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?

Make the Most of LinkedIn Mutual Connections

Are you making the most of the mutual connections feature of LinkedIn profiles?

Mutual connections appear in the highlights section of profiles, right under the summary at the top.

It’s one of the first things I view, especially when I’m meeting someone new or working with someone for the first time.

This is all part of having a comprehensive social media savvy strategy in navigating your professional path in the corporate world. (Opinions in this blog are my own.)

BEFORE YOU VIEW MUTUAL CONNECTIONS’ PROFILES

Here’s a quick tip before you view the profiles of mutual connections. Set your browsing profiles option to “private.” That way, your name won’t appear as someone who’s viewed a profile.

There may be instances when you want people to know you’ve viewed your profile. Sometimes it’s a good way to indicate interest. But in most cases, it’s better to view profiles in private mode.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN MUTUAL CONNECTIONS

How many mutual connections do you have? This indicates how closely or loosely connected you are to the person. If you have many connections in common, you’re both part of a well-developed community.

If you have only a few connections in common, this person probably adds more diversity of thought to your network. He or she may be someone you want to get to know better.

Why? Cultivating a diverse network is a key leadership skill for the 21st century. Roselinde Torres shares why in her TED talk on What it takes to be a great leader.

Torres says that “great leaders understand that having a more diverse network is a source of pattern identification at greater levels and also of solutions, because you have people who are thinking differently than you are.”

How many of them did you expect to see? Assess how many are people you would have expected to see connected to this person. This will help you answer the next question . . .

Who’s NOT there who you would have expected to see? In other words, who’s missing? And why do you think that is? Most times, it could be a simple oversight.  But there could be other reasons you might want to contemplate.

What organizations and affiliations do you have in common? What are the common employers, professional associations, community organizations, schools, and so on. Again, fewer common organizations could indicate greater diversity in your network.

Which ones are unexpected wild-card connections? This is the most interesting question. Who surprised you? Who made you wonder how your connection knows this mutual connection?

These connections could be the boundary spanners among groups in your network. They’re the people who may be able to connect people and ideas across multiple networks. And they could be people you can reach out to when you’re looking for a “needle in a haystack” type of person.

Karie Willyerd, the author of The 2020 Workplace and Stretch is one of those boundary spanners. It’s a surprise and delight when her name appears as a mutual connection to someone I never would have guessed she knows. She’s role modeling her own advice about cultivating a broad and diverse network.

MAKE THE MOST OF MUTUAL CONNECTIONS

Understand the broader social network. Mutual connections tell you more about someone’s network and how it intersects with yours. This can form the basis for conversation starters about how you know each know the mutual connection, what work you’ve done together, and what you might do together in the future.

Recently I was thrilled to be invited to join the USC Alumni Association Board of Governors as the representative of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. An accompanying role is on the USC Annenberg Alumni Advisory Board.

As I’ve approached the process of meeting more than 75 fellow alums, knowing our mutual connections helps to seed conversations, find common points of interest and generate ideas about our work together to further the alumni experience.

Get to know a new leader, boss or client. When an important new person enters your professional life, see what mutual connections you have in common. Use the 5 questions above to quickly evaluate the common connections.

Then decide if there are a few trusted people you might ask for advice and insights. Here are a few starter questions you might want to know about:

  • What’s important to this person?
  • What’s their leadership style?
  • Who influences them?

See opportunities for collaboration. Work gets done in cross-functional collaborative teams, whether it’s inside your organization or outside of it in a professional or community group.

Your mutual connections could point the way to already-existing relationships that may make a new collaborative effort even stronger from the start. If you’re putting together any kind of cross-functional team, this can be one more data point to assembling a high-performing team.

What are the ways you make the most of your mutual connections?