There’s an old joke that professionals in the agricultural industry get quite often.
“Why did the farmers get chosen for an award?”
“Because they were outstanding in their field.” *Ba dum tss*
Now that you’ve finished rolling your eyes, let’s talk about how you can stand out among others in your industry, build your online network, and get noticed—all online. Even if you’re not comfortable speaking in front of large groups, or if you’re a bit of an introvert and prefer to interact virtually, you can still establish yourself as a thought leader in your field of expertise. It’s easier than you think, it just takes determination and focus.
Today’s networking doesn’t only take place in crowded rooms, filled with clumps of people chatting over appetizers. Networking can be accomplished effectively whenever we post a message on Facebook, share an image or send a tweet. If you believe you’re only on social media for personal reasons and it doesn’t affect your professional life, consider that according to a recent poll in Inc. Magazine, 40 percent of people socialize more via social media sites than they do face-to-face. The key to building an effective online presence is authenticity.
Here are six suggestions for building an authentic, truly effective online presence that helps further your career and establishes your brand.
- Follow the 80/20 rule of sharing.
This means 80 percent of the time, you’re sharing content to inform, entertain or engage your audience. Only 20 percent of your posts should promote yourself or pitch your products or services. Every so often, audit your posts to make sure you are staying roughly in proportion with this guideline. If you drift too far into promo-land you’ll see your engagement drop noticeably, and it’s very difficult to get followers back on board once you’ve lost them.
- Avoid the temptation of snark.
Don’t criticize, put down, or insult others, even in jest. Remember there is a human behind the statements you’re reading. Even if a remark is intended to be humorous, it can still sting and cause others to become wary and distrustful. Be a genuine and sincere voice in your area of interest, and you’ll earn the respect of others.
- Seek out other authentic voices.
Fill your feeds with the words of those looking for real connection, sincerity, and generosity. Follow individuals who will drench your timeline in thoughtful ideas, perceptive insights, and compassion. These are the people to emulate. Unfollow the bots, ditch the slick salesfolks, unfriend the snarksters. Mute anyone who makes you feel bad about yourself, even to be funny.
- Share your expertise.
We are in awe of those who are experts in areas we know little about. Use your core expertise to establish your professional brand, and it will come naturally. If you think you aren’t an expert, trust me—to the outside world, you know more about your field than you think.
- Thank with real sincerity.
Try to thank every person who comments on your posts or group discussions. On LinkedIn, the exchange often leads to connections, sharing of mutual interests, or just good conversation. If you share an article you liked, don’t just share the link alone; tag or mention the author in your post as well. That way others who appreciate the article are more likely follow the author themselves!
- Tag and mention others kindly.
One of the most gratifying compliments you can pay a peer is letting them know that the tweet or post they shared was appreciated. If you read something that strikes a chord, let the author know. Share the content of others in your field along with hashtags like #FollowWOCWednesday, #FollowFriday, #womenalsoknowstuff and #POCalsoknowstuff. You’ll find most folks are happy to return the favor.
Many of these suggestions are quite time-consuming, and I realize that they will not bring results overnight. The gradual, incremental growth from an authentic approach to brand building is truly powerful though, and your online network can become an amazing resource later on in your career!
Lynn Carroll is a connector, storyteller, and career coach. She helps clients “career authentically” by focusing on what’s most important to them and the unique gifts they have to offer. She blogs regularly at www.lynncareercoach.com. Connect with her on Twitter @LynnCareerCoach and find her on Facebook and LinkedIn.