While most companies say they understand social media, and they want their employees to be active on social media, do most employees actually feel at liberty to do so?
Today’s most influential people online understand that even if they’re fully employed, in the end they are running their own business, the business of building a personal brand.
I completely understand it’s uncomfortable to have your boss know that you are doing things “off task.” But companies who embrace today’s digital world understand that when their employees embrace social, it actually helps the brand.
That being said, no matter if you’re in a new job or you’ve been employed by the same company for more than five or ten years, keep building your own personal brand–no matter how awkward it feels. The reason for this is YOU are your own biggest advocate. Perhaps you’re starting a new project and you need some advice. Maybe you’re feeling stuck in your job and you want to figure out a way to grow. What if you take a job only later to realize you don’t like it? What if you’re having communication problems with your boss? This is real life–this happens every day. These are all situations that would be helped by having someone to talk to. You’re going to benefit from having a network.
What if you decide you want to go independent? It is much easier to go independent when you have a large network.
Forty percent of workers by 2020 will be freelancers. But you don’t have to plan on going freelance to have a reason to tweet. Today’s brands are consistently hiring people who have influence, who bring a network with them to their jobs, and who can participate in the marketing of the company. Even if being a self-promoter or social networker is frowned upon by colleagues in subtle ways, keep going. At the end of the day you need to take care of yourself, and you can’t get yourself psyched out by the behavior of other people–or what might feel like a fear culture.
I asked my Facebook friends about their use of social media while at work and got some interesting answers. Ian Jacobs, a senior analyst with Forrester, said in a Facebook comment:
Certainly [I] have no problem with ‘personal’ Tweeting simply because I don’t really recognize a distinction between work tweets and personal tweets. People follow me for all sorts of reasons: my expertise, my employer’s brand, my idiosyncratic and catholic interests – all are expressed through my Twitter stream. I firmly believe that what others may see as personal Tweets only enhance my ability to influence people in a work capacity. My interest in modern urbanism, for example, influences my thinking and my research about customer service (my ‘work’ domain) and so there is only upside to mixing the two throughout the day.
When I posted this question many of my other Facebook friends who do post on social media throughout their work-day mentioned that while they do check social media, it’s not for extended periods of time. The same social media users also all reported working outside of 9 am to 5 pm. Another friend said:
I don’t feel the need to delineate [between work and personal social media use], I work hard – often putting in more than 40 hours. If I want to take a social media break, then I take it. But that being said, I know it’s a time suck so it’s usually a quick break here & there. As a professional, I wouldn’t work for anyone who tried to restrict my social media usage, my life doesn’t stop because I’m at work. The lines are no longer black and white when it comes to personal branding and professional equity. I’ve invested blood, sweat and (many) tears in building both. I’m glad my employer trusts me, and I don’t take it lightly.
So the fact is most of you are not just working 9 to 5pm. That being said, don’t be afraid to take the time that you need to do what you need to do. It ultimately benefits the employer too. Additionally creating a culture of digital freedom creates a trust with employee-employer. Employees are more prone to act with integrity when the boss isn’t looking.
Let’s get down to it!
So what are some ways you can build a wildly successful personal brand while working full time for someone else? This is not always easy but it’s necessary. If you want to stay relevant you must act like your job right now is a project, one that you will most likely be moving on from. No one is going to take care of you like you will take care of you. When things go south it’s your network that will be there to help connect you with opportunities. Don’t put your employer’s needs before your own. It’s important that you create a community around you–not just people who you work with. I have included five tips on how to create a personal brand. Feel free to share in the comments section anything else that has worked for you.
1. Social Media Is Not A Replacement For Networking
I can personally tell you people I have met in person I have much stronger relationships with than people I’ve only met through the phone or social media. There’s something about seeing someone’s face that makes them more human. Studies show that when we tell stories we better connect with ideas, so wouldn’t it make sense when we meet someone in person and hear their story we better connect with them? There are other reasons social media or even a phone call does not replace in-person meetings. Rene Siegel, contributor at Inc magazine and Founder of High Tech Connect has a few ideas. She says one reason in-person is preferred is you’re off the record. If you call someone you are talking to them and additionally ten other people who sit next to their cubicle that can hear them. They might not be their true self on the phone. Most business conversations include brief get-to-the-point conversations. Real business exchanges happen when there’s more time to to share and learn about the other person. This is meaningful and goes deeper than small talk (which most people hate anyway). You can also read their body language which will tell you much more than what the person is saying. Lastly, you learn a lot about people through environmental conditions. This can include what or how they order their meal, the conference room you’re sitting in or even a walking meeting. This is all information informing you on how to interact with them in the future. You will never get these details from social media.
2. Make Time For Social Media And Create Social Media Habits
You can use your mornings, evenings and weekends to engage on social media if your job limits you from engaging during the day. If you’re someone whose job allows you the flexibility to set your own hours, make sure you create time for social media throughout the week. However, if you’re just floating around on Facebook, and switching tabs every few minutes from LinkedIn to Twitter to Facebook you’re off task. You might want to dig into why you’re procrastinating on your work by spending time on social media. If you are someone who thrives with accountability there are tools that tell you how much time you’re spending on social media–and these tools block you when your time is up. This way you are running your day, your day isn’t running you.
You can create healthy social media goals or habits. For example Gretchen Rubin in her book Better Than Before writes about how she doesn’t do things just because everyone else is. She has 1.5M LinkedIn followers, 141K Facebook followers and 111K Twitter followers and 11K Instagram followers. She posts at least twice a day on Facebook, one photo per day on Instagram, and every few days on LinkedIn. Rubin re-posts evergreen content from her blog to LinkedIn and this helps her sell books, speak at events and grow her audience.
She often asks a question with a photo on Facebook which generates a lot of engagement. Her posts are more about listening than they are about posting how ab-fab her life is. From what I can tell, unless you are posting photos of yourself in a bikini (or similar clothing) people who are better listeners generate more engagement on social media. More so than people who spend their time “lifecasting.” Also, if you’re posting photos of yourself just to get quick attention–this is not the same as building a valuable audience. These are not relationships that are going to help you in your career. If you’ve built an audience of many thousands on Instagram because you are posting photos of yourself that are sexy, that audience is not going to be valuable in the long run. You need to be aware of the difference.
3. You Don’t Represent The Views of Your Employer
I used to think that the employee’s views did indeed represent the views of the employer, however now I’ve changed my perspective. Having the experience of working for a big corporation I understand the value in disclaimers (“These views are mine and not that of my employer…”). This disclaimer creates a boundary between the employee and the employer. It protects both the employee and the employer.
In a similar vein, please don’t create an account with your employer’s name in it. Today people don’t stay in jobs for more than a few years. Why create a temporary account that has your company’s name in it? Also don’t constantly promote your employer. Unless your employer is constantly promoting you, why would you constantly talk about your company online? It’s a turn-off to your followers and generally your boss doesn’t even know you’re doing it. You’re not going to get the gold stars you think you are, so don’t act like a sycophant.
4. Focus On Quality, Not Quantity
Someone who has a good understanding of “thought leadership” is Rand Fishkin. I actually encourage you to read this entire article on Some Non-Obvious Advice on Thought Leadership. He says that looking back over years of creating a popular blog (and personal brand) he wishes he spent less time creating content and more time creating thoughtful content. He said:
Certainly, publishing regularly might help you get better at blogging and at earning “hits,” too. But if I were starting fresh, I’d spend far more time per piece of content (often in the ideation and validation phases) and less time pumping out content against some pre-conceived schedule.
5. Don’t Underestimate the Power of Video and Photos
Another marketing thought leader Dave Kerpen has some strong advice on personal brand. He advises people to not discount the value of videos. You don’t need to be in your office during the day making videos of yourself or your co-workers, but you can make time to do this after hours. People love YouTube. Even some pretty eccentric acts (see ijustine, Crazy Russian Hacker, Miranda Sings…) that mystify some of us. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not about generating as many likes or followers as possible. It’s about quality–who is actually viewing your stuff, and are they engaging with it? Marie Forleo is a great example of a video pro who has created an award-winning video series. While she’s an extreme example of someone who works for herself. She does a great job with her series and provides inspiration. But please know I don’t expect you to set up a studio and hire a film crew. Here’s one of her most popular videos of all-time on doing what you love and living your purpose (with Adam Braun). Customer service and content marketing thought leader Jay Baer has a great video series as well that’s a little more focused on corporate. Check him out for some inspiration. You can choose a topic you’re passionate about and just start sharing what you know. Chances are others are interested in that topic too!
In conclusion, it’s not easy trying to do the 9 to 5 thing in addition to building a brand–but it’s a must. Try to work for a company that understands digital, and will support you in your efforts to build a brand. Feel free to share any tips you might have in the comments section below.
Blake Morgan is a digital customer experience consultant at Flight Digital. You can learn more about her here or on Twitter at @BlakeMichelleM.
If you were an early adopter of Instagram, chances are you have a lot more followers. Photos can tell compelling stories. Some people use Instagram almost like a blog and post long stories or ideas along with their photos. Examples include Danielle LaPorte.
If not, you will know pretty quickly, but don’t get discouraged–building an audience takes time and dedication. You have a full time job too!