For the uninitiated, the world of social media can seem like a minefield. However, social media, be it Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, can offer professionals much more than an insight into the eating habits of minor celebrities.
Whether you are already online, or about to make that first connection, here are ten tips to help you get the most out of social media while maintaining your professional reputation.
1. Use your own name
This might sound obvious, but lots of users seek to stand out from the masses with a quirkier moniker. Resist the temptation – as a professional, your name is also your reputation.
Resist incorporating your employer’s name into yours. There may be questions of ownership and branding, either now or on leaving leave your firm. It’d be a shame have to lose all the connections and followers you have accumulated and hand them over to your former employer.
Take time to choose your profile photograph – a professional-looking headshot is always preferable. Choose black and white if you want, but make sure it looks like you.
On sites like LinkedIn, where colleagues and clients might use your photo to identify you, being recognisable is essential, even if that photo from 20 years ago is more flattering.
2. Choose your audience
When establishing yourself online, it is important to consider who you are seeking to appeal to and engage.
If you’re looking for clients, join networking groups where those clients will be. If you’re looking for peer-to-peer information, connect with sector leaders, writers and professional columnists. For news and updates, seek out publications with a social media presence on sites and platforms such as Twitter.
3. Spend time on your ‘Headline’
This is the first thing that other users will see, so spend some time perfecting your message. Who are you and what do you want to do?
Again, avoid direct references to your employer. There will be space for that – should you choose – later on. This is about you.
Add in keywords, but avoid legal and management speak where possible. Anyone can call themselves a “guru”, but what really makes you an expert? Add additional detail where possible, but try to keep the headline focused and concise.
4. It’s not just about you
Some professionals and professional firms choose to use social media outlets exclusively to sell themselves to the world. Sometimes this is through links to press releases; other times, just unabashed self-promotion.
There can be a time and place for boosting your own ego – and you shouldn’t be embarrassed about celebrating your achievements. However, try not to do it more than, say, 20 per cent of the time.
5. Be sociable and add value
Remember, the key word in social media is ‘social’. Don’t be afraid to interact with other users, and don’t be distressed if, at first, you don’t get any response. Be proactive, and don’t leave your potential audience wanting.
6. Check your spelling and grammar
This might seem like common sense, but it is easy to make spelling and grammatical errors, especially if typing on a smartphone or tablet. In the legal profession particularly, being correct in our writing and drafting is what we are employed for.
7. Stay current and be consistent
Be sure to keep your details up to date and remain consistent in your facts and opinions across all online platforms. Conflicting information will be noticed, so don’t be caught out.
8. Keep your private life private
If you have personal accounts that you want to keep private, make sure the settings do that. Log out of each application or website and see what you can find out about yourself. If you don’t like what you see, increase your privacy settings.
9. Practice makes perfect
People on social media are typically happy to help you out if you ask nicely. So, if you need advice or just a point in the right direction, don’t be afraid to ask.
The more time you spend on sites such as Twitter and LinkedIn, the more you will get to know the various nuances and characters, how to get the most out of the medium, and settle in to your own online character.
10. Accept that social media doesn’t suit everyone
To get the most out of anything you must want to do it. With social media this is even more true. It can be time-consuming, and can even become an obsession. But it can provide great opportunities to connect with old friends or a whole new audience.
If there was to be a point 11, it would be to follow @kevinpoulter and visit this blog on a regular basis, for tips, insights and commentary (and if only to see how little sense some people seem to have when it comes to using social media).