I had the honor of chatting with the Boston SPIN group yesterday during their monthly meeting. The group, primarily engineering minded professionals, developers, QA, project managers, turned out to hear me discuss the topic of extending thought leadership positions via social media. Now, to be honest with you, I had expected to have a small turnout as the phrases social media, thought leadership, personal branding, all reek of marketing and turn off many engineering folks. I was surprised, however, to have a respectable number of somewhat skeptical folks turn out.
While the US economy has added back many IT jobs in the last two months the unemployment rate is still high (yes, I know, insightful commentary on my part ). Many of the technology folks in the room were either looking for work or were underemployed. Too often this is the time that people first begin their networking efforts, far too late for it to be effective. Start now, while you are happily employed. It is no longer enough for engineers, or any other profession, to sly be good at their core job competencies. All of us must work on our writing skills, on our speaking skills, on our ability to get an idea across and to discuss, perhaps argue, our view points.
What struck me as I did my presentation and conversed with the audience was the fact that many of us are living in a world unto ourselves, far from the mainstream where people have never heard of people like Robert Scoble, Chris Brogan, Jeremiah Owyang. When I mentioned these thought leaders to the audience, most people had no clue who they were. Now…. I do not favor building a country of devoted social media junkies but I do favor a society that understands the need to market their skills, their capabilities. Many of these people have no idea how to raise awareness of who they are much less why they might want to do so. Look, if you end up unemployed and looking for work do you want to just begin your marketing efforts then?
Here are a couple of tips to get you started, please use these now.
- Are you using LinkedIn? If not, get on it now. If you are, make your profile your resume. LinkedIn is your work profile and it should always match your resume. Do some people disagree? Yes, but this is my blog, not theirs.
- Raise your profile by joining groups on LinkedIn and answering questions being raised in these groups. Spend 15 – 20 minutes a day doing this. It does not require a lot of time.
- Join Twitter and use it, spending 5 – 10 minutes after lunch and before the end of your work day (or when you get home). Look, I thought Twitter was nonsense before I joined it. It is not nonsense, it is a valuable part of your social media efforts.
- Are you on Facebook? Decide if you are going to use it for personal or professional purposes. I recommend keeping it for personal use and not friending co-workers and others you do not know. Keep in mind, I break this rule but it will make your life much easier if you do not.
- Setup your Google Profile. It is free, use it.
- Make sure your profile and your photos match on every social site you use. You want one view of who you are.
If you feel that you have more than the hour a day I’ve laid out above start a blog. However, only start a blog if you are going to make the time to update it 3 or 4 times a week. Keep it fresh, keep it interesting.
Take your career seriously and see if you can find a friend who already understands this social stuff. If that doesn’t work, call me and I can help you out but, of course, I am not cheap so the friend route is always a smart starting point.
A final point for my friends in HR. If you are not in the 38% of companies that are spending their time blocking social media access and are in the 29% of companies with a solid social usage policy please setup a social media training class for your employees. Help them learn how to position themselves, and your company, in a professional and positive manner. It will benefit everyone.