The road to social media
About two years ago, I had an epiphany. It wasn’t that I didn’t realise how important reputation and personal brand was, it wasn’t that I didn’t know how popular Twitter and Facebook were, or how quickly the rise and importance of the brand new career of “blogging” had become, but it was that all three actually might, in fact should apply to me!
Now many of you might think that was obvious, but it really wasn’t to me. For one thing, I had fallen for the myth that social media was either for vacuous people with nothing to say apart from what they had had for lunch, or for young people. Added to which, I found the thought of telling the world what I thought ridiculous and, actually, quite scary.
That was until I saw the point of it for me. I soon recognised that by capitalising on the various social tools I had a place to learn, a place to share and a place to work out loud, and that simply doing that would give me a golden opportunity to really enable my team, my peers and my customers to get to know me better.
My social mistakes
My first mistake was to dive right in and sign up for every platform there was. I soon realised that was unmanageable, confusing and time consuming. At first I was confused about what to do, I didn’t want to miss out or lose an opportunity and felt that perhaps I “should” have a presence on every main platform. As soon as I realised I was feeling that I “should” be doing all of that I stopped in my tracks, it is a rule of mine to question every “should” – they rarely serve you well. Of course, what I really needed to identify was what I wanted to be involved in, and who it was I wanted to reach out to. As soon as I had figured that out, it was easy to decide where I needed to be.
So I backtracked and started to concentrate on Twitter. My reasoning was that it would the simplest place to start, after all, you are constrained to 147 characters, how difficult could that be? That was my second mistake, as many people have said: “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter”. I never knew how hard it was to be succinct, but I soon realised that if you stick to your values, share things that are of interest, say out loud what you think i.e. this is worth a read, or excellent points here, and use hashtags to label your topic, those with similar interests soon pick up on that and engage with you. I must say, it is absolutely brilliant when a stranger thanks you for bringing something to their attention.
I persevered with Twitter and love it now. Although it did take me a few more experiments before I got it working well for me. One key ‘Eureka’ moment was discovering lists. Like most people I have varied interests, but found that reading them all jumbled up in one stream was confusing and worthless. As soon as you find people who interest you and add them to list, you can read one list at a time. So I have a list for women on boards, it is great – anyone who is sharing advice, statistics or insights I add to the list, and when I want to do a bit of research, get inspired or find the answer to a problem, I can scroll down the list and see what people are saying. Quite often one persons’ tweets, leads you to another and another, and you learn so much this way.
I also found that, like reading a newspaper, you come across some people that you fall in love with, well not quite – but you certainly hang on to their every word, and for those people I soon learnt that they deserved a special place in my life. Yes I would follow them on Twitter, but I also sign up for their blogs. To get a weekly (trust me, daily is way too much) delivery of humour, learning or insights from someone you have grown to admire and respect can lift your spirit and change your mood.
It is also amazing how you can build relationships. I didn’t get this at first, I thought that any relationship would be superficial but that is not the case. It’s actually the very opposite. Once you have connected virtually, when you meet them in person you feel you know a bit about them already and have established a least a few areas of common interest. Professionally that has been great for me, meeting industry experts that I might never had had the chance to meet. Even though I did frighten one poor chap when I confessed to (tongue in cheek) virtually stalking him for months.
My other mistake was thinking that I needed to be academic in order to demonstrate my credibility and my personal brand. Like many women I thought I needed some sort of “permission” to allow me to have a voice, which was probably the biggest mistake of all, because at the end of the day we are all human. Of course, learning can be about new innovations and great insights, but in my world of learning and development and leadership and management it is often the small insights, the pebble in the pond moment, that brings about ‘ah-ha’ moments, and provides new ideas and strategies for change.