As part of our ongoing series on business social media etiquette, we tackle LinkedIn and the etiquette of branding like a pro.
"Network" is a very visual word. Think about it. Maybe it's a tree that comes to mind, branches interconnected and sprawling. Maybe it's the number of computers or electronic devices in your home that you think of- all flashing lights and speaking to each other in the blink of an eye. Or maybe, just maybe, it's the "net" part of the word "networking" that grabs you. As you envision that net, you might think of interlocking circles that form a supportive web. They're linked. In fact, you might say that anything supported by that net is "LinkedIn".
See what we did there?
Social Media Etiquette Expert Daniel Post-Senning refers to LinkedIn as "the professional social network- your online resume. Where people go to make business connections." Here Daniel and our other expert, branding and relationship building guru Dawn Stanyon, fill us in on how we can use LinkedIn like a pro, and share some tips to keep branding like a champ.
Some things to remember when it comes to using LinkedIn:
1. Don't judge a network by its cover: According to Daniel, the average salary of LinkedIn users is $109,000/ year. In short, everyone (big dogs included!) is on LinkedIn. And with new features being rolled out all of the time, there's a reason everyone is there- it's started to boom. “If there’s a network that is the little engine that could," says Daniel, "it’s LinkedIn. I’m very impressed with LinkedIn”
2. Filters and more filters: Just as we spoke about creating informal groups on Facebook to disseminate certain information only to certain people, utilizing a bit of a "filter system" is useful on LinkedIn, as well. Dawn puts it this way:
"...With LinkedIn, I connect only with professionals I know, or whom I have followed on another medium and admire, or who are in my profession and have reached out to build a relationship with me. So, if I don't know them, have never heard of them, and they haven't made a compelling case to me, I just ignore them. No hard feelings!"
She points out, though, that networks like twitter are more of a "free for all" when it comes to connection, and she may very well connect with those people who didn't make it through her LinkedIn filter on another network. But it really is best to keep it professional on LinkedIn. Speaking of which:
3. Remember what it's for: We've talked a lot about knowing what content to post (or not to post!) and where to post it- with LinkedIn those content restrictions go a bit farther. While there may be a bit of content flexibility on Facebook, bear in mind that the sole purpose of LinkedIn is to connect for business. As Daniel points out, it's "..not the place to share your reunion photos. You want to show a little more discretion about other people’s ear space and eye space." Simply put, if it's not somehow business or brand related, take it to another network.
Social Media Branding Like a Pro!
Whether personal or professional, you've got a "brand"- something that makes you as a person or professional uniquely "you". You take that brand with you wherever you go- however there may be nothing that can disseminate and develop your brand more quickly than social media. What used to take months (or years!) of mailing and phone calls to establish can now be delivered in seconds- but there is definitely a method to the brand madness! How can you keep branding like a pro? Here are some great tips from Daniel and Dawn;
1. It's all about the story!: At Ovation, we are big believers in storytelling. Stories are incredible tools for making content impactful and letting your personal stamp shine through. According to Daniel, you should also be strong in your story when it comes to social media branding:
"...I’d say how does your digital profile support your personal brand?... People talk about branding being an emotional connection. That is established thorough storytelling. Your brand IS your story...And the credibility of the teller is so important. So is being consistent with the story- how you present yourself, and having a long horizon to how you think about this stuff."
Or, as Dawn would say, "Know your personal brand and project it consistently, confidently and credibly. Keep things positive (unless negativity is part of your brand)"
A huge part of any communication is knowing who you are and allowing that to come through to your audience. The same goes for branding on social media.
2. Open up your options: It may seem like everyone is is hanging out at the big three- Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. However, part of the key to effective social media branding is knowing where your audience is hanging out. In general communication, we talk about knowing the method by which your audience prefers to communicate- are they email people? Phone people? Text? Knowing where to find your audience on social media is a similar idea. Dawn gives this advice:
"All social media applications can play into personal brand projection. You need to know who your audience is- then frequent the media they follow. As a personal brand expert/image consultant/relationship builder, my hangouts are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Polyvore, Pinterest, and, over the course of 2013, my goals are to get involved in Google+ and YouTube."
So, expand your horizons! There are lots of venues for conversation out there.
3. How will I know?: What is too much when it comes to your output of content? Daniel spoke about being aware of how much of your audience's eye space you are consuming- making sure that you're not flooding anyone's newsfeed. However, Dawn offers this perspective as an answer to the "How will I know if I'm annoying?" question:
"If you are exuberant – excited about what you do and truly want to inform, amuse and engage your audience – you're probably not going to annoy anyone. They can always "unfollow" - and some always will. Don't let it hurt your feelings. Relentless self-promoters are not enjoyable – but they do it for a reason: many of them get results... As long as you're sharing content that people want and are projecting a consistent personal brand."
At the end of the day, it's about balance- occupying the right amount of cyber space, yet being exuberant and confident enough to put yourself out there on social media. Doing that takes time, effort and attention. But success means that you get to communicate in a split second with the world- and put your best self forward with the principles of etiquette that will keep your audience coming back for more.