs all have your name. Drop the numbers – if you can. For example: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kelly-newcomb/ looks better than www.linkedin.com/in/kelly-newcomb-4685. Subsequently, all your other handles should be your first and last name. If you find that you have a common name choose a keyword that defines your area and add it to your URL or handle. For example, you might want to be John Smith SEO. It might take time to find but once you have a handle ensure it’s consistent across all your channels.
Some of you eagle-eyed readers may notice that I have a different Twitter handle from my actual name. This is because I use my personal Twitter to tweet about video games and memes; it’s not strictly professional, but feel free to connect with me if you’re interested in either.
The next step is to create business cards. Having your own social links and contact information on there, along with a picture or logo is timeless, it’s a great way of exchanging your personal information quickly and will make you far more memorable than just connecting on LinkedIn.
Get Yourself Out There
Don’t hide behind social media. Get yourself out to networking and industry events. Even careers fairs, if you’re a recent graduate. Meet people and talk to them about your skills and aspirations. But most importantly, listen and learn from them. I like to be able to live tweet if I’m at a talk, using the events or speakers tags and hashtags, or I generally post about the event I’m going to and what stalls or talks I’ll be at. Most of the time using tags will ensure my post gets retweeted and shared, meaning its seen by a wider audience. Any connections I make I ensure to follow up personally. If I see a talk, I’ll message them on LinkedIn thanking them for their time and recalling what I learned. If I meet another professional then I, again, will always message them following up on our conversation. I am very good with names and faces but not everyone is, so it’s a good idea to remind people who you are and what you talked about. Rather than:
‘Hi Ben, it was really nice to meet you at the networking event today.’
‘Hi Ben, It was great to meet you at the Digital Networking Event today. I really enjoyed talking to you about how personal branding is essential for people to stand out in saturated markets. I found it particularly interesting that you mentioned you were going to colleges to talk about it. As requested, here’s a link to my articles on personal branding https://www.linkedin.com/in/kelly-newcomb/detail/recent-activity/posts/. Hope to catch up with you soon.’
Practice an Elevator Pitch
Despite what some people might say, having a rehearsed elevator pitch is incredibly useful. It might be repetitious but it is a fantastic way of giving someone all the essential information to know who you are and what you’re about in a professional context. It shouldn’t be longer than 30 seconds, 20 seconds is better. Keep working on it and perfecting it. I’ll cover off how to write and deliver an elevator pitch in my next article.
If you follow these steps and get into the habit of posting and communicating with your audience you’ll find your network and engagement will grow. As you build up personal professional connections you’ll find this will open doors to new opportunities down the line. For the most part, listening and learning from others is one of the greatest free tools out there. Connecting with thought-leaders and getting involved in conversations will help you to understand the professional world and your own field. It’s an opportunity you won’t really get anywhere else, so take advantage of it!