Just like golf clubs, mobile phones and martinis, social media has become essential to business. Yet despite a proven ability to build business networks, many business professionals still consider social media to be a “marketing thing.” These people need to be convinced or replaced.
Building Business Relationships
When I was a kid, my parents frequented the Playboy Club in Los Angeles. As it turned out, they weren’t going for that reason; rather, my father was simply a networking-savvy businessman, a skill that my mother takes credit for teaching him. When I was old enough to ask pointed questions, my father told me that -- all Bunnies aside -- the Playboy Club was where his industry’s deals were inked.
The web makes it decidedly easier to find bunnies these days but good brick and mortar networking opportunities have become scarce. Most industries have no regional boundaries and even the smallest businesses today can be speaking to a global audience.
Social Media is the New Playboy Club
Does your business phone ever ring? Mine doesn't unless it’s someone trying to sell me something. Virtually all other business connections I've made were account names before they became associates, customers or friends.
They came to me via LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ or my blog. Conversations starters included, “your software sucks” and “are you the only one in this country who knows how to use this stupid DAM”? Later (after switching jobs), I started to get questions about my digital asset management book or about digital asset management in general.
Sometimes these connections lead to new business -- some still will. Many times, they lead to a business relationship from which I learned as much or more than I had to teach, and always they lead to one of the most important things we business professionals can do today: personal brand building.
Building Your Personal Brand
We were known for our personalities as kids. As teenagers, it became more about our reputations. Today, as business professionals, it’s all about our personal brands.
What does your industry think of you? Are you informed, interesting and honest? Do you have followers that would stick with you if you moved to another company? If you left your industry, would anyone care?
This is the stuff that makes up your personal brand. And, no, this is not yet another damned thing you have to deal with. Personal brand building is a killer opportunity we have that our parents did not have. People buy from whom they trust and personal brands make it easier for those of us who are trustworthy to differentiate ourselves.
Even better, if you have value to offer and you offer it, your personal brand becomes a fortress around your employability that will enable you to tell your boss off when necessary. And when you are fired for mouthing off, you’ll find an even better job with a better company -- trust me on that.
Social media is the best option we have for building ours brand because it’s free, it’s easy and it doesn't take as much time to get ideas across social media as it does to write a book, conduct a seminar or even make a few phone calls.
In time, you might even become an influencer in your industry, which is important because we marketing professionals will orbit you like a 1960s businessman orbited Bunnies on the nights his wife stayed home. (Okay, I doubt that happened, but I don’t get to write the word “bunny” very often in my line of work and it’s sort of fun. Bunny.)
“Influence marketing” refers to a practice whereby we marketing pros target a smaller group of well-connected people who can, in turn, spread the message to a wider audience. Why not become one of those people who are always quoted, linked to or followed?
Do you think it will hurt your chances of landing that new job when your prospective employer finds out you have 100,000 followers on Twitter who retweet everything you ask them to?
Social media is the platform that market influencers use to fuel their fires and increase their invincibility. No employer can take away social clout. Social media is the new worker’s union.
Building Your Knowledge
Social media is also a wonderful option for acquiring, expanding and leveraging your industry knowledge.
By the time you read news in an industry trade or hear it on CNBC, it’s yesterday’s news. When news breaks, it breaks on Twitter first or within moments. The advantage this offers you is that you can become a source of breaking news to associates less socially savvy than yourself. As others start to consider you one of those in-the-know people, you’ll find you’re building social clout and influence.
Google “Twitter as a news source” if you’re wondering who considered social media to be a viable news source.
Even better, by monitoring social media feeds, you get a sense of what your industry and customers are up to, and what they expect from you. We used to call this market research; today we call it “trending.” It’s much cheaper now, by the way.
Imagine being able to combine your professional expertise with the real-time pulse of your market. As you read about trending topics that you’ve known about for years, you’ll realize that you do have something worthwhile to contribute the conversation. Before you know it, you’ll have your first blog post.
For example, say you’re in the field of Digital Asset Management and want to build some social clout and start making a name for yourself. Among your many talents is a witty ability to judge others -- you know, for their own good. Why not Google digital asset management webinars and start blogging some DAM webinar reviews? You’ll might learn something from the webinars you view, so it will be time well spent. And in time, you will become the go-to source for digital asset management webinar reviews.
Social media offers you a palette of real-time and archived information that can help fill in the gaps of your professional knowledge. Use these resources to build yourself a unique niche that provides value to others and turns you into a social star.
Bad Reasons for Avoiding Social Media
Below are some of the worst reasons for avoiding social media.
You Don’t Have Time for Social Media
Yes you do. You think you don’t because you don’t know how social media works and you don’t understand the value it offers. I can check Twitter, Tumblr and Google+ while in line for morning coffee. Your smartphone is just begging for a new purpose and this is it. Social media apps make it easy to share and bookmark content for later consideration, so you’re not trapped into responding when it’s not convenient.
Even better, social media gives you a reason to take those periodic breaks throughout the day that enable you to look up from your computer screen. Sure, you can check your social feeds on the laptop, but pick up your mobile instead. It will be good for your eyes to change things up and it will get you into the habit of thinking about social media when you’re armed with nothing more than a phone.
No matter how busy you are, there are many times during the day when you have a few minutes’ downtime. Though it does take time to build valuable content, it takes no time to share valuable content. Build your business relationships one “like” at a time.
You Don’t Know What to Say on Social Media
Do you really have nothing to say about your industry? If that is true, then perhaps it’s better to let those who do know something your industry make names for themselves so that the spoils go to those most deserving.
Conversely, you could be using social media to learn more. It depends on how invested you are in your career.
Social Media is a Marketing Thing
Business in its entirety is going to become a “marketing thing” if non-marketing professionals don’t start recognizing that conducting business has forever changed. If your marketing team is doing a good job, they certainly don’t have time to figure out ways to promote you when you’re not even promoting yourself.
Would you send your marketing coordinator to represent you at the Playboy Club? Should your social media manager be briefing analysts? If your marketing director leaves, will he take with him your entire lead stream simply because it was all just a “marketing thing”?
He or she most visible becomes the face of the brand, and the face of the brand affects the success of the brand -- ask Apple.
Who is the face of your company? I would like to connect with that person on LinkedIn.
Title image by Brandon Bourdages (Shutterstock)
Editor's Note: Read one of the top CXM/DAM articles of 2013, penned by David - 5 Good Reasons to Avoid DAM Software