Back in the days of yore (read: pre-social media times) most of what we did in our non-work hours stayed that way. Our professional and personal lives rarely mixed.
These days, those lines keeping parts of our lives separate have begun to blur, and we are constantly Tweeting, Snapchatting, posting, watching, sharing... you name it, we're likely doing it in one form or another online. While this means that we have the ability to be more social, it also has larger implications for how we are percieved by our peers, potential employers, and clients online as well.
Whether or not we would like to admit is, how we act online plays a big part in contributing to our professional reputations. People will judge based on the sum total of what you're shared online, and the internet never forgets - even if you delete what you've posted, it's still out there.
With that in mind, here are a few tricks that I've picked up to manage my activities online and to use my social media profiles to grow my influence:
1. Create and Curate Your Profiles
Are the social platforms that you hang out on the ones that are most beneficial to you and your professional goals? It's likely that you're already on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, but if you're in the food, travel, fashion or lifestyle business, you should also have an active Instagram and Pinterest account, with relevant and up-to-date profiles on each.
The trick to using all of these platforms is to present yourself as someone interesting who knows how to use each of their social platforms in the best way possible. Edit your profiles to fit with your goals for each social platform and include links, if possible, as well as a well-taken photograph of yourself.
2. Share Your Content
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram operate essentially as "show and tell" platforms for content, so if you just knitted a great kitty sweater for your Etsy store or wrote a terrific blog post reviewing all the Air BnB locations in Thailand, share it and show your networks your skills.
In particular, content that educates, entertains, or encourages people will recieve a better reception than something which is self-serving or pitches a product. For example, if every other post is a plea for someone to buy your book, it's more likely that they will start ignoring you than your post will suddenly inspire them to log into Amazon.
3. Be Nice
In order for people to care about you, you have to care about them. Be genuinely interested in what others in your community or profession are doing, and don't hesitate to share their successes across your networks.
When you are actively sharing and being interested in other people it will encourage them to do the same for you, because you are demonstrating not only that you're interested in them, but that you are willing to help them share their successes by showcasing or congratulating them on your network for everyone there to see. At the end of the day, people want to see nice people succeed, and the quickest way to success is to actively be nice to everyone you meet.
4. Be a Part of a Community
Social media is social first and media second. What I mean by this is make sure that you're using social media to build relationships, not just to broadcast your successes or thoughts.
For example, every Tuesday morning on the way in to work I participate in #blogchatca, a (you guessed it) Twitter conversation about blogging. I'm also a part of Kyla Roma's Daring Creative facebook group, and participate in the monthly #DaringCreative twitter chats she hosts as well. Being a part of these communities not only expands my network to people that I might not have otherwise been able to connect with, but also allows me to develop relationships with people over a shared interest and connection
5. Be Generous with Your Knowledge
One of the amazing things about digital communities is the amount of knowledge that has become available as a result of sharing online. I've found that in a lot of circles this has led to a "pay it forward" model of sharing information - that is, that openly giving and sharing your knowledge will pay off for you in the end.
Generously share news, knowledge, tips or other pieces of information that you think will help others achieve their goals. This not only helps others, but also works to build your social profile as someone who now only knows what they're talking about, but is confident enough in that knowledge to be willing to help others learn, as well.
6. Be Consistent
Being consistent means committing to a certain schedule of publishing and sharing content regardless of how you feel. We all have slumps and bad days (and hey, even I take a break from Twitter if my day is jam-packed) but what matters is that over the long-term you have a consistent presence online.
This not only means posting and sharing content, but also responding to people who contact you and having the discipline to do so in a way that is in line with your persona. Eg: don't use excessive offensive language, don't snap at or belittle people because you're having a bad day, etc.
Which brings me to my next point:
7. Keep Negative Thoughts Private
Venting online, "vaguebooking" or "vague-tweeting" (posting passive-aggressive stuff without stating who you are directing it at), etc is not okay. Don't do it.
If you've been online for any length of time you've probably engaged in this sort of behaviour before (it's okay, I have, too, once upon a time) but it's time to grow up and start behaving like adults online.
The reason behind it is this: you never know who is reading your content. You might think that your Facebook is friends-only, but how do you know that a friend-of-a-friend won't see an inside joke and take offense? Or that slanderous thing you Tweeted about a co-worker might be a little too specific, and you might find yourself out of a job. Better to be safe than sorry.
In addition to potentially landing you in hot water, having a negative online persona has long-lasting consequences: people will think of your negative, snarky comments before they think of a helpful link that you posted, so even if you're generally positive online a bad day or a slew of passive-aggressive comments can destroy the online reputation you've worked so hard at building.
There are a multitude of ways in which your bad attitude could backfire, so it's safest to keep it offline completely (or, focus on being more positive.)
These are just a few steps that you can take to start expanding your social reach and growing your influence online. Do you have any suggestions? I'd love to hear them!