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?

Social Savvy Strategies for Attending a Conference

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

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

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

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

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

PROMOTE

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

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

CONNECT

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

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

SHARE

How can you share valuable content with your social networks?

GROW

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

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

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

Make the Most of Your Employee Advocacy Program

Looking for a simple way to share great professional content in your social networks?

If your company offers an employee advocacy program, download the app and start sharing content that matches your professional goals for social media.

This can be a key part of your social savvy strategy to personally brand and market yourself successfully in social media.

But first, what is employee advocacy?

It’s “brands empowering employees to support the goals of the brand, through employee-owned social media,” says Chris Boudreaux in Social Media Governance.

My employer makes it easy to share company-provided content with Social Circle, powered by Social ChorusNolan Carleton pioneered the approach, with much success.

(This is where I remind readers that opinions in this blog are my own.)

Here are 11 ways to make the most of your employee advocacy program, promoting your company while you build your own professional brand.

  • Download the app. Make it easy to share content by putting the app on your mobile devices. You can use snippets of time during the week to review and share content.
  • Choose content categories that support your professional goals. Align your own social media strategy with the available content categories. For example, you could focus on your company’s business strategy, the customer experience, the employee experience, career strategies or community engagement, just to name a few.
  • Customize your feed for your content categories. Once you know what types of content you want to share, see if you can customize the content you see. This will make the process more efficient as you choose what to share.
  • Select the social media platforms you want to post on. Assess how the available content lines up with the platforms where you’re most active for professional purposes. In my case, it’s LinkedIn and Twitter.
  • Keep looking before you link. Just as you shouldn’t link to other social media content without reading it first, you should do the same with a company-provided message. Make sure it reflects well on your professional brand before sharing it.
  • Tailor company-provided messages to your voice. You can use the company-provided messaging to share links, or you can edit it to be closer to your own voice. Just be sure that the edits you make reflect positively on your company.
  • Share your pride in your company. Let your enthusiasm for your company shine through. Whether you love the employee experience, the products and services, or everything about your organization, share that sentiment.
  • Follow your company’s social media guidelines. Make sure to follow the spirit and the letter of social media guidelines at your company. When in doubt, err on the conservative side. While you’re acting as a brand ambassador of your company, that holds you to a higher standard.
  • Target 3 to 5 posts each week. Sprinkle your company’s posts among a broad variety of content you’re sharing. Don’t go overboard with excessive sharing. Since it’s company-related content, post it on weekdays during normal business hours in your time zone – or in other time zones with people in your network you want to reach. Your platform may enable you to schedule sharing in advance to post at a specific time.
  • Share social content from colleagues. Keep an eye on content from colleagues who also engage in the advocacy program. Share their content if it fits with your overall goals. This promotes your colleagues, your company and you – a triple win.
  • Experiment and refine your approach. Check the analytics for each of your social platforms to see how your community is engaging with content from your company. Make adjustments based on that, and keep fine-tuning as you go.

 

What if your employer doesn’t offer an employee advocacy program? Make a pitch to your Corporate Communications team.

Here’s a key data point. Consumers see recommendations from friends as the most credible form of advertising — as much as 83%, according to a Nielsen study.

And IABC Fellow Shel Holtz shares for corporate communicators that “employees are now your most credible spokespeople.” This is based on the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer.

Also, check out the 2016 State of Employee Advocacy report from JEM Consulting and Advisory Services.

The study’s leader Jen McClure notes that, “Most employee and brand advocacy programs are still fairly new, and companies are still developing best practices.”

How are you using an employee advocacy program to promote your company’s brand along with your own?

What’s Your Social Media Game in 2017?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are mine:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Social Media Will Change for Professionals in 2017

It’s a new year. A fresh start. How will you revitalize your social media strategy?

You can start by thinking about how social media will change in the coming year.

No one knows for sure what will happen, but here are some interesting trends from personal branding expert William Arruda.

And at a macro level, Bryan Kramer has a roundup of  2017 predictions in social media and content marketing. This includes one of the best in personal branding, Dorie Clark.

As a communications and marketing professional in the corporate world, I think the following changes will have the biggest impact in the year ahead.

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

Life is lived on stage. Every day when you leave your house, you’re in the public eye. You could be photographed, recorded, tagged, tweeted and snapped, all without your express permission or even your knowledge.

The upside to all this? It’s one more incentive to live a high-integrity life. To do the right thing. To make the world a better place.

In the words from the film Ocean’s Eleven, “there’s always someone watching.” Make sure you’re presenting yourself as who you authentically are and how you want to be seen.

It’s not even clear how long our own homes will be a sanctuary from the public sphere. On Thanksgiving day in my leafy town, I spotted a drone in a nearby yard. It made me rethink my window coverings.

It also made me think about feedback. I used to work with a chief marketing officer who was a fantastic speaker. He owned the stage. And he always wanted to improve. After a big speech, he’d ask me for the video so he could critique his performance.

That’s a wise move for every professional. Take some time each month to evaluate how you’re coming across in video, in pictures and in words.

When I’m giving a big speech, I record my practice sessions on my phone. That has two benefits.

The first is a way to improve my actual delivery by assessing how I look and sound.

The second is a way to memorize the speech in advance, so I can deliver it in a more natural way.

How? By listening to the recording while I’m driving and when I’m about to go to sleep (a proven method for studying and remembering information).

Images trump words. As a word lover, it pains me to write that images are more powerful than words. But it’s true. Even my iPhone keypad is suggesting emojis in place of certain words.

Every social post needs an image. Research shows that articles with images get 94% more views.

Wherever I go, I take pictures on my iPhone. I may not use them right away, but I’m building a library of images for the future.

On New Year’s Day, for example, I wanted to share a personal picture.

The year before, my family attended the Tournament of Roses Parade (with reservations about the early hour and the relatively cold weather, by Southern California standards).

The perception of frostbite aside, my camera roll was filled with pictures of beautiful, colorful floats. A photo of South Dakota’s float of Mount Rushmore caught my eye. Four great presidents. In a month when our country will inaugurate a new leader. There was my timely and timeless image.

In addition to using my own photos, I subscribe to a few image sites, iStock and Canva. They’re well worth the investment, because they make content more eye-catching and professional.

Video trumps stills. For as much as photos are better than words, they’re starting to seem almost as dated as mere words. It’s the moving image that captures the eye. From Facebook Live to Periscope to over-the-top video, the moving image reigns supreme.

This will be an area of experimentation for me in 2017. I’ll start with a few short videos in my Instagram feed. I’ll try Facebook Live. And maybe I’ll turn some of my blog posts into videos. That idea that jumped out at me in Gary Vaynerchuk‘s Udemy course on building a personal brand.

Snap isn’t just for teens. Now that Snapchat is just simply Snap, it’s unavoidable in the news and the cultural zeitgeist. It’s how my teenage daughter and I enjoy spending time together, checking out her snap streaks and laughing over the funny moments she and her friends capture of every day life.

I’m still figuring out the basics, like how to take a decent picture that won’t be obscured in all the wrong places by the filter du jour. It feels like having all thumbs, like I did when I first joined Twitter and I hadn’t fully figured out why I was there yet. More to come on this topic as this learning project takes shape.

Professionals need a plan. With so many ways to share your professional expertise, ideas and achievements, a plan is essential.

It starts with setting goals. What do you want to accomplish? What social media networks should you be on? What are good ways to curate and create content?

From there, you need a calendar. I’ve been searching for a ready-made one, unsuccessfully so far. Right now I’m using an Excel spreadsheet. As this evolves into something better, I’ll share updates in future posts.

Right now, it’s organized by date, broken into weeks and months. For content ideas, I look at upcoming:

  • Blog posts on social savvy for professionals
  • Work news and events
  • Conferences and training sessions
  • Speaking engagements
  • Hashtag holidays
  • Personal milestones

For each piece of content, the calendar includes:

  • Posting date and time
  • Content headline
  • Content summary
  • Content type (e.g., blog post, photo or video with caption, etc.)
  • Category (professional, personal or a mix)
  • Creative (photo or video)
  • Channel (which social network or networks)
  • Hashtags (especially for Instagram and Twitter)
  • Status (whether in development, posted or in the comments stage).

What changes are you making in your social media strategy this year?

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?

Look Before You Link

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Nearly 60% of links shared in social media haven’t been read first, the Washington Post and others reported this year.

Don’t do that, if you care about your professional reputation. Take the time to read the content of every link you share in social media.

Sharing content implies your endorsement of it and agreement with it. It’s a similar principle to recommending someone for a job – your reputation is on the line.

What if there’s something lurking in that content link that doesn’t represent your views? How will you know if you don’t read it first?

Josh Ochs, a “digital citizenship speaker who teaches students how to shine online,” says it well for people of all ages. He advises to keep your social media content, “light, bright and polite.”

Here are some guidelines to assess whether or not to share a particular link:

DO share links that:

  • Aptly illustrate the topics you and your social media communities are interested in
  • Provide relevant and appropriate data and metrics to support key points
  • Position your company and its leaders in a positive and accurate light.

DON’T share links that:

  • Have disparaging information about your company or its products. For example, because my employer provides video content, I don’t share links that bash TV (this is where I remind readers that opinions are my own).
  • Overly focus on your employer’s competitors. Unless you’re an official company spokesperson, it’s better to be silent on competitors.
  • Cover topics you don’t want your good name associated with – whether it’s negativity, bar-hopping, gambling or other questionable topics.
  • Have any content that could be perceived as offensive or disparaging to any group or groups of people. If you’re not sure, don’t share it.

Always ask yourself if what you’re sharing reflects positively on you, your employer, your family, your community, and so on, before you post. If not, don’t post it.

Here’s a good tip from Bill Duane as covered in The New York Times – ask yourself before you share if the content is true, kind and necessary. It it doesn’t meet all 3 criteria, don’t share it.

When you do have content to share that passes all of these tests, add your perspective. Briefly say what’s important about it. Include a key takeaway or a memorable quote.

And be sure you look before you link!