What Happens When You Post a Weekly LinkedIn Article

Coming up on nearly a year of posting a weekly LinkedIn article, what have I learned? What can you learn?

What articles are getting the most engagement?

Are there patterns among those top articles?

And how can this help you on your journey to build your career through social media?

It’s time to turn to another trusty spreadsheet, similar to my experiment on posting to LinkedIn every weekday for a month.

What’s in it?

  • 35 articles, from May 2017 to January 2018
  • Posting date and day of the week
  • Engagement measures of clicks, likes, comments and shares
  • Headline scores, characters, words, sentiment and type (thanks to CoSchedule,  the content calendar company)
  • Network reached, e.g., first- or second-degree network

After creating and populating my spreadsheet, I identified the best performing articles. What determined those? I looked at a general measure of engagement, a combination of the highest number of clicks to an article, along with likes, comments and shares. Then I sorted the data in a variety of ways and began looking for trends and patterns.

 

WHAT DIDN’T MATTER TO ENGAGEMENT?

A number of variables could be ruled out right away. They didn’t seem to matter to engagement.

Day of the week. About 70% of my articles were posted on a Wednesday, because I strive for consistency. What about the 30% posted on other weekdays? How did they do? The data says the day of the week doesn’t really matter. Articles on other days of the week didn’t do noticeably better or worse than others.

My conclusion? Continue the consistency with Wednesdays, experimenting with other days of the week on occasion.

Headline score. Could better headlines attract more engagement? I experimented with headline analyzers from CoSchedule and the Advanced Marketing Institute and wrote about the experience in a few of my blog posts. 

Looking at my top 10 LinkedIn articles, half had “strong” headline scores of 70+, about half had “average” scores between 55 and 69, and one had a “poor” score below 54.

My conclusion? While I believe there’s value in writing the most compelling headline possible, it’s not necessary to find or use the highest-scoring headline. I do believe using headline analyzers has improved the quality of my headlines over time, however, which has helped enhance my articles.

Headline sentiment. Would headlines with stronger sentiment, either positive or negative, perform better? The analysis of my own articles didn’t really bear that out. Of the top 10 headlines, 2 were positive and 8 were neutral.

My conclusion? It’s not necessary to focus on headline sentiment and making them more positive.

Headline type. In the top 10 articles, 4 headlines were generic, 2 were questions, 2 were lists, 1 was how to, and 1 was time based, using categories from CoSchedule. Again, no real pattern.

My conclusion? Variety and appropriateness to the particular topic are more important than finding a single most resonant type of headline.

 

WHAT WERE THE BIGGEST SURPRISES?

For each article I discovered I can click into a list of who has shared the article. What I can’t fully identify is whether this is a newly available feature, or if somehow I missed it before.

Previously, I was aware of shares if the sharer @mentioned me, or if it was included in a summary email from LinkedIn.

But clicking into these shares opened up a whole new perspective for me. With each new article I post, I’ll now check the shares daily. That way I can like and comment on those shares, along with any comments they’ve received. This may even highlight people I’d like to add to my LinkedIn network.

One of my articles, A Top 2018 PR Trend: Growth in Employee Advocacy, was shared by people beyond my network in Denmark, Italy and Mexico.

The shares in Denmark each had accompanying messages. But I don’t speak Danish. What to do? Enter Google Translate.

With this I had to take a leap of faith. I assumed the translation of “burn” had an alternate meaning of “promote” or “build.”

I discovered that 7 people in Denmark were promoting a workshop on employee advocacy and strategic branding through social media. It appeared that my article helped in underscoring the importance of employee advocacy programs.

So I keyed my own response into Google Translate from English to Danish and posted a reply to the first sharer, Gert Juhl. What fun to hear back a day later!

 

WHAT DID MATTER TO ENGAGEMENT?

To understand what really did matter to engagement, I identified my top performing articles, by a combination of clicks, likes, comments and shares.

Here they are:

1. What Happens When You Post to LinkedIn Every Day for a Month(911 clicks, 75 likes, 17 comments, 22 shares, 77 strong headline score, neutral headline sentiment)

2. 2018 Trends to Build Your Career through Social Media (895 clicks, 49 likes, 5 comments, 80 shares, 66 average headline score, neutral headline sentiment)

3. 12 Ways to a Great LinkedIn Photo (500 clicks, 44 likes, 14 comments, 4 shares, 66 average headline score, positive headline sentiment)

4. How to Boost Engagement with LinkedIn Articles (301 clicks, 70 likes, 13 comments, 2 shares, 76 strong headline score, neutral headline sentiment)

5. Be Bold in Your LinkedIn Profile (292 clicks, 41 likes, 3 comments, 9 shares, 67 average headline score, positive headline sentiment)

My hypotheses as to why these articles got the highest engagement?

First, they answered important questions for people. What are the social media trends that could affect how to build a career? How to take a great LinkedIn photo? How to create a great profile? How to encourage engagement with articles? What happens by experimenting with daily content?

Second, they combined personal knowledge and experience and existing knowledge in unique ways. They shared my personal experiences (those that are non-confidential) with the intent of helping people in my network and beyond. They are unique, with my own perspective and insights. They are things only I could write. What are things only you could write about?

Third, it helps to have a post boosted by an employee advocacy program (note: opinions expressed in this article are my own.) The 2018 trends article was featured in my employer’s program, thanks to Nolan Carleton and Claire Mitzner. That’s the likely reason there were 80 shares, when shares for other articles were much lower. If your employee advocacy program has a feature where you can submit your articles for consideration, do it!

 

WHAT OTHER DATA WOULD HELP?

As I thought more about why certain articles performed better than others, I realized I need to add some new data fields to my spreadsheet for future analysis.

First, I’m now noting how people mentioned in an article relate to article engagement. I strive to mention and link to people in every article and @mention people in every post. That rounds out my perspective and boosts people in my network. When I promote articles, I mention them in LinkedIn and Twitter, and sometimes send them a DM, direct message, with a link to the article.

Second, I’m starting to measure the effectiveness of the LinkedIn posts and the tweets that promote the article. How much engagement are these getting? What can be learned from the highest-performing posts and tweets?

Because the functionality doesn’t seem to allow an @mention of people in the LinkedIn post that initially shares the article, I’ll start doing a separate LinkedIn post where I @mention people. Then I can compare how the two types of posts perform. Why is an @mention important? Because the person receives a notification that they were mentioned.

Third, I’ll note the impact (positive or negative change) in the week following the article being posted of my profile views, connection requests and new followers. This gives a sense of how my influence is changing as a result of publishing an article every week, along with the effectiveness of the particular article.

 

WHY IS DATA SO IMPORTANT?

After a recent week of observing bad behavior on LinkedIn, like new connections who immediately spammed me with a sales pitch, I decided I’d write a post about 10 things NOT to do in LinkedIn.

I jotted down my own pet peeves. Then I bounced them against a Google search of other similar articles. Not surprisingly, my list didn’t add anything new. So why write and post it?

That’s what prompted the realization it was time to return to my own data. What is it telling me about my weekly posting of articles? This is a unique and different story that only I can tell.

And that is what social media content creation is all about … sharing something new and different that can help your network … and that they aren’t going to find anywhere else.

There may be nothing new under the sun. But just as we each have unique fingerprints and unique DNA, we each have unique experiences in our careers. These are the powerful and valuable perspectives we can share with others.

What’s Your (Social Media) Theme for 2018?

Happy New Year!

Did you make any resolutions? Or set any goals?

A theme for the year can help you achieve them. What’s a theme? It’s a single word you pick to characterize the kind of year you want to have.

As you think about how you’ll build your career through social media in the coming year, the focus of this blog, a theme can help you in four ways.

Motivation. A theme is a personal rallying cry you can apply to everything you do, in social media and in real life. It can help motivate you to take small steps towards your goals, day after day.

Focus. A theme tells you what’s important. And what’s not. It helps you decide in an instant if you’re spending your time in the most important ways to you.

Integration. A theme brings everything in your life together, both professional and personal. Your actions support and build on each other in an integrated way.

Meaning. A theme gives meaning and purpose to every action you take. Your reason for choosing your theme gives you the “why” of your goals and actions.

2018 is year eight for me of having an annual theme. My latest theme came to me while participating in Seth Godin‘s online marketing seminar over the summer.

Seth is a bestselling author and entrepreneur, with an incredible blog on marketing, respect, and the way ideas spread. Everything in Seth’s course focused on his view that “marketing is about creating change.”

Toward the end of the class, a book arrived in the mail. It was called Footprints on the Moon, with a cover photo of Neil Armstrong. One of the sections was called “Buzzer Management.”

Parts of it went as follows:

“I started the quiz team at my high school. Alas, I didn’t do so well at the tryouts, so I ended up as the coach, but we still made it to the finals.

It took me 30 years to figure out the secret of getting in ahead of the others who also knew the answer (because the right answer is no good if someone else gets the buzz):

You need to press the buzzer before you know the answer.

As soon as you realize that you might be able to identify the answer by the time you’re asked, buzz.

Between the time you buzz and the time you’re supposed to speak, the answer will come to you. And if it doesn’t, the penalty for being wrong is small compared to the opportunity to get it right.

What separates this approach from mere recklessness is the experience of discovering (in the right situation) that buzzing makes your work better, that buzzing helps you dig deeper, that buzzing inspires you.

The act of buzzing leads to leaping, and leaping leads to great work.”

As soon as I read it, I knew my next theme had to be BUZZING. I have a habit of holding back, of waiting for perfection. And in that waiting, the world rushes by. Faster and faster, with each passing day.

It’s not comfortable, buzzing in before I’ve completely formulated my thought. But it’s exactly the reminder I need to weigh in and share my point of view. Sooner rather than later. And even if it’s not perfect.

Not in a reckless way. But in a faster way. In social media for career building, the topic of this blog, it’s still important to to keep it “light, bright and polite” in the words of Josh Ochs.

My theme gives me the extra nudge to keep learning and experimenting, while continuing to be positive and constructive in my approach to social media.

Other years’ themes have come in different ways.

Last December our family went to Disneyland over the holidays. It was crowded. Wait times were long. Our family of four ended up making it on only four rides. Yes, I calculated the per-ride cost, but I’ll spare you the painful details.

Because there was a big upside. One of the rides inspired my theme. We ended up in the front row of Soarin’ Around the World. We had a bird’s-eye view of some of the most beautiful scenes on the planet.

And there was my theme – SOARING. All of the definitions worked: to fly or glide at a great height, to rise or ascend to a height, and to rise or aspire to a higher or more exalted level.

I’m happy to say that my theme inspired and focused my efforts. It helped me to achieve several personal and professional goals during the year.

What first prompted me to choose a theme word was a particularly intense work project in 2010. I poured significant energy into designing and delivering a first-ever, week-long leadership development program for my employer. I put my heart and soul into it, giving it the energy and attention it needed to be successful.

But in the process, I seriously neglected myself. My life had become to full. It was like an overstuffed closet. As a result, I made several changes to my life in 2011.

It began by thinning my calendar of commitments, letting the clock run out on too many community activities. Next I brought thinning to my stuff, clearing out clutter and saying farewell to things I no longer needed. Then I applied thinning to myself, focusing on better nutrition and exercise, ultimately becoming a lifetime member of Weight Watchers.

My theme word was THINNING. Often we need to let go of the old to create space for the new. That’s what my theme word did for me that year. It opened up the space I needed to achieve new goals. The next year my theme word naturally evolved to BUILDING.

It wasn’t until after I stumbled upon the idea of a theme word on my own that I realized others promote this practice too.

Best-selling author Gretchen Rubin wrote A Fun Way to Shape the New Year: Pick a One-Word Theme. And nutrition professional Melinda Johnson says to Try a New Year’s Theme Instead of a Resolution.

As you build your career through social media in the coming year, a theme can focus and inspire your efforts. Beyond that, it can be a rallying cry for everything you do.

I’m excited to see what the act of buzzing will bring. As a start, it will free me from always thinking I already have to have the answer. In today’s world, we’re all seekers, looking for the answer amidst constant change. That makes experimenting, testing and iterating more important than ever before.

What’s your theme for 2018?

2018 Trends to Build Your Career through Social Media

2018 trend stories on social media are everywhere.

How do you take advice for organizational brand building, apply it to your personal brand and boost it through social media?

How do you make sense of the eye-popping list of trends? In my research I came across:

  • AI, or artificial intelligence
  • AR, or augmented reality
  • VR, or virtual reality
  • influencer marketing
  • Instagram stories
  • messaging platforms like WhatsApp
  • online hangouts like Houseparty
  • more content moderation by platforms
  • decline of organic content reach and rise of pay to play
  • social listening
  • chatbots
  • personalization
  • Generation Z in the workplace and marketplace
  • the rise of ephemeral content with Snapchat and others
  • conversational user interfaces, like Alexa
  • and video, video, and more video, including professional live video.

That’s a lot to think about. So I researched, sifted and synthesized to identify key personal branding trends. (Opinions expressed in this blog are my own.)

As you wrap up your year-end social media checklist and turn to the year ahead, here’s how you can tap into the trends for building your career through social media.

Why is this so important?

First, the personal brand you develop through social media and in real life will help you build your network, position yourself for new roles and navigate career transitions.

Start by deciding – or updating – what goals you want to accomplish in your career and how social media can help make them happen.

Maybe a goal is to attract a sponsor to champion your career. “One of the best ways to attract a coveted senior-level sponsor is to develop a strong personal brand,” Dorie Clark says in Harvard Business Review. What better way to do that than through your social media presence?

Second, there’s an element of serendipity in social media. While you can set specific goals for social media actions, you can’t entirely predict or control the outcomes.

How did this work for me? Over the last year, my social media involvement played a part in being invited to speak to mentoring circles and visiting students, being asked to be an influencer at a big company event, and joining the board of governors for an alma mater’s alumni association.

Third, people are spending more time on social media – more than 2 hours a day, and growing. That gives you more opportunities to boost your career through sharing your thoughts, posting your (non-confidential) work and building your network in social media.

Here are the key social media trends you can use to build your career through social media in the year ahead.

1. Platforms are ever evolving.

Social media is an ongoing learning opportunity, because the algorithms and features of each platform are constantly evolving and changing.

That means we individually need to be constantly observing, learning and experimenting in our chosen platforms to see what gets the most engagement.

An easy way to learn outside the platforms is to listen to podcasts during commute time. On the top of my list are The Science of Social Media, Social Pros and Why I Social.

2. Communities are critical. 

The mantra to always be connecting will help you build community in your chosen social platforms.

As a start, connect with all of your existing contacts at your company, people related to your work, people in professional associations, and so on.

Add new connections as you meet new people, ideally on a weekly basis. And you can identify people you want to meet and connect with them.

Why is this so important? Dakota Shane writes in Inc.com that you can “win” the social media game by asking,” Is my brand building community on social media?”

Building a strong community of people interested in you and what you have to share will help overcome the ever-evolving algorithms that may limit the reach of your content.

Shane gives great ideas to build community through starting a Facebook group, giving your community members a name, showing your audience love and recognition, and starting a meetup.

3. Influencers are for individuals too. 

If influencers continue to build large brands, why not apply the concept to building your career?

This idea first came up for me in an episode of The Science of Social Media. Hosts Brian Peters and Hailley Griffis talked about “pods” of people with complimentary areas of focus in social media. They come together to like, comment on, and share each other’s content.

This trend seems the most pronounced for Instagram. “Insta pods” are groups of 10 to 20 people who follow each other and engagement meaningfully in each other’s content.

You can try this concept on an informal basis by thinking of existing groups you belong to, and if it makes sense to amplify each others’ content.

This happened informally for me with three groups.

  • One is mentoring circles I lead with employee resource groups and an alma mater.
  • Another is the group of influencers who worked together on a big company event. We naturally stayed in touch afterwards and continue to engage with each others’ content.
  • And the marketing and communications team that leads social media for my alumni association involvement is another natural pod.

What groups do you already belong to that could create a pod of people who engage with each other’s social media content?

4. Employee advocacy programs are expanding. 

Employee advocacy programs are poised for big growth in the year ahead, according to the 2017 State of Employee Advocacy survey by JEM Consulting.

Adoption grew by more than 25% over the last year. In 2018, the top goal is to increase the number of employees participating as advocates. Why not be one of them?

Through these programs, companies empower their employees to be brand ambassadors, sharing official news and information about the company and its brand through personal social media channels.

This gives you valuable and ready-made content you can curate for your own social media feeds. Not only will you be building your personal brand, you’ll be enhancing your company’s brand, a win-win.

While trust has declined among consumers, peer influence is on the rise. This makes employer advocacy programs particularly important.

I can’t wait to see what my colleagues Nolan Carleton, Claire Mitzner and others at our company have in store to enhance our employee advocacy program in the year to come.

And with the growth of Instagram and Instagram stories, I’m looking forward to exploring that platform in detail in the coming year, much as I did with LinkedIn over the last year.

5. Video keeps increasing in importance.

This is a continuing trend, as video grows in popularity across social platforms. LinkedIn added video capability this year. And video capability continues to evolve across all platforms.

One of my goals over the last year was to experiment with video. I tried Facebook Live and videos posts on Instagram and LinkedIn. This was just dipping my toe into the water, and I didn’t see great variation in engagement between video posts and image posts. At least, not yet. So the coming year is ripe for more experimentation.

6. Pay to play is on the rise. 

Algorithms constantly change in social media. Organic unpaid reach in social media is declining for brands. That might help or hurt you as an individual, but it’s hard to know for sure.

One way you can measure is by the engagement trends with your posts. Over the last year, are you getting more likes, comments and shares? If not, you could conduct an experiment by paying to boost or promote a few of your posts. Then you can see what happens and adjust your approach accordingly.

It pays to invest in yourself, so consider allocating a small part of your personal budget to build your career through social media.

What do I pay for personally? Blog hosting services for my WordPress site. A subscription to beautiful visuals through iStock by Getty Images. And an annual LinkedIn premium membership. The accompanying training options alone through LinkedIn Learning make it well worth it.

7. Automation opportunities abound.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning seem to be everywhere in trend articles. The Association of National Advertisers, the ANA, even named AI the marketing word of the year. So I keep wondering how best to apply AI and automation to career building through social  media.

Can it create and maintain a social media calendar? Schedule and make posts? Help write top-performing headlines? Conduct research? Outline blog posts?

These are all areas worth exploration in the year ahead. While there are easy ways to weave social media into our everyday lives, I want to learn more about how AI and automation can help.

Given my upcoming focus on Instagram, I’m excited to check out these top 5 Instagram automation tools from Forbes contributor Steve Olenski.

8. Experiments accelerate learning.

My highest performing LinkedIn article was about my experiment in posting to LinkedIn every weekday for a month. Not only did it generate a great deal of valuable data and learning, it engaged my audience much more than other posts, with more than 900 views.

As many of the trend articles attest to, the way to make the most of social media is to take a “test and learn approach.” That’s really the only way to know for sure what will resonate with your community. And what works today might not work a month or a year from now.

There are two near-term experiments on my list. The first is to ask my LinkedIn community what topics they’d like to know more about for career building through social media.

The second is quantitative and qualitative research about why and how professionals are using social media and where they’re finding the most success. Leave me a comment if you’d like to participate.

One trend that likely WON’T work for career building through social media? The rise of ephemeral content in Snapchat and Instagram. This short-term and disappearing content doesn’t build an enduring digital footprint of your work and your point of view.

By creating and curating content in social media on a regular basis, you’re building your career, one post and one interaction at a time. Here are some ways to make it part of your everyday life.

What trends are you focusing on for the coming year?

A Year-End Checklist for Building Your Career through Social Media

In the business world, there are many year-end activities you can apply to your social media strategy for building your career.

What are they? Completing the year’s priorities. Assessing performance for you and your team. Closing the books. Celebrating the season. Connecting with people. Assessing upcoming trends. Setting new strategies and goals.

Here’s a checklist to consider for your own year-end plans as you build your career through social media.

FINISH PRIORITIES AND ASSESS PERFORMANCE

Reflect on how you did on this year’s social media goals. If you set a game plan for the year, see where you did well and what you want to do better in the future.

My plan was to:

(1) amplify my employer’s social media strategy through its Social Circle

(2) give corporate professionals a roadmap to build their career through social media with this blog (note: opinions are my own)

(3) share appropriate highlights of my work in social media

(4) learn how social media is evolving by experimenting with platforms and listening to podcasts, and

(5) help people in my network by sharing and commenting on their content.

Overall, I made progress in every area, even if I didn’t reach every numerical goal. I didn’t share many highlights of my work in social media, because some of it wasn’t content that should be posted in a public forum.

One exciting exception was sharing the news that my employer was named to Fortune’s 2017 list of 100 Best Companies to Work For. As part of a cross-functional team dedicated to making the company a great place to work for all,   I was thrilled to see this recognition and shared it in social media.

Apply your social media activity to your performance assessment. If you’ve been using social media to document your professional life, your feeds become another valuable input to summarize your performance.

You can sift through your posts and articles as reminders of the highlights of the year’s accomplishments. If some of the posts performed particularly well with audience engagement or business impact, you could incorporate those numbers into your performance assessment.

Once your self assessment is done, you have a valuable document to use to update your LinkedIn profile with accomplishments, projects, organizations, awards, and so on. Decide if you want to make tweaks to your profiles in other social platforms, to keep them aligned.

If you have visuals suitable for sharing in public, upload them to your LinkedIn profile to showcase your best work. Consider videos, photos, podcasts, slide decks, news releases and other visual representations. Err on the conservative side if you’re not sure if you should share information. When in doubt, don’t post.

CONNECT WITH YOUR NETWORK AND CELEBRATE THE SEASON

Make the most of social media for holiday networking events. Consider the social media aspect of the event, which I covered in another post.

Stephanie Vozza has a great piece in December’s issue of Fast Company with ideas about how to prepare.

“See who’s going,” says Dorie Clark author of Stand Out Networking. “The event organizer will often publish the names and bios of the people who’ll be there. Get a head start by identifying who you want to meet.”

Judy Robinett, author of How to Be a Power Connector suggests offering to volunteer. “This will allow you access to key leaders who can make key introductions.”

She also advises doing “an internet and social media search of people you want to meet, so you have something meaningful to talk about or ask.” She suggests reaching out in advance via social media.

Reconnect with people. As you’re scrolling through your social media feeds, make an extra effort to post comments for people you want to strengthen and refresh your connections with. A comment or a share means so much more to your network than a like.

SHARE HOLIDAY GREETINGS

Create your holiday greeting posts for your social networks. How will you wish your networks a happy holiday season? Are there inspiring leadership quotes you want to share? Valuable and timely articles you want to post? A fun holiday photo or video with your team to wish your business partners all the best?

To spark your creativity, look at how others are posting about the season. What resonates with you? What would you do differently?

Check out #holiday hashtags for business. Think about what hashtags you’ll use for your holiday posts to make your content more discoverable. Here’s a hashtag calendar resource for the whole year, to help with the holidays and your planning for the new year.

Take a inclusive approach to your hashtags, keeping in mind that a variety of holidays are celebrated at the end of the year.

ASSESS TRENDS AND ACCELERATE LEARNING

Check out trends for the new year. In an upcoming post, I’ll summarize the big trends ahead for building your career through social media. It will build on the format from last year with my post on how social media will change for professionals in the coming year.

Pick one new thing you want to learn. Based on the trends, what do you most want to learn? What are you most interested in? Although my social media trends post is still be researched and written, a big area of focus for me will be video. How can I incorporate more video into my social strategy? How can I tell stories with short videos?

Find a new podcast to learn from while you commute. The ones I’ve been enjoying are:

The Science of Social Media with Brian Peters and Hailley Griffis

Social Pros with Jay Baer and Adam Brown, and

Why I Social with Christopher Barrows.

These turn my commute time into learning time, making it easier to stay up to date and pick up new ideas.

Identify an experiment to conduct. In each of the last two years, I’ve done a 30-day experiment. This year it was seeing what would happen when I posted to LinkedIn every weekday for a month. Last year it was blogging every day for a month.

In the year ahead I’m contemplating primary research on how corporate professionals are building their careers through social media.

PLAN FOR THE NEW YEAR

Pick a theme for the year. A theme for your year gives you a rallying cry that focuses your efforts. It helps you prioritize what to focus on and what to ignore. Here’s how author Gretchen Rubin picks a one-word theme. For the last sever years I’ve had an annual theme, and I’ll cover this in an upcoming post.

Set your #socialmediagoals for the new year. What did you learn from this year’s social media activity? What are the trends for the new year? What do you want to learn? These are all questions to ask yourself as you create a fresh set of goals.

Clear the decks. Just as you clean up your physical and digital workspace by deleting old files, updating contacts, and so on, do the same for your social media accounts.

Clear out the message cache for each platform. You don’t have to respond to everything. Go through pending connection requests on LinkedIn. Here’s a strategy for which invitations to accept. Start the new year fresh.

What’s on your year-end social media checklist?

Social Savvy Strategies for Attending a Conference

Do you have a social savvy strategy for the next conference you’re attending?

This is top of mind for me this week. I couldn’t be more excited to attend the The 2017 MAKERS Conference for women’s leadership, which starts tonight.

With the recent film Hidden Figures, I look forward to hearing from Academy Award-winning actress Octavia Spencer, pictured above, and the other luminary women and men who will be speaking.

My employer is a sponsor of the conference, and I could not be more proud. (This is where I remind readers that opinions expressed in this blog are my own.)

Here are some ideas about making the most of your conference experience in social media.

PROMOTE

How can you amplify awareness of the conference and its goals?

  • Check out the social media plan for the conference. For MAKERS, this came in a series of pre-event emails with sample messages and great content to share.
  • Know and use the relevant hashtag(s). #BEBOLD is the MAKERS hashtag. It’s perfect because it stands out in all caps and its brevity saves characters.
  • Share pre-conference information in your social networks. In the weeks leading up to the conference, I’ve shared content in Twitter and LinkedIn.

CONNECT

How can you get to know new people you can learn from?

  • Check out the attendance list in advance. If anyone already in your network is attending, you can reconnect as well as identify new people you want to meet.
  • Be active in the event app – or in a social media group. Add your picture and key info to your app profile. Send messages to people you want to meet in person.
  • Introduce yourself to 5 to 10 new people at each session. A goal to say hello to a focused number of people makes connections meaningful and manageable.

SHARE

How can you share valuable content with your social networks?

GROW

What can you do after a conference to share the learnings, increase the impact and grow the new network connections you made?

  • Share with your colleagues. Post a summary for appropriate groups in your company’s social intranet or present it in a face-to-face meeting.
  • Take one new action. Commit to doing one thing that will make a difference. My #BEBOLD action will be the subject of a future post.

How do you make the most of a conference experience in social media?

What’s Your Social Media Game in 2017?

It’s a new year. It’s time for a fresh set of goals. And it’s critical to think about them in novel and different ways.

In your professional life, how will you use social media to achieve your goals? How will you use social media to tell your story about your wins?

To start, think about how social media will change for professionals this year. Check out the post, along with Dorie ClarkAlexandra SamuelBryan Kramer and William Arruda for some fascinating ideas.

Then ask yourself these 4 questions to make your own social media game plan.

  • What are your company’s big goals? Is your CEO sharing the company strategy with employees this month or quarter? How about other C-suite leaders? Access any and all public information about your company’s strategic plans for the year. Be clear on the top goals and the order of priority. And be sure what you share in social media is public information only.
  • What are your team’s goals? How do the company goals translate into your department’s goals and ultimately your team’s goals? Where does your team help drive the strategy toward execution? What new and different approaches can you and your team try this year?
  • What are your professional goals? How do your team goals translate into your own professional goals? What do you need to accomplish this year? What stretch assignments do you want to tackle? On the development side, what do you want or need to learn? How will you accomplish that?
  • How will use use social media to achieve your goals and tell your story? Does social media play a role in achieving your goals? If it hasn’t before, could you incorporate it this year? When you achieve goals, how will you use social media to tell your story? What conferences are you attending? Where are you speaking? What are you blogging?

At this point, focus on “what” your goals will be. Don’t worry about the “how” at this point.

Why?

If you’re not sure about how to execute a goal, that can stand in the way of setting it in the first place. And just because you don’t exactly know how to do it, that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

You’ve probably had many “first times” in your career. What did you do when your boss asked you to take on a new project, something you’d never done before? You can reflect on and use those experiences in the same way when you get to the “how” part of actually accomplishing your goals.

A former boss came to me some years ago and said the CEO wanted to do an employee engagement survey. My boss asked me to lead it.

That was beyond my role at the time as a corporate communications leader. There was a moment of terror, but after a few minutes it sounded like a fascinating project.

In thinking through the “how,” I realized I could build on the communications-related surveying I’d done, engage with experts and partners, create a team, map out a plan, execute it, learn and adjust as we went.

With so much information available online, you can research any topic and come up with ideas. Being able to figure it out is a skill that becomes more important every day.

I’m ever inspired by a talk that business leader Mark Cuban gave at my employer’s headquarters many years ago.

Most striking were his words about client meetings and commitments. A client would ask for something, and the group would agree it would be delivered the next day.

Later, Mark and his colleagues would look at each other and say they had no idea how to do what they’d just committed to. But they had all night to figure it out. And figure it out, they did. Time and time again.

If they could do it, so could I. And so can you.

For now, take some time to set your social media goals for the year.

Here are mine:

  • Amplify my employer’s social media strategy through its Social Circle, by sharing 3 posts each week.
  • Share appropriate highlights of my work in social media, by posting something at least 2 times a month.
  • Learn about how social media is changing and evolving, by listening to 5 podcasts each week during drive time.
  • Help others by sharing and commenting on their valuable content, at least 3 times a week.

Each goal is measurable, with a number attached to it. As the year goes on, I’ll assess if this is the right frequency or if tweaks need to be made.

None of my goals have anything to do with followers. In part that’s because I can’t completely control those numbers. Sure, the goals I’m pursuing are likely to attract followers. But I’m focused on actions I can 100% control on my own.

Here I’m influenced by Gary V‘s ideas on Building a Personal Brand, a Udemy course I finished today. One of the biggest takeaways? “Consistency almost trumps everything,” Gary says.

Another pearl from Gary? This one is for combating fear of failure: “Spend all your time in the in-between space, the time between starting and stopping.”

What’s your social media game plan for the year?

Don’t worry yet about the “how” of making it happen. “How” will be the subject of many future posts.

What’s Driving the Future of PR and Communications

What does the future hold for PR and communications? Check out the Relevance Report.

New from the USC Center for Public Relations this month, it’s full of innovative ideas on what’s ahead.

Global. Mobile. Video. Data. Emotion. These are just a few of the trend areas accelerating in the year ahead.

The biggest learning for me? It’s the parallel and seemingly paradoxical rise of data and emotion as drivers of influence. Data drives better decision making, while emotion is a prime influencer of people’s opinions and behaviors.

Find out more in my latest blog post on the USC Annenberg Alumni website.

It’s about what you’ll learn in this insightful report, with nuggets of wisdom from Annenberg’s Bob Feldman and Heather Rim as well as Pulitzer Prize-winning author Thomas Friedman.

The post is part of being a proud Annenberg Alumni Ambassador this school year. It’s a thrill to share the best of this distinguished school for communication and journalism.

The Relevance Report gives timely insight into trends that will impact society, business and communications. It features thought pieces from communications leaders who identify the issues, ideas and innovations that will be relevant to the communications industry in 2017.

10 Tips for a Perfect Podcast

Microphone ready on stand, all set for concert to begin

Podcasts are a powerful way to share your story.

But what exactly is a podcast?

It’s “a digital audio or video file or recording, usually part of a themed series, that can be downloaded from a website to a media player or computer,” says Dictionary.com

Podcasts are taking off. From 2015 to 2016, podcast listening was up by 23%, Jay Baer reported from Edison Research‘s work.

What’s driving the growth? People enjoy greater mobility with smartphones and tablets, Baer says, rather than being tethered to a laptop. Podcasts are easy to listen to on the go.

This is why podcasts have become part of my own personal learning plan and drive-time strategy. Although I’m lucky by Los Angeles traffic standards, I spend more than 60 minutes commuting each day.

That’s a perfect chunk of time for learning. And with lifelong learning being both a pleasure and an imperative, what better time to listen to a podcast?

Data analytics and social media are at the top of my learning agenda. I’ve been enjoying FiveThirtyEight, Freakonomics and Social Pros.

It’s easy to get started. Just search topics of interest on iTunes, download your favorites and start listening.

My work colleague Doug Magditch first got me thinking about podcasts. He invited me to be in his Life at AT&T series, one of his Corporate Communications initiatives.

(This is where I note that opinions expressed here are my own.)

Doug’s conversations with colleagues show how employees are delivering on the company’s mission to connect people with their world – everywhere they live, work and play.

With a degree in mass media, Doug began his career as a reporter and multimedia journalist. His creative skills as a storyteller, his editing skills weaving together a narrative and his on-air presence make Life at AT&T a hit.

He invited Eliska Paratore, Joan Marsh and me to share what it’s like to be a woman in a leadership role at the company. Timing it with election season, he framed it as hearing about leadership “from the veeps.”

This was my first experience with a podcast, and I learned a lot in the process. Here are 10 tips for a perfect podcast.

BEFORE

What’s the best way to prepare for a podcast? Become familiar with the format and give yourself plenty of interesting material to work. This helps with responding naturally and spontaneously during the recording session.

  • Listen to previous podcasts in the series. Understand how the format works. Identify what worked well and what you’d like to emulate.
  • Talk with others who’ve been featured. See what previous participants recommend for preparation. This is a step I wish I’d taken.
  • Think about the subject and what you want to say about it. Brainstorm and jot down ideas. Then narrow the focus to 3 key messages.
  • Gather ideas, anecdotes and data. Chose those that support your key messages. Look for ones that add interest and provide credibility.

DURING

Many of these tips came from listening to myself after the podcast came out and thinking about what I could do better next time.

  • Relax and have fun. Conversations are fun and sharing expertise is fun. Recording a podcast should be the same.
  • Stand up. The advice for standing up during a phone call to give your voice more energy translates well to a podcast recording. People sound more confident when they stand.
  • Use short sentences. This will help your listeners get your key points, not to mention making the editing process much easier.

AFTER

  • Promote your podcast. Tell your social communities about it and why they’d be interested in hearing it. In my case, that meant sharing the podcast in LinkedIn and  Twitter, including retweeting Doug.

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This was easy, thanks to our company’s Social Circle. It provides great content about our brand, ready for sharing by interested employees in their personal social networks.

Inside the company, employees commented on the podcast in an internal social space. When the podcast was released, I visited the page a few times a day to read comments, like and respond to some, and bring additional colleagues into the conversation.

If you’ve recorded a podcast, what worked for you? And what podcasts do you recommend?

Don’t Ditch Social Media

Four friends checking their mobile phones at the same time.

Social media got a bad rap during this year’s election process.

Fake news, Twitter trolls and cyber bullying came under fire.

Among American social media users, the Pew Research Center reported that 65% expressed “resignation and frustration about online political conversations.”

It’s enough to make anyone want to quit social media for good.

But don’t do that.

Why?

Because of your 100-year life.

What’s that about, you ask?

Well, more than half of babies born in developed nations in the 2000s can expect live to 100 or beyond, according to the medical journal The Lancet. And if you were born before then, your life will likely be a lot longer than you think.

A new book called The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity got me thinking about this.

Authors Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott are from the London Business School. They look at how anyone at any age can and should plan for their greater life expectancy, turning the extra time into “a gift and not a curse.”

When lives were shorter, people lived a three-stage life – education, work and retirement. These stages were compartments that didn’t overlap.

As early as 1978, Richard Bolles wrote about them in The Three Boxes of Life and How to Get Out of Them: An Introduction to Work/Life Planning. He advanced the idea that you needed to incorporate all three stages across your entire life.

He also wrote What Color is Your Parachute? It was chosen as one of the 100 All-TIME best and most influential non-fiction books published since 1923.

With how quickly the world is changing, Bolles’ advice was and is spot on.

  • We need to embrace lifelong learning, actively developing new skills as technology and globalization accelerate.
  • We need productive work to provide purpose, meaning and economic sustenance throughout our lives.
  • And we need leisure time to enjoy our lives and the people in them, and to refresh and renew ourselves.

Gratton and Scott explore this concept in writing about the interplay between tangible and intangible assets. They define an asset as “something that can provide a flow of benefits over several periods of time.”

Tangible assets “have a physical existence” and include things like housing, cash and investments. Intangible assets are things like “a supportive family, great friends, strong skills and knowledge, and good physical and mental health.”

The authors say that intangible assets are “key to a long and productive life – both as an end in themselves and also as in input into tangible assets.” They divide them into three categories of assets – productive, vitality and transformational.

One of these intangibles – a productive asset along with skills, knowledge and peers – is your reputation. “When a company has a positive brand, or a person has a good reputation, it is much easier for others to interact with them,” the authors say.

“A good reputation can be enormously important as it enables your valuable stocks of skills and knowledge to be really utilized in a productive way,” they continue. “It can also have a profound impact on your professional social capital.”

Why? “A good reputation will be one of the assets that enable you to expand your horizons,” the authors say. “It is the combination of portable skills and knowledge and a good reputation that will help bridge into new fields.”

They go on to write that “over the coming decades, it is likely that reputation will be based on a broader range of inputs. As future careers embrace more stages and more transitions, then inevitably this will create a broader range of information.”

Enter social media.

“Social media will increasingly broadcast your image and values to others and allow others to track and monitor performance,” they say. “So it is inevitable that you will need to curate a brand and reputation that covers far more than just your professional behavior.”

Everyone will need to signal their skills, their capabilities and their values during a longer life that potentially has multiple transitions. And transitions can take many forms – from one functional area to another, from one company to another and from one type of work to another.

Social media makes it easy to do this.

Over time, you can share your skills and abilities through many platforms – a Twitter feed, a YouTube channel, an Instagram stream, a LinkedIn portfolio, a Snapchat story or a personal blog. And these platforms will continue to change and evolve, with new ones emerging over time.

If you want to make your life’s transitions easier and more fulfilling, then social media is a must. And this doesn’t mean being on a few platforms to share photos with family and friends. A deliberate strategy and a plan for your personal brand in social media is imperative.

But where do you begin? Which social media platforms should you use? How do you curate and create content without it taking over your whole life?

Those will be the subjects of several upcoming posts.

What If?

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Have you ever spent a day trying not to cry?

For me, there are always moments that prompt tears. Our national anthem at a school event. The doxology at church (with the gender-neutral, more inclusive lyrics for me). Pomp and Circumstance at a graduation ceremony.

Thank goodness for sunglasses. Because one of the last things I want to do is reveal my emotions in public.

After this week’s experience, though, I wonder if that’s because I go to extremes to avoid being labeled as an emotional woman.

But it may be pointless to try, because as a woman I’m going to be labeled anyway. And I can’t control that.

I can only control my own thoughts and my own actions. And there’s power in that.

What made me want to cry for an entire day this week? None other than the TEDWomen 2016 conference. Phenomenal speakers with ideas worth sharing took the stage, with the theme of “it’s about time.”

I was drawn to TED for many reasons. As a communicator. As a lover of ideas. As someone profoundly saddened by our national conversations – on race, on religion, on gender, on guns, on others. 

As in, people who don’t share the same worldview. People who can’t or won’t listen to each because they’re so busy screaming about how the other group is wrong. And not even wrong, but deluded, dumb and not deserving. Of a voice. Of dignity. Of empathy.

What if our conversations in the world could be more like what I saw, heard and felt on the TED stage?

  • A famous singer talked about channeling her pain from the abusive household where she grew up into her music.
  • An actress shared how she fought back against cyberbullying and violence.
  • A couple who work to improve a Nairobi slum spoke of the randomness of how privilege or poverty are bestowed.
  • A journalist and author talked about the death threats she received when she came out as a lesbian.
  • A rape survivor and the perpetrator shared the stage and their agonizing experiences.

Throughout each electrifying talk, a common question emerged: what can I do?

What if I made it a point to seek out different points of view? To listen to a different newscast or podcast. To get out of my social media stream and hear different voices. To seek out people with more diverse backgrounds and life experiences.

What if I spoke up more forcefully to inappropriate comments? The next time someone says something offensive about another group of people, I will ask why they think that and why they would say that.

What if I was more curious about people and their stories? What has their journey through life been like? What experiences shaped them? What do they struggle with? What brings them joy?

What if I used every means of power available to me for good? How can I encourage people to reach higher? How can I help people expand their networks? How can I empower people to open doors to more opportunity?

What if I took action? While I don’t know exactly what that is yet, I do know it starts with better educating myself on multiple perspectives about what’s going on in the world. Kimberle Crenshaw‘s eye-opening #SayHerName is where I’ll start.

Hearing from so many inspiring people reminded me that each of us can make a difference in the lives of others, every day.

As Kennedy Odede said during his talk with Jessica Posner Odede, “We can’t walk in each other’s shoes, but we can walk together.”

Who are you walking with?