Your online presence can earn you respect, or destroy your career. Here’s how to use the power of the internet for your own good.
You may not realize it, but if you are engaged in social media you are building a reputation. In fact you are quite possibly building one that will last a lifetime. But are you building a professional social media reputation, one that could possibly take you to the next level, or one that will haunt you for years to come, prevent you from future leadership opportunities, or that may even get you fired?
In the last decade, employers and agencies have begun implementing social media policies. The National Labor Relations Board continues to monitor social media policy and issues regular memorandums clarifying what employers can and cannot do regarding social policies and social medial activity. Memos from the NLRB, media reports, and court cases have caused many employers to create two policies one for use of social media at work, and one that speaks to employee’s personal use of social media after hours.
So why are businesses, labor unions, media, and other associations so actively engaged in social media policy? The answer is because reputations matter.
If these groups see the relationship between social media and reputation of their companies or organizations, you should be just as engaged in protecting your reputation online as well.
Rather than finding yourself on the defensive when it comes to social media, why not be proactive and build the world you want to live in? Take control of your professional reputation on social media now. Boost your visibility and change how others view you by taking the following 9 steps.
It won’t do you any good to build a social media reputation that doesn’t truly match your real background and expertise. Use social media to show people the professional you and that you are actively engaged in professional pursuits and opportunities. Whatever you present online should be genuine. People will figure out quickly if you are claiming to be an expert, but you’re actually a novice. There’s nothing wrong with being a novice, peers and colleagues appreciate people who are seeking to grow, connect and establish a professional footprint. Just be honest. Leaders are genuine in person and online. The virtual you still needs to be you.
Know the difference between social proof and social influence and establish both.
Social proof is a tangible professional footprint that includes everything from articles you’ve written, courses you’ve completed or taught, interviews, research, projects, books, awards or recognition, or even your years in the trenches. Social proof presents to others that you have “been there and done that” –whatever it is you have accomplished. Social influence is defined by how many other people are doing it or responding to it because you did it. Both social proof and social influence are evidence that you know what you’re talking about. Leaders are constantly mindful and protective of their social influence.
Blog and Guest Blog.
Consider publishing a blog. A blog can be used as your personal platform and is a powerful way to get your message out. Many blogging platforms are free or of little cost. The net gain for consistent blogging can be exponential. If you do not have your own blog you can still contribute and build your brand by becoming a guest blogger on someone else’s website. Many blogs have submission pages and guidelines, so be sure to follow them. It’s important to note that nothing can kill your professional career quicker than poor online content. If your message is valuable and you want to be a leader in your field, be diligent in your search for outlets necessary to share it.
Write a book.
Writing a book is a great way to share a message with the masses or to introduce yourself within your profession. If you’re going to write a book though, write a good one. Your first book doesn’t have to be a Pulitzer or Nobel worthy, it just needs to be professional and provide insight into who you are and what you believe. Just remember you have to be the one to promote it. Take the lead in sharing your own unique message—write a book and take the necessary extra steps to promote it in person, online, and on your website.
Read and Review Books.
Don’t just write books. Read books. There are “go-to” books for every field, and just as there are established books there are also new books with new ideas. Find what’s fresh and read that too. Research and read and then provide reviews. Then share your reviews online. Not only will fellow authors appreciate it, but they may even notice your enthusiasm. There is never a downside to learning more or connecting with other leaders in your field.
Interact on social media.
If you want to build a professional reputation online it is vital that you engage in a variety of social media platforms. Personally, I’ve found LinkedIn to be an incredible resource for connecting with other professionals. If you engage in social media it’s best to understand each of the platforms or outlets and hone your message for each. Whether you tweet it, post it, or pin it, social media interaction is crucial.
Participate in Podcasts.
If you are serious about building your personal platform and sharing your message, then you need to be seen and also heard. Find podcasts and radio shows for sharing your ideas or create your own. Start by connecting with the leading podcasters covering topics relevant to your niche. Join their teams. Provide reviews. Interact. Build relationships. You may soon find yourself on their podcast or hosting your own.
Join online communities and forums.
Most professional or interest groups have some sort of online community available for networking and sharing information. Online forums and even private Facebook groups are terrific ways to make valuable connections. Everyone contributes in a professional online community. Find ways not only to participate but to give back out of professional courtesy. Leaders give back. They’re active in their communities whether those communities are just around the corner, or on the web.
Just like people check their credit online, you can perform and online “credibility” check starting with search engines. Googling yourself may seem narcissistic but it’s the only way to get an idea of what people are saying about you or your message. Survey your friends. Ask them for honest feedback about your overall online presence including images, videos, and articles across search engines. You’ll quickly learn whether your message and brand are consistent, inconsistent, or non-existent. That feedback will be impetus for taking next steps.
Savvy leaders are mindful that the choices they make either help or hurt their brand. Many big corporations have branding professionals who are paid well to protect both brand and message. Remember, you are the expert of you. If you don’t like the message or brand you portray online, take the lead and change it. Failing to do so just may impede your success, get you fired, or sabotage future opportunities.
Photo: Flickr/Harsha K R