Using social media in a professional context – an idiot’s guide

Using social media in a professional context – an idiot’s guide

Calling it an idiot’s guide is fairly safe. I’m unlikely to offend anyone. The fact that you’re reading this confirms you’re not an idiot.

There has been some pretty high profile research into the power and effectiveness of social media. McKinsey estimate that it’s worth $1.3 trillion in terms of the extra value that the global economy can extract through it’s use. And we do see it used effectively. The B2C use case of viral marketing campaigns and the damage limitation campaigns (O2 deserves a medal for their recent success in managing the fallout from a network outage using twitter and, importantly, a sense of humour.)

I spoke to Renette Youssef, CMO at Tradeshift recently about how they use social media as a powerful marketing tool. (You can listen to the podcast here). But how do individual professionals in procurement or finance use social media in a professional context? We see celebrities using social media all the time but as professionals, what value is there in sharing with our followers what we had for breakfast? And is it really a good idea to share pictures of your Friday night out?

Purchasing Insight logoWhether you know it or not, you are already using social media effectively. Blogs such as Purchasing Insight, Spend Matters, Sourcing Innovation, Accounts Payable News etc, etc, represent an important social medium through which experts can provide insights, commentary and stimulate valuable debate and discussion.

Not everyone gets it of course and for those who don’t, as well as for those who only half get it, knowing where to start and what to do is a challenge.

Think about your colleagues that don’t use social media? Those that feel they’re too old, too hip, too busy, too whatever to subscribe to professional blogs or use twitter or linkedin? How would you explain to them the fundamentals of using social media in a professional context?

An idiot’s guide to using social media in a professional context

This is a guide to some of the dos and some important don’ts in taking a professional approach to social media.

The 6 good habits of a professional social media user

If you google your name, what page do you appear on? If you google your professional speciality, where do you appear? If the answer is anything other than page one, you’re not using social media enough.

1. Follow

Follow the key influencers on twitter. One of the best uses of twitter for the professional is to receive bite size updates on what is happening in your industry. Don’t follow so many that you can’t keep up.

2. Tweet

Develop your own network. Curate the web content in your own specialist field by tweeting the quality content you come across and retweet selectively the best and most relevant tweets.

3. Blog

Create content. You have lots to give and it can enhance your reputation and profile enormously by getting content published. If you don’t want to mange your own blog, write on others’ sites. Most bloggers welcome guest posts.

4. Contribute to the debate

Even without writing whole blog articles you can contribute to the debate and enhance your profile by making intelligent and constructive contributions.

5. Linkedin

Most recruiters use Linkedin as a key research tool so if you’re not on there, no-one knows you exist. It’s a must. But don’t think it stops there. Consider what your profile looks like when people find you. Think about the quantity and quality of your contacts.

6. Take a holistic approach

Social media isn’t just about twitter or just blogging or linkedin – it’s all of it. The more active you are and the more joined up you become, the more you build your brand.

The 6 bad habits of a professional social media user

Some people are scared of social media – and for good reason. Reputations can be destroyed in an instant if you get it wrong so it’s worth being aware of things to avoid.

1. Be a power user on Facebook

Facebook is for kids – of all ages. Think about it. There is no way that a professional social media platform would co-exist with Farmville. There is a place for facebook at a corporate level but on an individual level, restrict it to your private and family life.

2. Mix business and pleasure

We want to know that you’re at a great conference listening to a great speaker. Better still, tell us what you’re getting out of it. We don’t want to know you’re at a stag party in Vegas. Actually, we probably do want to know it but it would be better for you if we didn’t.

3. Reveal too much character

It’s good for people to know that there’s a person behind the twitter account and sharing some information about the real you makes you more interesting but know where to draw the line. Your taste in music helps position you a little and we like that you’re a foodie but I don’t care who you want evicted from Big Brother. And why are you watching Big Brother anyway? Grow up!

4. Define your professional self by your private persona

A profile that starts “Husband to a beautiful wife …” is, to be frank, pathetic. It makes you look like you’re married to a woman that is always checking up on you.

5. Share all of your views

If you want to be an evangelist for anything, go for it. But if it’s not connected to your professional life, keep your views to yourself especially on religion and politics.

6. Google+

One for the loners. Not a habit to develop.

Pete Loughlin can be found on twitter @peteloughlin

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