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?

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.