7 Things Not to Do in LinkedIn

This was a post I started but decided not to write.

Why?

When I searched about things not to do in LinkedIn, the content that came up was similar to my own list. I didn’t think I’d be adding anything new.

So instead I analyzed my weekly LinkedIn articles.

Why?

It was a subject that only I could write about. It was unique to me and my experience posting a LinkedIn article every week for nearly a year.

But a comment on that post changed by mind. Jason Dunn expressed interest in the bad behavior I’d observed in LinkedIn. And whether he was serious or not, I reconsidered.

Here are 7 things NOT to do in LinkedIn, if you want to build your career and promote your network and your employer. (Note: opinions expressed in this blog are my own.)

1. Spamming a new connection

Is there anything more annoying than a new connection immediately sending a direct message pitching a service, requesting a meeting or asking for a job?

Sometimes it feels like the number of messages requesting a 30-minute meeting add up to more than 50 hours a week. People on LinkedIn are professionals. They have to spend their time on their top priorities, not on meeting with people pitching something in which the recipient has no interest.

In order to have permission to make a pitch, a real relationship has to be formed first. People have share information of value over a period of time. They have to get to know each other.

And while I generally believe in responding, that only extends to an initial response. Follow-up responses asking why I can’t meet or why I’m not interested or if I can refer a colleague are not messages that I respond to. The last thing I want to do is burden a colleague with spam.

2. Posting TOO frequently

There are a few people in my news feed who post SO frequently that I sometimes wonder if their work is suffering as a result. How much is too much? Anything more than 2 posts a day.

The only exception to that is if you’re attending a big event and you have a great deal of content you want to share. But even then, a better way to share a volume of content is via Twitter, where greater frequency is more appropriate.

On LinkedIn, posting up to once each weekday is ideal. To dig into the wisdom of that and the data behind it, I did an experiment to test what would happen if I posted to LinkedIn every weekday for a month. As a result, I focused on how to make my content more compelling.

3. Sharing inappropriate content

Keep it professional and positive on LinkedIn. Don’t disparage other people or companies. Make sure your content is suitable for a work environment. Don’t ever share content that is confidential information about your employer.

And ignore the birthday notification feature – Facebook is the place to wish people a happy birthday, not LinkedIn. Don’t include your own birthday in your contact and personal information on your profile.

4. Making it all about you

When you scroll through your LinkedIn “home” feed, what catches your eye? In all likelihood, news and information that helps you be better in your career.

Don’t make it all about you. A constant stream of posts about you won’t resonate with your connections. Of course, it’s fine to post on occasion about an award you won or an honor you were given or somewhere you are speaking.

Just make sure that the majority of your posts are about offering up news, info and tips that will help others on their career journeys.

Social media is about reciprocity. Be generous with your network. Read their posts and articles. Engage with those that are particularly resonant.

Beyond liking the content, leave a thoughtful comment that adds new information. Consider sharing it with your network if it adds to the topics you generally post about.

5. Misspelling names

Three direct messages I received recently spelled my name wrong.. They opened with Carolyn. My name is Caroline. It’s clearly stated on my profile.

There’s no excuse for misspelling someone’s name. It shows a lack of attention to detail. It gets the whole communication off on the wrong foot.

As the American writer Dale Carnegie said, “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”

Spell it right. Check it against how the name is spelled in the person’s profile. And check it again, before you hit “send.”

6. Ignoring analytics

LinkedIn offers data on each post and article. If you don’t look at the analytics, you won’t know which content is performing well and engaging your network.

Spend some time each week or month reviewing how each one performed. Come up with a hypothesis as to why posts did particularly well or not. Increase the frequency of content types that get the most engagement, as measured by clicks, likes, comments and shares.

7. Sending the default invitation to connect

How many invitations do you receive from people you don’t know with the standard, “I’d like to add you to my professional network in LinkedIn”?

If you don’t know why they want to connect, why would you accept? Given my strategy for accepting invitations, it makes me work harder to decide yes or no.

And even if you’re inviting someone you know to connect, it makes for a much stronger connection if you articulate why you’d like to connect.

Always personalize.

And if you’re scrolling through the people you may know feature, you should know that you cannot currently customize your invitation. Instead, go to the person’s profile and personalize an invitation by clicking on “connect.”

What would you add to things NOT to do in LinkedIn?

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.

How to Seize the Moment in Social Media

How does a two-minute chance meeting at Starbucks turn into 100+ likes and positive interactions in social media?

When your colleague asks another colleague to take a quick picture and shares it on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook with a fun caption promoting #LifeatATT.

That person is TeNita Ballard, a passionate champion for diversity and inclusion at AT&T. We both work in Southern California, and we ran into each other at the company’s headquarters in Dallas this week. (Note: opinions expressed in this blog are my own.)

I’ve written about TeNita before in the secret to fitting social media into your professional life. She was the first example I held up of people who are especially good at documenting the highlights of their professional lives.

She’s always looking for ways to share the public side of her work — from Chief Diversity Officer Corey Anthony’s recent visit with employee resource groups to the Los Angeles African American Women’s Public Policy Institute at USC.

This is all part of a strategy to simply document your day, rather than attempting to create content above and beyond what you’re already working on.

Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of Vayner Media, articulates it well in his post, Document, don’t create. It’s an easy and authentic approach.

To get started, ask yourself a few questions …

  • What are you working on that you can share publicly?
  • What actions are you especially excited about?
  • What information would benefit your network, promote your colleagues, and/or amplify your employer’s brand?

Many good examples of this appeared in my social media feed this month.

Fiona Carter, Chief Brand Officer at AT&T, shared a gathering of high-powered marketers convening to discuss big topics around gender equality. It highlights the company’s leadership in improving the representation of women and girls in advertising in the #SeeHer industry initiative.

 

Mo Katibeh, Chief Marketing Officer for AT&T Business, sparked advance interest in his presentation at the 2018 AT&T Business Leadership Kickoff meeting with a picture of his rehearsal, the group’s theme for the year and @mentions of key colleagues.

 

Karyn Spencer, VP of Hello Lab at AT&T, shared an interview clip at the Sundance Film Festival of the work she and colleagues have been doing, especially in the areas of inclusion and diversity.

 

It was one of several interviews Carrie Keagan conducted during the event, with Nicholas Bianchi posting the great news that “AT&T was the #1 mentioned brand on Twitter at Sundance.”

 

While I wasn’t at Sundance or the power marketers’ dinner, I felt like I was part of the experiences, thanks to my colleagues. I did get to see Mo Katibeh’s presentation, and it was well done. After coming across his post, I looked forward to seeing his talk.

To wrap up my own week back in Southern California, I hosted three students from USC Annenberg at AT&T’s El Segundo campus – Gina Wanless, Kaitlin Rhodes and Avalon Harder.

They are finishing graduate and undergraduate programs this spring. I’m excited to see the great things they’ll do next.

What you you doing this week that you can share in social media?

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?

The Secret to Fitting Social Media into Your Professional Life

Why doesn’t everyone have a social media strategy for their career?

There are two main reasons: not seeing the value and not having the time.

The value proposition has a simple answer. Our professional reputation increasingly influences how we get jobs, advance in our careers and navigate transitions.

The time equation is more difficult. We each have 24 hours in days that seem to get busier by the second. How can we make the most of our limited time to build our careers through social media?

Start by thinking about what you’ve done professionally over the last month.

Have you –

  1. Spoken at an event
  2. Attended a conference
  3. Taken a course, online or in person
  4. Traveled for a work meeting or event
  5. Joined a professional or trade group and attended a meeting
  6. Received an award for your work
  7. Completed a key project that can be shared in public
  8. Participated in a company-sponsored charitable event
  9. Seen an engaging video about your company or industry
  10. Found a valuable article about your company or industry
  11. Read a thought-provoking book about business or your industry
  12. Come across an interesting post by a colleague or your company

Why consider these activities?

VaynerMedia CEO Gary Vaynerchuk identified a simple and powerful strategy in his post, “Document, don’t create: creating content that builds your personal brand.”

Documenting is creating content, he says. It’s simply sharing your career journey and what you’re doing every day. And it’s easy to do because you’re “just being yourself.”

To look into the future of this documenting trend, check out the New York Times article Keeping Up, on Camera, Is No Longer Just for the Kardashians.

In everything you do professionally today, start by asking yourself if it can be shared publicly in social media. Make sure to never, ever share non-public and/or competitively sensitive information in social media.

When in doubt, err on the side of caution and don’t share. Even if you think something is okay to share in public, check that official company sources have shared the information publicly, or ask your supervisor for confirmation.

Career blogger Penelope Trunk said it well in her online course Reach Your Goals by Blogging. “Just don’t write anything near where your ‘security clearance’ goes,” she advised. While most people don’t have security clearances, this is an apt analogy to keep confidential information confidential. Don’t share it.

Once you’ve cleared that hurdle, then focus on what you’re doing, what’s interesting about it and why it could be valuable to your network.

What specifically in the course of your day, your week and your month could you share that builds the career brand you want to be known for?

Some of my colleagues do this really well. (This is where I remind readers that opinions expressed in this blog are my own.)

Here are just a few.

TeNita Ballard. TeNita is an enthusiastic champion of diversity and inclusion. She shares the events she attends, the people she meets and what she learns through posts in Instagram, Facebook and more.

John Starkweather. John is a big advocate for business customers. He shared his experience at the company’s recent tech conference The Summit in LinkedIn and Twitter. His posts make you feel like you were there.

Jennifer Van Buskirk. Jennifer leads the east region of the company. She shares leadership lessons she’s learned in her career in LinkedIn, along with the events she attends and speaks at in the course of her work.

Sarah Stoesser Groves. Sarah is a digital marketer who shares news and information her network can use. At The Summit she posted insightful video clips and sound bites from many of the speakers in LinkedIn and Twitter.

L. Michelle Smith. Michelle is a multi-cultural marketer. She’s a great source for the latest research and thought leadership on inclusion marketing through her posts in LinkedIn and Twitter.

Reflecting on the last month, here are some of the professional activities I’ve shared in LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. It only required taking a few photos and videos of the events and sharing key messages in my social networks.

They tended to be squeezed into the nooks and crannies of busy days as well as evenings and sometimes weekends, forming the public side of work-related activities that can be shared in social media.

Attended The Summit in Dallas as a marketing leader and participated on a team of social influencers to amplify the event’s messaging and reach, thanks to Sarah Groves.

Joined the Women’s Sports Foundation‘s annual salute gala in New York, thanks to Fiona Carter who is a member of the group’s board. It was inspiring to see so many strong female role models and spend time with colleagues.

Spoke at #WeGatherLA, the second-annual women’s leadership experience spearheaded by Otter Media President Sarah Harden, thanks to an invitation from Jennifer Cho and Katelynn Duffel. It was an amazing experience interviewing Helie Lee about her project Macho Like Me, when she lived life as a man for six months. Truly incredible!

Talked with visiting students from Howard University and North Carolina A&T University about how to build a career through social media, thanks to Grant Reid, along with John Willis and Kaleb Pask.

Participated in events at USC as a member of the USC Alumni Association Board of Governors and USC Annenberg Alumni Advisory Board, thanks to Leticia Lozoya and Ashley Cooper.

Beyond building your career through social media, there are other benefits to documenting your professional life in social. You’re helping to build the brands of your company and your colleagues.

Employees are a trusted and credible source of information about their companies, according to Shel Holtz. Take that responsibility seriously and be sure you’re communicating in alignment with your company’s values, brand and social media policy.

And as we approach the end of the year and you summarize your key accomplishments, your social media feeds are a powerful input. They document many of your key accomplishments. You can add to quantifying their impact by the reach and the engagement of your posts.

As you head into a new week, what are you doing, experiencing and learning this week that you can share in social media?

A Top 2018 PR Trend: Growth in Employee Advocacy

What’s ahead in 2018?

How will you continue to build your career through social media in the coming year? As a corporate professional, how can you best tell your story through social media – and promote your employer’s brand and your colleagues at the same time?

A top trend is the continuing growth in employee advocacy programs. Through them, companies empower their employees to be brand ambassadors.

Employees can share official news and information about the company and its brand through personal social media channels.

Some research I did this week got me thinking about this topic (opinions expressed in this blog are my own).

I reviewed recent literature and studies to identify the trends and challenges in marketing, branding and public relations for the coming year.

6 PR trends to check out in 2018 pointed to the expansion of personal branding and thought leadership beyond a company’s leaders.

“The more people on your team who are building their brands and, by extension, your company’s brand,” says the article’s author John Hall, “the more opportunities you have to distribute content and connect with your audience.”

This dovetails with the observation by IABC Fellow Shel Holtz that “employees are now your most credible spokespeople.” This is based on the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer.

It also aligns with the “media fragmentation and loss of trust” that Robert Wynne covers in The biggest and most important media and PR trends for 2018.

In it, Bob Gold also speaks to the burgeoning challenge of getting noticed in growing media among the “ever-expanding communications channels.”

Another study full of interesting stats is the 2017 State of Employee Advocacy Survey. Conducted by JEM Consulting, it includes responses from 155 mostly U.S.-based companies:

  • Employee advocacy 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.
  • Growth occurred for use of Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Surprisingly, LinkedIn declined after being the top channel last year.
  • The most popular channels are Facebook (76% of respondents’ employees use it for advocacy), Instagram (62%) and Twitter (56%).
  • Twitter’s popularity went down 29% over the last year.
  • YouTube grew dramatically (35%) in its use year over year – to 43% in 2017, up from 8% in 2016.

“We attribute this shift to the increased variety of industries and type of organizations adopting employee advocacy, as well as the expansion of business objectives for these programs,” says Jen McClure, CEO of JEM Consulting.

“We’re seeing that all types of organizations are using visual media effectively,” McClure also says, “especially online video, which was one of our key recommendations from last year’s study.”

This is good insight for companies and individuals alike in planning for the coming year.

Personally, I’m looking at shifting my employee advocacy more toward Instagram and Facebook. This will be an interesting evolution, since I currently use those channels to connect with my personal networks (although the proportion of professional contacts is growing on those platforms).

And while advocacy seems to be declining in LinkedIn and Twitter, I’ll still focus on LinkedIn. The 500 million people on LinkedIn make it an ideal place to connect with other professionals. And the recent addition of video capability will be fun to explore.

With these data points, how will you create your social media strategy for 2018? What will you you continue? What will you change?

What Else are Headline Analyzers Good For?

There’s nothing like discovering a shiny new tool and then learning that using it doesn’t necessarily make a difference.

No, I’m not talking about those teeth-whitening strips that promise a sparkling smile but don’t fully deliver.

I’m talking about headline analyzers. In my last post I did an experiment to analyze all of the headlines in this blog. The purpose was to see if my headlines were doing a good job of attracting and engaging readers.

Turns out, according to some sources, it may not make a significant difference in how many people actually click through and read the post.

But “making a difference” can have different meanings.

If we’re talking about improving the open rates of a blog post, then using a headline analyzer may not make a difference.

However, there are other ways of making a difference.

For me, using a headline analyzer is a fun way to practice writing 25 headlines for each blog post. This is a best practice to land on an attention-grabbing headline.

Using an analyzer – and my favorite is CoSchedule – is an engaging game to see how I can get the highest score. Then, among the top scores, I look for the headline(s) with positive sentiment, as opposed to negative or neutral sentiment.

Each week as I repurpose a blog post as a LinkedIn article, engagement is increasing with more likes, comments and shares. However, it’s hard to tease out if that’s due to the frequency and consistency of posting, a growing number of connections and audience size, or better quality headlines.

But whether or not headline analyzers have been proven to increase readership or not, the tool is helpful in improving the quality and descriptiveness of my headlines.

That got me thinking.

How else could I use the analyzer tools?

Email subject lines. With every email I write, I ask myself a question: if the recipient reads nothing else but the subject line, will they get my main message?

Also, will that subject line be easily searchable later on, when the person is looking for relevant information?

If writing 25 headlines for each blog post using the headline analyzer helps me write better headlines, couldn’t it help with my email subject lines too?

Clearly, with dozens of emails going out every day, it’s not feasible to analyze every subject line.

But for the more important messages, going to the busiest people? Absolutely.

Speech titles. Today I’ve been working on what I call my TED talk about “How to boost your career through social media.”

Or maybe it will be “How to live your best professional life in social media.” That’s the headline that got the highest score, with an 83 out of 100. The target is a score of 70 or higher.

It’s not a real TED talk at this point. Although it was fun to see my teenage son’s eyes light up when he thought his mom was actually giving a TED talk.

It’s the process of creating a TED talk that is guiding my presentation about social media savvy for corporate professionals.

Over the last few months, I’ve been invited to speak to 3 or 4 groups about how to build their careers through social media. That’s why it’s time to create the actual presentation and synthesize everything I’ve been blogging about for the last year.

TED talks are how people are used to learning about “ideas worth spreading,” so it made sense to me to start with this format. I’m inspired by the TED Talks book, and the talks by Chris Anderson and Nancy Duarte.

Once the talk is crafted in that format, I can adapt it to different audiences and different speaking times.

The “idea worth spreading” is often crystallized in the title of the talk. So why not give the headline analyzer a try?

In addition to trying 25+ different titles, I entered a few existing talk titles in the headline analyzer. Not surprisingly, most of them were above the 70 threshold for a good title.

Slogans and tagline. Then I wondered how a slogan or tagline would fare in a headline analyzer.

I added “how to” to my employer’s consumer brand tagline. I’m happy – but not surprised – to report it scored above the 70 threshold. (This is where I remind readers that opinions expressed in this blog are my own).

Then there was a variation on the employer brand tagline that a group of us created at a former company. Again, I was happy to discover it was well above the threshold.

When we were narrowing down the tagline from a dozen options, though, it would have been great to test them with a headline analyzer.

What other ways could a headline analyzer be helpful? Book titles didn’t fare well when I tested a few. Maybe I’ll try it for blog post subheads or upcoming tweets.

Most importantly, this tool has prompted me to stretch and try a variety of word combinations. Whether or not the data supports greater readership and engagement, the fact that I’m being more creative is a win in my book.

How are you using headline analyzers beyond their original purpose?

Do You Have to Write 25 Headlines to Get an Awesome One?

Headlines hold special power.

They determine whether people tap on a blog post or a LinkedIn article to read more, or whether they swipe past it.

“One of the best ways to make your content shareable, get found on search engines and grow your traffic is to write great headlines,” says Nathan Ellering of the marketing calendar company called Co-Schedule.

How do you create irresistible headlines?

“Write 25 different headlines for every post,” advises Garrett Moon, the co-founder of CoSchedule.

This echoes career blogger Penelope Trunk‘s mantra in her course on reaching your goals through blogging.

“Your title [or headline] is extremely important,” she says. “It should tell people what’s there beyond the click, and how it relates to your reader and how their life will change.”

Realizing that I devote hours to each blog post, but only spend a few minutes on a headline when I’m getting ready to publish, I knew it was time to switch the focus.

Quick Hacks to Help You Come Up with Attractive Blog Post Headlines by Marko Saric led me to CoSchedule’s headline analyzer.

Type in any headline. You’ll get instant data on word balance, headline type, length analysis, first 3 and last 3 words, keywords, and sentiment (positive, neutral or negative).

Plus, you’ll see how your headline will appear in a Google search or as an email subject line. Those first few words really matter.

Headlines are scored on a scale from 0 to 100. The best headlines (green) score at 70 and above. Average headlines (yellow) are 55 to 69, and bad headlines (red) are 54 and below.

This made me wonder how all of my blog headlines would stack up. So I did a little experiment. I entered all 152 of them into the headline analyzer.

And what a humbling experience it was. Only 36 headlines were green, 55 were yellow and 61 were red. Ouch!

What went wrong?

Two things stand out.

First, I was writing short headlines that would fit better into my current WordPress theme. I tried to be too clever and too brief so the headline would fit on a single line. As a result, the headlines weren’t fully describing what the post was about.

Second, I suffered from “the curse of knowledge.” This is a trick our brains play on us. When we’re highly familiar with certain information, we tend to assume that others are similarly informed, even though that logically makes no sense.

Because of this, I wasn’t assessing my headlines from the point of view of someone who didn’t know as much about the subject as I did. My brain filled in details, but since they weren’t in the headline, not enough information was there to interest a reader.

Yet there was a silver lining. In the last 9 months my headlines have been all green and yellow, with 50% in each category. Why? I wrote longer, more descriptive headlines. And this showed up in the analyzer scores.

Looking beyond the scores, I could see what headline types I was using. According to Ellering, the most effective types of headlines are list posts, how to’s, and questions.

The sentiment scores also attracted my attention. Headlines with neutral sentiment get the least engagement. Positive headlines attract the most attention. This is consistent with other data I’ve found on people being more inclined to share positive stores.

Then there’s the emotional angle to consider. The Advanced Marketing Institute developed an Emotional Marketing Value (EMV) score. This tells you how much of an emotional chord you’re striking with your readers.

As I wrote 25 headlines for this post, I tried the top-scoring ones in the Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer.

Disappointingly, the top-scoring headline with a 76 – “Will the 25th Headline You Write be the Best?” – only rated a 22.22% EMV. That’s not great when a target of 30-40% EMV words is desirable, and higher is even better.

I chose this particular headline because I wanted to prove a point in this post. Writing 25 headlines helps get your creativity flowing, and you start writing better headlines once you get to 10 or 12. However, diminishing returns can set in. Rarely will the 25th headline be the best one.

But in the process you’ll come up with an optimal headline. While your 25th headline won’t likely be your best, there’s tremendous value in training your brain to write that many headlines.

Unfortunately my top headline didn’t hit enough emotional notes. So I went to the next-highest-scoring headline and made a few tweaks. I came up with “Do You Really Have to Write 25 Headlines to Get an Awesome One?

This got an EMV score of 46.15%. That euphoric feeling only lasted until I entered it in the headline analyzer. Too many words, it said.

Is there a happy medium between the scientifically optimal headline and the emotionally appealing headline?

For this post, it turned out to be “Do You Have to Write 25 Headlines to Get an Awesome One?” Taking the “too wordy” feedback to heart, I eliminated the word “really.”

It was a balance between a 73 green score in the headline analyzer . . .

. . . and a 41.67% EMV score.

So what if the headline analyzer still said it was too wordy? Those words may just elicit more emotion – and more engagement with this post.

For now I’ll live with the cognitive dissonance of a headline analyzer that identifies 0% emotional words and an emotional marketing value analysis above 40%. Clearly the algorithms differ, so it’s something to explore in future posts.

And the most fun of all? The science of words is starting to turn me into a data geek after all.