When is the last time you met someone in either a professional or personal setting and thought, “Looks like I’m completely neutral on Sandra. I have formulated zero opinions on her personality, mannerisms and communication style.” Well, the answer for all of us is a resounding, “Never.” In fact, according to Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov, we form opinions of strangers within a tenth of a second of meeting for the first time.
Data from a USC Annenberg report shows that the average American spends nearly 24 hours a week online, so it’s reasonable to infer that our online presence matters nearly as much as our physical one. Whether you like it or not, your online presence is telling a story about you and your organization. While you don’t have to be the Charles Dickens of social media to craft your story, you do need to put some sweat equity into your online equity. As a marketer, who has spent a fair portion of my career crafting and executing brand strategies, including personal and professional social media optimization, I’ve developed four C’s of social media optimization to utilize as my credo.
There are two main areas where your social footprint requires clarity. The first is medium, and the second is message. By medium, I am referring to the various social platforms, including Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and more. In an environment of increasing demands and limited discretionary time, you’ll get the most return on your investment by picking one medium and sticking with it. For most professionals, the most useful medium is LinkedIn, as it will allow you the best opportunity to engage with others and enhance your personal brand. Once you’ve gotten clarity on your preferred medium, the next step is to craft your message. Begin by pulling out the most recently updated version of your resume, as this can serve as a starting point from which to build from and a helpful memory jogger on previous roles and responsibilities. Next, take a step back to craft your elevator pitch, a brief summary of your unique value and experience. This is an opportunity for you to convey to members, volunteers, peers, and recruiters exactly what you want them to know about you. While you can’t prevent others from formulating opinions, you can steer those opinions using clear, compelling personal language and data.
Would you purchase a home with shoddy craftsmanship or a product with questionable reviews? Why would your online personal brand presence be any different? As a hiring manager, I can tell you that I search every potential candidate online who has passed through the first round of screening. As someone who recently secured a new position myself, I can tell you that my new organization certainly looked me up. Your online profile is an excellent opportunity to establish your credibility before you walk into any in-person meeting, be that a meeting with your board of directors or the recruiter for the new position you’re attempting to secure. You should begin to establish your social credibility by completing a full and accurate LinkedIn profile (see LinkedIn Visibility Maximizer Checklist for guidance and to assess the current status of your profile). Remember that in the absence of data, and unfortunately often even with it, snap judgements will be formed.
LinkedIn presents an excellent opportunity to build your visibility with recruiters and secure new roles. As a personal testament, I’ve secured two roles from direct outreach via LinkedIn. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s all about the job search. Building and optimizing your profile is all about a focus on continuous improvement, helping to convey your professional clout. Have you mastered a new skill, obtained a certification, or joined a volunteer organization? What better way to share it with your peers through a single communication? Just don’t forget that it’s not all about you. Be sure to elevate and encourage the achievements of others in your network. The benefits of recognizing others will come back to you tenfold in goodwill and good feelings.
While your professional social presence may often seem like one-way communication, don’t neglect opportunities for true engagement. As someone who pivoted from for-profit, corporate marketing to professional associations three and a half years ago, the main thing I love about association management is our community. There are a wealth of individuals and groups willing to assist, elevate and educate you at every stage of your career. An optimized social profile is merely a footnote if you’re not also using it to connect and engage. Check out your colleagues’ profiles and ask them to introduce you to mutual connections. Share or create meaningful content with and for your peers. Your unique perspective and insight add value to our community.