March 30, 2015

Hide or shine? Finding your professional voice in social media

Did you hear about the CFO who got fired over his YouTube rant? What about the PR exec who torpedoed her career with an inappropriate tweet?
You probably didn’t hear about the banker who met his mentor on an internal social network, the unemployed marketer who found her dream job via LinkedIn, or the corporate communicator who accelerated her career growth by blogging what she learned along the way.
In a world where casual conversations can be shared with the public and archived forever, you have two options: You can hide, or you can embrace social media and use it to shine.
Hide or Shine
I advocate the latter. My blogs have led to professional connections and speaking engagements. At conferences, I use Twitter to capture notes and connect with other attendees. Facebook is more personal, but I occasionally share posts related to my work life, because I’m one person.
Hiding is becoming less of an option as more and more companies invest in internal social networks to connect employees and collaborate. Just like creating a PowerPoint deck or sending a coherent email, professional use of social media is becoming a core competency of workplace communication. The farther you go in your career, the more essential it will become.
What's Shiny in Social Media
I’ve identified three traits I consider most important to professional brand in social media. Do two of these well, and you’ll be pretty successful. Do all three, and you’ll shine.
Authenticity is showing up as your true, sincere, imperfect self. It means showing vulnerability, acknowledging challenges as well as successes, and posting about real, relevant things that happened to you. One of my most authentic blog posts was about a school project that I spectacularly failed. Was it hard to share that story? Absolutely, and that’s why it worked. Likewise, an authentic person steps up and owns his or her success without apology, qualification, or a contrived #humblebrag.
Digital Citizenship is what keeps authenticity from spiraling into narcissism. It’s about recognizing the human beings on your social networks and honoring their contributions. Digital citizenship starts with observing the social norms of your community. The conversational tone of LinkedIn is different from Facebook. Twitter and Instagram both use hashtags, but in different ways. Learn the rhythm of your network and pay attention to the people you know. Write thoughtful comments on their posts. Engage in conversations. Acknowledge their birthdays (Facebook) and work anniversaries (LinkedIn).
Intellectual Generosity means taking what you learn and paying it forward. I have a friend who shares health and fitness advice with her followers daily. It’s not her job, but she’s knowledgeable and intellectually generous. I try to blog on our internal social network after I attend a conference, because my employer invested in my learning and it seems unfair to hoard knowledge I could share with my coworkers. If you’re not a writer, you can still be intellectually generous by sharing links to articles that you find insightful, or quick little tips that make your life easier.
Communicating via social media is a professionally relevant skill, just like being present in a meeting. You can sit quietly, you can hide under the conference table, or you can stand up and shine.

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