To celebrate the launch of the 2nd edition of ‘How to make partner and still have a life’, Heather Townsend, explores her best tips to using social media to boost your career.

Social media seems to have come from nowhere to dominate our world in just a few years. I don’t think I know anyone who doesn’t have at least one social media account. In our private lives, we have adopted it very swiftly, but it is taking a little longer for professional firms to realise how they can use it.

I see social media as a fantastic opportunity for relationship marketing and building your brand as a Go To Expert. However, it has dangers, and no one is immune to them, no matter how huge and powerful. Look at Microsoft’s AI bot turning into a racist idiot, Transport for London telling a customer to leave home earlier if he didn’t want to be late for work, or US Airways responding to a complaint with explicit pornography.  These are just a few of the famous ones. Many ordinary people have had 15 minutes of unwelcome fame due to social media mistakes.

However, I still say that it’s more useful than not, you just have to know what you are doing.

How can social media help your career?

You might not have thought about using social media in your professional life, but think again. I am a massive fan and advise my clients on ways to use it to build their reputations.

How can it help? Not only is it a fantastic way to save time, but:

  • It’s free – apart from your own time, a smartphone, and an internet connection.
  • Within moments, your words can be in front of millions of people across the world.
  • It gives you direct access to the movers and shakers in your profession.
  • It keeps your name in front of prospective clients and employers.
  • It’s a great way to network, and to gain connections before networking events.

How to use the Big Three for work

There are many social media networks. It’s not a good idea to use them all in the same way.  Some people do, and it can be irritating. After all, a site mainly devoted to chat with your cousins is going to find links to tax thresholds very dull; while a site for business is not going to appreciate pictures of your cats.

Here are the main three social media sites, plus some tips for how to use them professionally.

social mediaFacebook

The big one. Facebook is huge (1.65 billion active monthly users in 2016). It is primarily a social site, although it does have company pages. It works very well for generating and developing relationships, but I find the success of the company pages is very variable. Reports suggest that Facebook works best for B2C companies, especially where the product or service lends itself well to pictures (dress designers, florists, etc) and less well to B2B and professional services. That doesn’t mean you should ignore it professionally – it still provides a huge platform for getting to know people. There are also several useful Facebook groups where you can connect with other people who share your professional interests.

social mediaTwitter

There are 313 million active monthly Twitter users in 2016, sending 6000 tweets every second. Twitter moves fast. Your tweets will appear on and drop off the bottom of someone’s stream within moments. It’s best to tweet a mixture of work-related posts and general conversation because the trick to Twitter is to build engaged followers – people who look out for your posts, and who retweet and reply to them. Get this going by retweeting and replying to the people you follow.

Twitter is also the best way to stay on top of what’s happening in your sector by following relevant individuals and firms, and using hashtags to follow discussions. It is also the only place where you can get direct access to the most influential people in your profession. I can’t promise they’ll reply, but you don’t need to get past a gatekeeper to tweet them.

social mediaLinkedIn

This is the serious one. Don’t post memes on here, they won’t win you any friends. LinkedIn has 433 million users (2016) and positions itself as the social network for businesses and professionals. Don’t think of LinkedIn as your online CV. It is so much more than this. In fact, it’s still the best personal branding tool you have at your disposal. Believe me, whenever you meet someone new, go for a job interview, or even just comment on one of their social media posts, they will check you out on LinkedIn. This is why it pays to have a fully completed profile, a professional headshot, and some recommendations and endorsements.

There are many, many more sites, including Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, WhatsApp, and so on. But these three are the ones I recommend you use.

How to avoid getting into trouble with social media

I doubt if there is anyone who hasn’t had an unpleasant moment on social media. It’s extremely easy to create a misunderstanding, and far too tempting to dash off a flame in response. Resist! I have never known a social media spat ending up with people admitting they were wrong, but I have seen plenty get very nasty. My rules for staying in the shallows and avoiding the deep waters are:

  • Use emoticons – without facial expressions, it is hard to tell what’s tongue-in-cheek and what’s serious.
  • Think twice – if you wouldn’t say this to a person’s face, don’t say it online.
  • Remember nothing is private – not even private groups. Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your boss, or your mother, to read.
  • Deleting a post doesn’t mean it no longer exists. Thousands of people may have taken a copy.
  • Don’t descend into passive aggressive posting about “a client who . . .” People will work out who you mean, or (worse) get the wrong person.
  • Take part in discussions, but even when you disagree, acknowledge the good points to keep things happy. And never lose your temper with tit-for-tat squabbling.
  • Keep at it – stock up on interesting articles, and people who are worth retweeting, so that you always have something to say.
  • Consider automating some posts (I favour BufferApp for this). But don’t just let your feed be automated posts. Successful social media needs the human touch.
  • Don’t send automatic messages to thank people for following you. These are impersonal and slightly insulting. It only takes a moment to type “Thank you for following!” and a few moments more to start building a relationship with that person.
  • Engage! Reply to people, talk about things other than work, retweet them and thank them in turn. Why should anyone help your self-promotion if you can’t be bothered to be a real person online?
  • Don’t over do it. While you need to be active on social media, don’t flood people’s timelines with posts and tweets. Seek out the best quality articles to link rather than sharing everything you come across.
  • Don’t linger – it’s very easy to waste an hour browsing social sites. Then the time-saving benefits are completely lost. I try to limit my usage to otherwise ‘dead time’: during my first coffee before I’ve completely woken up, waiting for a train, hanging outside my daughter’s ballet class.

Has this given you food for thought? I expect you already use social media in your private lives, but it’s really worth exploring ways to use it professionally too. It’s a very effective and cheap way to build your brand.

Author Credit

social mediaHeather Townsend is a best-selling author and executive coach who helps people make partner in the legal, accounting, and consultancy professions. She blogs on the How To Make Partner website, where you can read many more articles about developing your brand.

The new edition of the best-selling How To Make Partner And Still Have a Life is out in September 2016.  It’s been called ‘an absolute must-read (and potential life saver) for anyone pursuing a professional career.’

Buy your copy now and get 20% discount with the code H2MPG20