This past Friday morning I met with four enthusiastic folks involved in tech from a local company for a casual coffee about using social media. This is a bit of a departure from my usual posts but they had such great questions and perspectives that I thought it could benefit others to share the advice I gave for those dabbling in, but maybe not quite using social technology to its full potential. It was not a technical conversation, however. I don’t bother with features and functions, I like to get to the human side of it all. The conversation ranged from things like “it’s overwhelming” to “Using LinkedIn for sale leads only.” I had just one hour, so I framed things around 4 points.
Authenticity & Sincerity and Consistency & Frequency
Let’s start with their concerns first, as we did that morning.
“It can be overwhelming.”
Yes, if you let it be. Social technologies, all of them, are just tools. Pick your tool, be comfortable there for as long as you want. If it’s business-related of course you may want to step into the “places” clients or customers are eventually if they aren’t say on Twitter and you LOVE Twitter. But it’s really overwhelming if you chase everything. It’s also a whole other layer of work if you don’t make it a part of your work. Ask – where can it fit into building connection? What’s your purpose??
“Getting sales leads.”
Yes, that’s a perfect use but you can go further to draw people to you not just “cold call” THEN pull people to you. Draw them in continually. We talked about creating or sharing content for these platforms and why you want to do that. For me personally, it’s always been about putting my ideas out there and inviting conversation. The conversation isn’t always positive or negative but through accolades or criticisms, I’m learning and that’s MY purpose. For these folks it was sales. So, sharing content about their work and sharing it in ways that revealed their passions for their techniques, products or services without being “salesy” is important for two BIG reasons… and here come my 4 points from above.
First, be authentic. Listen, I work for the eLearning Guild. We do some really great stuff for the learning community. Do I believe in all of it?? No, no I don’t and if I all of a sudden started sharing EVERY. SINGLE. THING we do I would be seen as a shill. That’s not good for me and it’s not good for the Guild. The second reason is just a reality I see all the time. People show all this massive love for their company and their social channels are filled with all company stuff. Their identity and their company become one until they’re not. The business cycle is real. People get let go all the time. Now you’re out, looking for work and well, you’re just known for promoting your company. Who are you?? Worse, you land a new job, start doing the exact same thing and then people have zero trust in your sincerity. In my opinion, Social should be an extension of you, not your job and company. You should be focused on your professional interests and passions all the time and when what your employer is doing or promoting aligns, then share. If not, don’t.
A good question came up regarding side hustle interests. Most don’t know but I do have a regional consultancy called ThruWork. It’s all about helping small businesses and non-profits create more social organizations for continuous learning and knowledge sharing. I don’t market. Mostly I just share my ideas and if a client is interested, we talk. For me, it’s still “learning” so of course, the Guild has no issue as my being active in the work of L&D is good for them too. The folks at coffee were astute to recognize that nothing lasts forever, so having other interest if the floor falls out is wise but outright promoting a business could be looked at really unfavorably. The best way is to become a resource for others in your area of expertise. Share ideas, re-share relatable content by others in the space of your passions. It keeps you in the game and in the know for just in case but it’s not a hard press.
Finally, we discussed Consistency and Frequency. If you’re building your expertise and/or a brand, both are really important. You can’t be taken seriously if only 1 in 10 of your posts, articles or shares is related to your professional interests. However, I will caution that you need to be human. If you’re 10 for 10 professional, you look like a bot. Nobody connects to a bot. You have a life, share a bit of it. Be real. I like to say that people don’t connect to smooth and polished. You have to have some rough, sometimes humorous, honest edges to put out there for people to grab on to. The reality is people only work with people they trust. People don’t trust emotionless robots. And yes, some level of frequency is needed. There’s a ton of information out there with all kinds of advice on an exact number of times per week to post blah, blah, blah. Getting caught up in this game is the best way to ultimately hate it. I get that it works, but honestly social media aside, have you ever tried to force a conversation to happen?? It’s ugly and embarrassing. I like to operate more serendipitously. If I find something I know my network would like, I share. Same with writing, etc. No times exactly. I can go days with nothing but I think it’s better than telling everyone that I’m eating a peach just so they know I’m alive.
I closed our conversation with a final thought. As they were sharing openly what they do at work, their experience and expertise I asked if they had any social tech at their company. You see, they were forming quite a powerful Community of Practice right there in that coffee shop, a great thing to keep going both synchronously and asynchronously! Start their networking practices with people they already know and trust and then grow out from there.
Hope you found this of use.