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Monday, May 20, 2013

3 Reasons Why You May Not Be Using Social Media Professionally

More than half of American adults maintain a social media presence on one or more social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.  The statistics for the younger demographic is even higher.  Most social media users are on these sites for pleasure -- keeping up with friends and family and posting photos and videos are the most popular social media activities.  Social networking is not just for fun, though. If you aren't using social media to market yourself, your product, or your business, you may be missing a key marketing tool (and demographic). 
It isn't difficult to set up a professional social media presence - many of you probably have a LinkedIn profile where you filled in the standard profile and occasionally get connection notifications.  This is a great place to start, but there is so much more out there that you may not be aware of or think you don't have the knowledge or time to  explore. 

There are any number of reasons why you may not yet have taken the leap into more interactive marketing on social networking sites.  I've touched on three of them below:
I don't know how.
If you are a true novice, meaning you don't yet have a Facebook profile and have no idea what a tweet is, I recommend you take "baby steps" before you jump into a professional marketing program.  Start by setting up a Facebook page - it is easy to set up a profile, and you can start interacting with friends and family members almost immediately.  It is as easy as filling out a profile, setting up a password, uploading a profile picture (not required, but recommended if you want people to find you!), and typing in your first post. 
For those of you who already have some experience in social media on a personal level (Facebook, maybe even Twitter), you already have the tools you need.  Using a social media site for business reasons is technically the same as using it personally, so you don't need any special classes or training.  I do recommend that you keep your personal and professional social media presence separate if you can. Remember that you are trying to market yourself or your business to potential clients or customers.  They may not be interested in your recent vacation to wine country, or your St. Patrick's Day activities, and your political opinions could limit your marketing pool.  Keep it separate folks!
I don't know where to start.
If you have a LinkedIn profile, you have already started.  LinkedIn is the professional social networking site.  It's easy to set up a standard profile and start networking with colleagues and others with similar professional interests.  The key is to go beyond the "fill in the blank" profile, and use LinkedIn's full potential by joining groups, posting about articles you've read (or better yet, that you have written), seminars you attend, and other activities that your connections may be interested in and that show your expertise and interests. 
LinkedIn is just the first step. There are many other ways to social network in a business context. 
If you tweet personally, think about setting up a professional Twitter account to link to news stories and articles of interest in your field. 
If 140 characters isn't enough, set up a blog where you can write in more detail about what interests you and what professional activities you are engaging in (publications, seminars).  But, be careful not to be "all over the board" on your blog.  You want to focus on a particular topic to draw continued readership.  Even more important, make sure you write about something that interests you.  Too many blogs are started with the best intentions, and then go stale because the author loses interest.  Keep your blog current - post at least once each week, and preferably every day.  Which leads to reason #3....
I don't have time to keep up with it.
If you are going to use social media professionally, be in it for the long haul.  If you are looking for a new job or new opportunities, you need to think about social media as a necessity - it is a very important tool in marketing yourself to a new company or clients and customers.  Think about your social media site as an extension of your resume.  The standard rule of thumb is that resumes should be no more than one page - yet, how can anyone sell themselves in one page.  If you provide a link on your resume to your LinkedIn profile or professional blog, you have, in essence, extended your resume well beyond that one page.  Your social media site could provide links to projects you have worked on, publications, and other events and activities. Any one of these links could be what leads to your being hired or making the right connection. 
So, we all agree social media marketing is an important tool.  The question I hear most frequently is "how much time do I need to devote to social networking activities?"  In my case, I maintain two blogs (Strategically Social on social media and Municipal Minute on local government law), a Municipal Minute Twitter page that links to both blogs, and a LinkedIn profile.  I also update my firm's website.  That's a lot of social networking.  I find I'm able to keep my networking sites current in about an hour each day.  Whenever I read an interesting case, article, law, post, or other publication, I bookmark it, print it, or email it to myself so I always have new material to write about.  Cross-linking between all of the social media sites is very important, because you will have different readership (connections, fans, friends, etc.) among the various sites.  If one hour each day seems too much, spend an hour or two on the weekend to put together a few posts that you can schedule for publication throughout the week.  

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