Originally published in OWL eNews September 24, 2012
Social networking sites have dramatically changed the nature and frequency of our online activity and personal interactions. They have similarly shaped our professional interactions and the means by which we connect with colleagues and customers.
For better or worse, there is little doubt that social media and social networking sites will have an important role to play in your career and professional life. As much as they can be used to connect us, these online tools may also be leveraged as a means to create and shape a personal online brand.
While each business may have a different marketing strategy when it comes to utilizing social media, as an individual you will have the power to generate your own online persona. Because sites like Facebook and LinkedIn are some of the first places colleagues and acquaintances go to learn more about you, this presents a unique opportunity to control the image you project. Crafting a thoughtful profile on either of these sites will give you the chance to tell your own story regarding your talents, interests, and aspirations.
Getting out in front of your online presence can help you shape the impression you want to make, but in some cases, having no online presence at all could take a negative effect. According to Forbes, people increasingly make a “negative assumption” about individuals who are not on Facebook. Fair or not, the reality is that more and more, maintaining some online presence is the norm.
Even the paper résumé as we know it may be disappearing as employers expect to find you online before meeting you in person.
“Whether you’re in the midst of a job search, establishing a professional network or simply keeping up with friends and colleagues, LinkedIn is an excellent tool for building your personal brand online,” notes Steven Squires, director of marketing at Local Eye Site.
Creating an online brand means conveying a consistent message about who are as a professional. This can go further than the description on your profile, too. By sharing links, comments, recommendations, and more you can establish yourself as a thoughtful arbiter and disseminator of knowledge within your profession.
Sites such as LinkedIn can also present unique opportunities for you to reach out and connect with potential clients or customers directly. It isn’t always possible to gain an introduction with someone in person or over the phone. LinkedIn has become a natural place for like-minded professionals to connect with each other on topics of mutual interest. Making direct connections this way won’t always be effective from a sales perspective, but keeping this avenue available is important. It could represent an opportunity to make a key connection that wouldn’t otherwise be available to you.
One of the most commonly cited reasons for not getting online is the concern for intrusions of privacy. Today though, most sites have security features and privacy settings that are familiar and manageable. Often, you can set your profile to be viewable only by users you approve. Choose the privacy level with which you’re most comfortable. It’s wise not to broadcast too much personal information online, but you can still craft a professional profile that can serve as the basis for interacting and sharing with others.
The extent to which you engage with social media is certainly up to you, but it is smart to understand the possible impact your online brand can make. Your ability to network and create your own online brand can help you forge new connections and establish your credibility within your profession. Creating an online brand may help you land a job, gain a new client, or keep you in touch with the latest news and information within your field. As more of our personal and professional interactions move online, keep an eye to what message you’re choosing to convey.