Brainstorming with ICR: Using Social Media in Your Business
By Shayna Keyles
On a pleasant June afternoon, sixteen communications specialists from all across the industry crammed into a warm room in the basement of the Capital One Café in San Francisco to discuss social media. A sweeping field, it would be impossible to cover all of social media in a mere two hours. Yet somehow, we managed to address topics such as following LinkedIn etiquette, overcoming Twitter anxiety, and personalizing content. Here’s a brief recap of our Independent Communicators’ Roundtable (ICR) Brainstorm Session.
Perfecting your LinkedIn profile
The conversation began with Dalya Massachi diving into the world of LinkedIn. She cautioned that a LinkedIn profile is much more than a resume, hearkening back to what many of us learned at a talk by René Shimada Siegel, Brad Whitworth, and Beverly Butler back in February: a resume looks backwards at achievements while your LinkedIn profile has the opportunity to showcase your past, present, and future aspirations. Dalya continued, saying that your LinkedIn profile should sit alongside your professional website to present your “online public face”.
To address the best method for maintaining that face, Dalya suggested automatically syncing posts from a personal blog to appear as LinkedIn updates. I mentioned that I use LinkedIn Pulse to publish articles for some of my clients. Both methods work and can be done simultaneously: posting a URL as an update directs traffic back to your site and draws attention to your work while publishing on Pulse showcases your work more directly. As long as you first publish on your personal website and mention this in a note at the bottom of your Pulse article, along with the appropriate URL, you will achieve the same goal.
Another method we discussed involved seeking recommendations. Jeff Rader offered sage advice: when asking someone to recommend you on LinkedIn, provide wording to let them know what you want to be recommended for. Many times, they will use your text. He also suggested that, when possible, you should return the favor of writing a recommendation.
In response, Kamna Narain, incoming SF IABC president, cautioned that recruiters might become suspicious if they notice too many reciprocal recommendations; she warned against the recommendation frenzy that some companies undergo around layoffs when everyone recommends everyone else just to stockpile goodwill. Lorrie Nicoles responded that reciprocal referrals only appear suspicious when they are not genuine. If a relationship with a client is truly mutual, then it makes perfect sense for both parties to write recommendations. Erin Hosilyk, who worked with LinkedIn before launching a solo career, noted that any savvy recruiter will be sure to follow up with recommendations, so as long as the sentiment of a recommendation is honest and genuine, reciprocity is acceptable.
Making the right connections
The conversation moved along to touch upon the way we connect to others. Erika Wah admitted that she prefers to encounter people in person before adding them on social networks. Saul Bromberger, however, was skeptical of this method; he asked what was the harm of expanding your network solely through online connections?
At this point, I stepped in to caution against building too large a network. A recent HBR article questioned the wisdom of adding too many strangers—or even adding too many acquaintances—on social networks. The logic is that the larger the network is, the more difficult it becomes to find relevant information and to make meaningful connections with any of your “connections”.
Erin responded by rehashing the LinkedIn partyline: don’t connect with people you don’t know. It floods your feed and it’s potentially bad for your reputation. Kamna expanded on the idea that hoarding connections could damage your credibility: if someone asks for an introduction to someone in your network whom you don’t actually know, you can find yourself backed into a corner, looking silly. She admitted that she does sometimes connect with recruiters to expand her network and possibly help friends who are seeking employment.
Colin Coutinho mentioned that he likes to add and accept requests from other industry professionals to increase his network of second and third connections. He frequently uses LinkedIn for lead generation and prospecting. Lorrie noted that though it’s good to reach out to other industry professionals, it’s also beneficial to have a varied network so as to avoid being pigeonholed based on connections. Saul added that having a trustworthy, diverse network of connections helps vet you for recruiters or for jobseekers.
In the end, we agreed that the best course of action is to create criteria that feel comfortable to you without approving every single connection request.
Getting rid of Twitter anxiety
Janet Bailey used to be a voracious tweeter, but once she passed a certain threshold, her tweeting tapered off. She told us that when she first joined Twitter, she followed her friends and colleagues and they followed her back, and she had no problems tweeting out to them, but as she followed more people and her follower count grew, she felt pressured to change her tweeting style and lost confidence in her messaging.
I offered my favorite piece of advice for getting rid of Twitter anxiety: use Tweetdeck and mute accounts that you don’t care for anymore. I typically don’t unfollow accounts because, if for some reason I chose to follow them again in the future, I could induce feelings of resentment. However, by “muting” the tweets of certain users, I can whittle down my homepage feed until it reflects my interests perfectly. Similarly, I add various lists to my Tweetdeck flow so I can view multiple streams at once, which guarantees I only see what I am interested in seeing.
Molly Walker, ICR chair, suggested using a tool such as Buffer (Jeff suggested Hootsuite) to write, edit, and schedule tweets. Using one of these tools allows you to go back and change a tweet before it gets posted, so if you have anxiety about saying the wrong thing, you can take more time to perfect your message. I added that Tweetdeck also has a function that doesn’t allow you to tweet until you’ve clicked a button saying “ready to tweet”.
Facebook’s intimate side
Saul loves Facebook more than the other social media platforms out there. He posts in groups and updates his own pages on a regular basis. In communicating frequently and receiving positive responses from friends and strangers alike, Saul has been able to break out of his shell. He told us that using Facebook has helped build his confidence and taught him that his message is valuable and interesting.
Facebook, and social media in general, is a great platform to distinguish yourself. Saul’s tips for standing out on Facebook go beyond sharing articles: he advises others to share other people’s work, group updates, page updates. He suggests combining work and personal interests to build a network of interested communicators and does not shy away from occasionally sharing his business promotions to his personal page because his business is a big part of his personal life.
For Saul, however, the most important part of Facebook is its potential for true intimacy. Unlike LinkedIn, which is often strictly business, and Twitter, which only allows limited communication, Facebook encourages sharing and allows real relationships to form. Many of the relationships his business relies on began as conversations in Facebook groups (Saul and his wife are photographers, meaning they need to forge close, trusting bonds with their colleagues).
Erika chipped in to compliment Facebook’s built-in metrics, which show engagement statistics directly underneath posts on the business and group pages. Kamna noted a more immediate metrics program, however: friends reach out to her in person to comment on her Facebook posts. She told us that she’s gained quite a reputation for posting deliciously unhealthy recipes and pictures of food, and that when she runs into friends and acquaintances, they delightedly bring up her Facebook posts.
Finding the right network for your personal brand
While some echoed Kamna’s and Saul’s praise for the intimate nature of Facebook, I mentioned that my Facebook activity is rather dull. Occasionally, I’ll post a life update, but I tend to under-share rather than over-share. Instead, people prefer the content that I share on Instagram. I find that the photos I take better reflect my mood and my personality than the Facebook statuses I struggle to write. Social media users must be aware of their own communication styles: I know that I am better at Instagram and Twitter than I am at LinkedIn and Facebook, so I favor those platforms.
Jeff agreed that there is no “right” social media platform, and that we have to know who we are and stay true to our individual brands. It’s important for social media users to understand the timelines and lifespans of content and to choose social networks accordingly; for example, Twitter is not the best place to post a notice that needs to be seen on a daily basis while Facebook is not the best place to post minute-by-minute updates. Inna Didenko seconded, sharing her distaste for brands that post the same thing in the same format on every single social channel.
Kamna closed the discussion by asking about the crossover between our work and personal networks. She brought up the old taboo of adding colleagues on Facebook, the “personal” network, and pointed out that most of the people in the room were connected on Facebook. Perhaps, she mused, the more multidimensional our lives become, the more the line becomes blurred. But maybe that isn’t a bad thing; Facebook relationships can yield real ones, as Saul has proven.
Bringing the conversation to you
How do you use social media for your business? Do you prefer one network to another? Have your work and personal relationships mingled due to social media?