How to Get Started with LinkedIn Status Updates

Feeling overwhelmed by studies saying you should post a daily LinkedIn status update?

Start with something more manageable. Spend a few weeks reading and responding to others’ status updates instead.

Take a few minutes each morning or during a lunch break to scroll through the updates in the “home” icon of your LinkedIn mobile app.

Why? Here are 5 reasons.

  • Notice which updates get the most interaction. What updates are getting multiple likes, comments and shares? What is it about the update that is so appealing?
  • Identify what types of updates you’re drawn to. This will help you not only formulate the types of status updates you’d like to share, but it will also guide you on format, tone and length.
  • Take note of cringe-worthy updates. Identify why these updates don’t work. Put them on your list of things-not-to-do in LinkedIn, along with updates that are personal, political or unprofessional.
  • Engage with your network. Tap the “like” button for posts you enjoy. Leave a brief, upbeat comment that congratulates your colleague and adds your point of view. Remember that any content you engage with reflects on you, your personal brand and your employer, so be sure to look before you like.
  • Expand the conversation. If the content aligns with your professional interests, share it with your network along with a brief comment from your point of view. Be sure to look before you link, reading the full update and any links before sharing. And if someone in your network would be interested in the update, mention their name in your comment so they’ll be notified.

Tip: Find your favorites

Over time, develop a list of people in your network who are reliable sources of information and insights.

Several of my AT&T colleagues consistently post valuable updates. Here are a few (along with my note that opinions expressed in this blog are my own) . . .

  • Steve McGaw posts timely updates on the latest technology for business.

Who are the people at your company or in your network who are valuable go-to sources of news, information and inspiration? Check out their updates often to see what you can learn as well as share with your network.

Bonus tip: Create a strategy for the appearance of “Your Activity”

Check out how your likes, comments and shares appear in the mobile version of your LinkedIn profile. Under “Your Activity,” the 3 most recent interactions appear, with the most current one first (on your laptop, the 6 most recent interactions appear). What do you want to display on top?

Think about who you’re meeting with for the first time today. They may pull up your LinkedIn profile before, during or after your conversation. Consider what you want them to see.

You could like, comment on or share content relevant to your meeting topic. You could check out what status updates the person you’re meeting with posted recently. You could like, comment on or share those updates as appropriate.

What’s your strategy for engaging with your network’s status updates?

Make the Most of Your LinkedIn Headline

When you scroll through your news feed, what grabs your attention? A great headline, of course.

It’s the same with your LinkedIn profile. You can – and should – create a personal headline. Otherwise the default is your current job title.

This is a lost opportunity on prime real estate in your profile. Not only does it display prominently in the mobile version of your profile, but it also appears in a Google search that displays your profile. It helps you stand out when people are searching.

You have 120 characters to describe yourself in a unique and compelling way. You should use every one of them, says personal branding expert William Arruda.

Your headline should share both what you do and how you benefit your target audience. That goes back to your goals for LinkedIn. Do you want to build your professional brand? Develop a reputation as a thought leader in your field? Position yourself as a candidate for your next job?

LinkedIn expert Donna Serdoula outlines two approaches to headlines in her book on LinkedIn Profile Optimization. (Even as the LinkedIn algorithms evolve, this is a great reference book with underlying concepts that are invaluable for personal branding.)

The first is using keywords – words or phrases that describe you and are likely to be used in an internet search. Serdoula suggests asking, “What are the keywords a person might type into LinkedIn search to find you?”

The second is a benefits statement — what you can do for your target audience. Here Serdoula suggests asking, “How do I help individuals and businesses?” and “What benefit do others receive from working with me?”

If you can accomplish both keywords and benefits in 120 characters, that’s even better.

Keyword-Rich Headlines

From my own LinkedIn network, here are some standout keyword headlines:

Shel Holtz – Communication Strategist, Public Speaker, Author, Trainer

Lisa Skeete Tatum – Entrepreneur | Investor

Allison Long – Professional Networker | Career Matchmaker | Connector of Dynamic Teams and Great Talent

Rene Dufrene – Innovative Business Development Executive | Team Leader | Alliance Design, Negotiation & Operation | Cloud Services

Erin Gollhofer – Global Corporate Social Responsibility Professional

Debbie Storey – Published Author | Speaker | Consultant on Leadership, Diversity & Inclusion, Customer Service, Resilience, Courage & Confidence, and Women in Business

Anthony Mirenda – Global Communications Leader | Corporate Reputation | Crisis & Issues Communications

Benefits-Focused Headlines

Also from my LinkedIn network, here are some compelling benefits headlines:

Michael Ambrozewicz – Engaging AT&T employees in how we deliver a mobile and entertainment experience in the U.S.

Amy Posey – Creating powerful leadership development experiences and making work more productive and effective at Peak Teams

Gary Zucker – Helping marketers and researchers make sense of customer feedback to test ideas, build loyalty and grow revenue

Catherine Fisher – Helping people build their professional brand on LinkedIn

Glenn Llopis – Disrupting the status quo and reinventing the way we work

Anat Mahrer – Creating a compelling and unique employee experience

Jon Lara – Delivering employee benefit strategies that enrich participant lives while optimizing company financial results.

How A Headline Evolves

Before writing this post, my headline was “Communications & Marketing Leader in Entertainment & Tech.” My goal was to highlight my functional areas, my level and my industries. Brevity and fitting a headline on two lines for mobile viewing were also priorities.

Then I edited it into a benefits statement that included my employer’s newer industry. “Communications & Marketing Leader in Tech, Media & Telecom helping people and organizations tell their stories.” (Opinions expressed in this blog are my own.)

But that repeated the opening of my summary statement a few lines below the headline. So I went back to what Serdoula calls “a keyword-saturated headline.”

Now my headline has my “VP” title to be more specific than “leader.” It includes AT&T as the name of my employer – a company I’m proud to say was recently named to FORTUNE’s 100 Best Companies to Work For. And it showcases this blog about social media savvy for corporate professionals.

Perhaps this highlights the most important thing about any social media presence – always be changing, evolving and improving. Just like the platforms themselves. And just like life.

What’s Your Strategy for Accepting LinkedIn Invitations?

When your LinkedIn app fills up with connection invitations, what’s your strategy for deciding yes or no?

If you set a general framework for which you’ll accept, it will save time and result in a better network.

LinkedIn’s Catherine Fisher recommends in Business Insider connecting only with people you know and trust.

If you want an even higher bar, try Alexandra Samuel‘s “favor test.” She recommends only connecting with people whom you’d be willing to ask a favor of or do a favor for. Check out more in Harvard Business Review.

If someone takes the time to personalize an invitation to me with a well-articulated reason for wanting to connect, however, I will generally accept it.

But what about the ones with no personal note? The majority of these come from people I don’t know. Short of simply deleting all of them, sight unseen (which is certainly an efficient option), here’s my strategy:

 

ACCEPT

  • People who are fellow colleagues at my current or former employers (opinions expressed in this blog are my own)
  • People from my alma maters – students, alums, professors or staff members
  • People who belong to the same professional, community or civic groups that I do
  • People I attended a conference with, such as MAKERS or  TED
  • People who add to the diversity of my network on various dimensions, including industry, geography, career stage, functional area and so on

Personal branding expert William Arruda recommends diversity in a LinkedIn network, which links to a great perspective on its value.

  • People with an interesting background that catches my eye. It’s hard to articulate this one, but I know it when I see it.

 

CONSIDER

  • People who have common connections. This comes with a big caveat. An underlying rationale for the connections has to be evident.

Recently I declined invitations from people who had a high number of shared connections, but for which I couldn’t discern a compelling reason why. Often it was because they didn’t work in the same industry or even one that could be considered in some way related.

 

DECLINE

  • People with no clear connection to any areas of my work
  • Lack of clarity about what the person or their company does
  • A suspicious-looking profile, such as no last name listed or little information included in the profile
  • Anything appearing the slightest bit sales related. If I’m looking for a new vendor partner, I’ll go to my trusted network first for recommendations, not to random connections in LinkedIn.

 

This is my decision matrix, and it may give you some ideas for creating your own. This lets you quickly go through incoming invitations.

It frees up time to proactively create and cultivate your network by sending personalized invitations to a focused group of people.

What’s your strategy?

Be Bold in Growing Your LinkedIn Network

“In growing your network, you want it to be both diverse and concentrated,” personal branding expert William Arruda wrote recently in Forbes about how to cultivate a powerful LinkedIn network.

First, begin with why you’re on LinkedIn. What do you want to accomplish? How can growing your network help you do that?

Second, ask yourself this question: Who did you meet this week, who will you be meeting soon and who do you want to meet?

Third, take a few minutes every week to add to your LinkedIn network. Always send a personalized invitation, explaining how you know each other and why you’d like to connect.

As you build your network, make sure your profile presents you in the best light. Here are great profile tips from LinkedIn career expert Catherine Fisher and Landit CEO Lisa Skeete Tatum. They spoke this winter at the MAKERS Conference for women’s leadership.

Who did you meet this week? Did you start working with any new colleagues? How about vendors? Invite them to join your network.

What professional, civic and charitable organizations are you involved with? Invite key people from those groups to be part of your network.

Look at your email contact list, your Facebook friend list, your Twitter followers and so on. Identify the ones you want to invite to your LinkedIn network. The “grow your network” feature on LinkedIn will see who you already know based on your email address book.

At the airport recently, I ran into someone I met a few years ago at an event at my son’s school. We struck up a conversation and caught up on what was going on at our respective employers (opinions expressed in this blog are my own). To keep the connection going, I followed up with a LinkedIn invitation.

One of my professional associations, a roundtable for senior communicators, also had its quarterly meeting this week. At the end of each day, I sent personalized invitations to people I’d met. An even better strategy – one colleague sent invitations in real time during our roundtable discussion of timely issues.

Who will you be meeting soon? What’s on your calendar for the coming week or month? Will you be meeting new people? Send them an invitation in advance of the event.

When you meet in person, you’ll already be acquainted with each other’s LinkedIn profiles and you may find a great conversation starter. For example, maybe you know interesting people in common or your new connection is working on a project you want to learn more about.

Who would you like to meet? Are you working in a new area and want to learn from the luminaries in the field? Are there companies of interest you want to know more about? Are there second-level contacts you’d like to add to your network?

This is where the personalized invitation is especially important. Explain in a compelling and brief way why you’d like to connect.

Take advantage of the “people you may know” algorithm in LinkedIn. Is there anyone you’ve missed connecting with? Invite them to your network.

Lucas Buck recommends looking at alumni groups and people who have similar college degrees. He’s an area sales manager at Farmers Insurance who uses LinkedIn highly successfully to achieve his business objectives.

He spoke last fall at a networking group affiliated with my son’s school. What did I do the same day as the event? I sent personalized LinkedIn invitations to the people I met at the event, along with Lucas.

Here’s a sidenote about conference speakers. Introduce yourself and chat with the speaker briefly before they speak, if they aren’t too busy with final presentation preparation. Fewer people line up to talk with them before their presentation, as opposed to the larger group that tends to gather after the talk.

Back to LinkedIn, what strategies do you use to grow your network?

Be Bold in Your LinkedIn Profile

What’s one action you can take today to kick-start your career?

Tell a bold story in your LinkedIn profile.

Here are powerful strategies from this month’s MAKERS Conference. LinkedIn career expert Catherine Fisher and Landit CEO Lisa Skeete Tatum led a standing-room-only session on managing your personal brand.

What is a personal brand? The presenters cited Jeff Bezos, who says “your brand is what people say about you when you leave the room.”

To define your brand they asked a key question: what do people want you in the room for? Put another way: what is the best of you?

How you answer these questions will shape the story you tell about yourself in social media and in real life. (And if you’re looking to reinvent your brand, there are great ideas from bestselling author Dorie Clark.)

While a brand – for a corporation, a product or a professional – is built over time, here are actions you can take today for a bolder LinkedIn profile.

They’re from the LinkedIn tip sheet above, along with how I’ve made them work for me. (Opinions expressed in this blog are my own.)

  • Include a professional photo. According to LinkedIn, your profile is 14 times more likely to be viewed if you have a photo. Here’s how to take a great headshot. If you don’t have a high-quality recent headshot, get one done this month.
  • Personalize your headline. Don’t use the default of your current job title. Show what you do and what makes you unique. Look at a variety of headlines for inspiration to see what catches your eye.
  • Add visuals. There are 20 million pieces of content on member profiles. Is your content among those? Post videos and pictures of your best work. Upload relevant presentations that can be shared with the public.
  • Post a compelling summary. Make it 40 words or more. Include keywords for your industry. Read others’ summaries to see what appeals to you. Writing in first person is stronger and bolder than third person.
  • Cover your past work experience. Your profile is 12 times more likely to be viewed if you list more than one position. If you’ve been working for several years, though, you can omit earlier positions that don’t add to your story.
  • Include volunteer experience and causes. This information increases profile views 6 times. If you’re looking for areas to engage, get involved with your company’s philanthropic causes and volunteer opportunities.
  • Check out LinkedIn Learning. We all get to be lifelong learners, and this feature offers hundreds of online courses. It’s a great reason to become a premium subscriber, which I did a few years ago for the analytics.
  • Share your contact information. Make it easy for people to get in touch with you. Include your email address, your blog, your Twitter handle and your company’s website. However, consider omitting your cellphone number.
  • Customize your public URL. Here are easy instructions. For consistent branding, use your name in the URL the same way you use it in other social profiles. Put it on your resume, business card and email signature.
  • Add skills and get endorsements. Be deliberate about skills you list. Your top 3 skill endorsements display in mobile search, so reorder them to show the ones that best tell your story. Give back to your network by endorsing others’ skills.

One of my goals for the MAKERS conference was to meet new people in every session. At the end of each day, I looked them up in LinkedIn. If I only had a first name and a company, I was able to search with that and find the right profile.

Then I sent personalized invitations (don’t send the default invitation!). Now we’re connected and can easily keep in touch as we build on the conference learnings.

How have you been bold in your LinkedIn profile?

The Social Media Side of a Networking Event

It’s the holiday season. That means year-end networking events.

They always seem like a good idea when the invitation arrives, don’t they?

Yet when the appointed hour comes, I often regret my affirmative RSVP.

Except I didn’t this month when I dragged myself away from a compelling work project at 6:30 one evening and made myself go to the event I said I would attend.

It was a professional networking event of my son’s high school, for alums and parents to get to know each other and share ideas.

To honor my commitment, I intended to stay for 30 minutes. But happily and unexpectedly, that extended into a fun-filled 90 minutes.

Why? As I reflected on it, there are a few ways to make the most of a networking event.

In particular, think about the social savvy aspect, or social media element, of the people you meet and the conversations you have.

  • Have a goal or two. Why are you attending? What do you want to accomplish? For me, I wanted to meet local professionals related to my son’s school to feel more connected to the school and the local community. I wanted to meet interesting people and hear what they were doing.

In part, I was inspired by marketing strategist Dorie Clark‘s advice in Harvard Business Review about networking with people outside your industry. She makes a compelling case for deliberately exposing yourself to diverse points of view.

And just like social media is about sharing and giving, the same is true for a networking event. Approach it from the perspective of how you can help others.

How do you do that? Here are a few ideas.

  • Scan the attendee list. Look up a few people in social media to see who you might want to meet. What have they posted about recently? How can that be a conversation starter?
  • Scan the latest news. Know what’s happening in the world that day. See what’s trending on Twitter. You’ll be better able to engage in conversations and ask people for their thoughts.
  • Wear something that makes a statement. Pick something that you feel great in. A bright color, an interesting tie or a fabulous pin can help you connect with people. And you’ll stand out in photos that are posted in social media.
  • Stand in the doorway for a moment when you arrive. This helps anchor you and lets you scan the room to see who you might want to meet.
  • Put your name tag on your right side. This was something I learned in grad school at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. When you shake hands, your name tag becomes more prominent and easier to read.
  • Grab a beverage. Stick to one drink and sip it slowly. Hold it in your left hand, so your right hand is ready for shaking hands.
  • Have a question or two ready. This will depend on the group. For mine, I asked about how people were connected to the school.
  • Introduce people to each other. Make a point of connecting people you know to each other. Say something great about each person that provides a conversation starter.
  • Look for small groups. It’s easier to start conversations with one or two people. You can start with a comment on the food or the venue or something interesting they’re wearing.
  • Post about the event. Take an interesting photo, add a caption about something new you learned and share the spirit of the event.
  • Share content about the event. If the event has a hashtag, search it and share relevant and appropriate content.

How do you make the most of a networking event?

To Respond or Not to Respond

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Our incoming messages are exploding.

LinkedIn messages. Facebook and Twitter notifications. Emails. Texts. Snaps.

Just reading and responding to everything could be more than a full-time job.

You need a strategy for when you do and don’t respond.

And I don’t subscribe to the philosophy that no response is the right way to say no.

In our hyperconnected world, our humanity and good manners can too easily go by the wayside.

Sometimes it’s because we can’t help the person and we need to say no. In those cases, have a standard professional response you can copy, paste, edit and send to say you’re not interested at this time, but you’ll keep the info for future reference.

Some messages are easy not to respond to:

  • Automated sales pitches, usually via LinkedIn and Twitter
  • Connection requests immediately followed by a sales pitch, again, usually via LinkedIn and Twitter
  • Connection requests in LinkedIn from people you don’t know and that aren’t personalized to explain why they’d like to connect with you
  • Tweets that mention you as a way to draw you into an issue for which you can offer no meaningful response

Some messages deserve a response. And while it would be easy enough to ignore them, giving a response can set you apart and enhance your company’s reputation:

  • Customers of your company who need help getting an issue resolved. Respond to that customer right away.  Be a friendly, helpful, human face and voice. Connect them with your company’s customer care team for a rapid response.

Interesting stat: 78% of people who complain to a brand in Twitter expect a response within an hour. Another one: 77% of people feel more positive about a brand when their tweet has been replied to.

(This is where I remind readers that opinions expressed are my own.)

  • People from your alma maters, past and present employers and other professional groups who ask for your advice or an introduction to a colleague for networking purposes.
  • Connections, colleagues and friends who post valuable content. Read their link, give them a “like” if the content is something you want to be associated with, and leave a short and upbeat comment that adds a constructive observation to the dialogue. Social media is all about reciprocity.

And some messages fall in between.

An example? A request to connect to one of your connections, without a clearly stated reason.

Recently a LinkedIn connection asked to connect to a colleague, to invite her to an event. I suspected it was a sales pitch and didn’t want to spam my colleague. I asked the requester for more info. Never heard back. End of story.

Suppose you do decide to respond to a message to decline a request and you get a response asking for something else.

What then?

Here I take my cue from a wise colleague, Tina Morefield. She’ll send a response. One response. And after that, no more.

Unless, of course, it’s from a customer who needs your help. In that case, keep responding until the issue is resolved to the customer’s satisfaction. Because our customers are the lifeblood of our organizations.

When do you respond? When do you not respond?

How to Be Social in LinkedIn

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The place to start your professional presence in social media is LinkedIn.

With nearly 300 million professionals and two new members per second, it’s where to be in the work world.

Reciprocity is a key principle of social media. Think of others. What interests them? What inspires them? How can you highlight and promote their efforts?

Be a strategic giver, in the spirit that Wharton professor Adam Grant wrote about in his bestseller Give and Take.

Setting goals. On any social media platform, start by defining your goals. Why are you there? What do you want to accomplish? Two big reasons are because LinkedIn is becoming your resume and to build your professional network.

Getting started. Assuming you already have an account, refresh your profile (make sure you’ve turned off the profile notification updates to your network). Include a professional photo. Upload samples of your best work.

Get Work Smarter with LinkedIn by Alexandra Samuel. This Harvard Business Review e-book gets you started with a great profile and easy ways to update your professional portfolio and expand your network over time.

Connecting with people. To start, you can connect with your existing contacts to invite people you already know. Every time you meet someone new – whether inside or outside of your company – send them a connection request. Be sure to personalize it. Don’t send the default request. Write a short note about why you want to connect. Use it as an opportunity to differentiate yourself and brighten someone’s day.

Assessing connection requests. Generally I’ll connect with people I know. And with people at my company, even if I haven’t met them yet. If I don’t know someone and their industry or role looks relevant, I might accept the request. If a request is from someone completely unknown to me, I don’t accept it. Unless they have taken the time to personalize the request and explain why they would like to connect with me.

Growing your presence. Add something new to your profile at least once a quarter, and ideally every month. Add a new project, a video or other work sample. List speaking engagements. New awards. Something you wrote. At least once a week, post a status update about a project or accomplishment. Share a pertinent article or blog post. Consider starting a LinkedIn blog to share your expertise.

Engaging with people. Beyond building your network, scroll through the home page a few times a week. Tuesdays are especially good. “Like” people’s postings. Comment on a few. Join a discussion group and be an active participant. Offer to write recommendations for people you can enthusiastically endorse.

Fitting it into your life. Schedule a few minutes each week to post a status update. If you’re the super organized type, create an editorial calendar. Research says the best times to post to LinkedIn are early in the week. Put the LinkedIn app on your smartphone so you can access it on the go. Waiting in line somewhere? Post a quick status update (on a professional topic, not the line).

Learning from luminaries. Want help with your LinkedIn profile? Check out speaker and author Donna Serdula. You can also learn all about LinkedIn from Eve MayerLori Ruff and Viveka von Rosen.

Finding adjunct uses. Jumping on a call with people you haven’t met yet? Check out their LinkedIn profiles. See what looks interesting, and what you might have in common to quickly build rapport. One of my responsibilities is to design and deliver my company’s annual leadership meeting. LinkedIn is incredibly helpful once I’ve identified speakers of interest and I want to connect with them directly.

Engaging with customers. From time to time I hear from customers. I make those requests a priority and connect people to the right place within customer care. It may change someone’s mind for the better and generate goodwill.

Engaging with job candidates. People often contact me looking for the hiring manager for an online job posting. This is an opportunity to further our company’s employer brand, we entertain the future. I’ll use my internal network with our recruiters to direct the person to the right place. It’s all part of wanting candidates to have a great experience interacting with us and furthering our corporate reputation.

Engaging with recruiters. With the economy picking up, so has the volume of recruiter outreach. If a recruiter’s profile looks legitimate, I’ll review the job description and try to recommend at least a few good candidates. If there aren’t any people I can refer, I’ll connect the recruiter with a forum group I belong to of senior-level corporate communicators.

What are your best LinkedIn tips?

How to Be Social

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Every communicator – and every leader – has to be social.

It’s not a matter of IF you’re going to engage with social media, but of HOW.

To be effective, to be relevant and to have influence, you need a personal social strategy. Just as organizations need a social strategy.

And while your personal strategy is just that, by linking it with your company’s efforts you’ll maximize the impacts.

“Learn by doing” is a great guiding philosophy.

One of my superstar team members, Tyler Jacobson, shared this with me when my family made a college visit to his alma mater, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

Students were involved in hands-on learning in whatever department we went to on campus, from agriculture to engineering and from business to communications.

It’s the same with social media. What you learn by doing in your own social involvement you can apply at your company. And you can teach others from your experience. Learning is the main reason I started this blog.

Begin with your company’s social media policy to learn the rules of the road. My comms team is responsible for company policies. So with leadership from Michael Ambrozewicz on my team, we created the company’s first social media policy a few years ago, collaborating with key stakeholders.

And we made sure to comply with the National Labor Relations Act‘s protection of the rights of employees to act together to address conditions at work.

It’s important to disclose your affiliation with your company, make it clear you aren’t an official spokesperson (unless of course, you are), and state that your opinions are your own.

Being “light, bright and polite” is a good idea. I realized I was following this mantra myself when Josh Ochs spoke to parents at our local high school this week about helping students engage appropriately with social media.

As a side note, this is an example of how I try to integrate my work life and my personal life, rather than attempt the impossible feat of balancing them. I think about how I can apply something I learned at work at home, and vice versa.

Another great speaker at my daughter’s high school this month was Tyler Durman. Although he spoke about parenting teens, his advice applied to any relationship.

He reminded me that when you want to build rapport, negotiate or solve a problem with someone, sit next to them rather than across from them. This validated a great research-based Harvard Business Review blog on presenting effectively to a small audience.

Everything interconnects. And it’s the same with social media.

In our community we’re blessed with great public and private schools. A few years ago I served as a trustee on the Peninsula Education Foundation, where we raise money for our public schools.

When our president asked me to spearhead the creation of a new strategic plan, I learned by doing. I put into practice my grad school study of Michael Porter and what I was learning in a McKinsey-led “Strategy 101” course at DIRECTV.

A key question from the course was, “what problem are you trying to solve?”

This can be the guiding principle to create and evolve a social strategy.

Some of the “problems” I’ve been solving through social media involvement are:

How do I . . .

  • Advise our CEO on launching a blog?
  • Find great speakers for leadership gatherings?
  • Help tell our corporate social responsibility story?
  • Improve my photo and video skills in our visual world?
  • Build a network of interesting and diverse people?
  • Pursue lifelong learning in my career?

Last year my colleague Michelle Locke asked me to succeed her as president of one of DIRECTV’s employee resource groups, the Women’s Leadership Exchange.

Its 1,000 members focus on building a culture that enhances the experiences of female employees. The group provides learning, networking and mentoring for both women and men.

One of my first tasks was to work with the steering committee on our speaker series. Our research yielded a wish list of people.

One of them was Gwynne Shotwell. She’s the COO of SpaceX, the innovative company that manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft. SpaceX is shooting to enable people to live on other planets, such as Mars.

DIRECTV is also in the satellite business with the delivery of a premium video experience, and we’re a corporate neighbor of SpaceX in the South Bay of Los Angeles.

Both companies are encouraging more students to pursue STEM careers (see Gwynne’s TEDx talk, Engineering America, and the corporate citizenship work of Tina Morefield on my team). It seemed like a perfect fit.

The only problem?

I didn’t know Gwynne. And I didn’t know anyone who did.

Until I turned to LinkedIn. I searched for Gwynne’s profile. And saw we had 9 connections in common. One of them was a DIRECTV colleague, Phil Goswitz, our SVP of Video, Space & Communications, and Design Thinking.

An email I sent to Phil led to an email invite from Phil to Gywnne. Based on their connection, we heard a yes within hours. The only detail was to find a date.

That date was this week. That’s us with Gwynne in the photo – from left, Heesoon Kim, me, Phil, Gwynne, Katie Jenks, Lisa Pue Chinery and Laurie Lopez.

We had to bring in extra chairs for the unusually large group. Gwynne inspired us with her fearless approach to pursuing her passions – engineering and space.

Coworkers I see in our cafe, courtyard and conference rooms are telling me how inspired and energized they were by Gwynne’s talk. Even people who didn’t attend are buzzing about it.

And it happened in part thanks to social media. A topic I’ll explore in upcoming posts.