Social media can feel like a prerequisite to building a professional brand — and the truth is, you’ll need to log on if you want to grow your career. But if social media isn’t your thing, there are ways to find a balance between staying offline and maintaining an executive brand.
“Networking social media platforms aimed at working professionals, like LinkedIn, are worth spending the time to update and maintain with some regularity because of the career growth and development opportunities they hold,” says Charlie Gray, president and co-founder of Gray Scalable.
But building a professional brand online doesn’t have to take over your life — or feel like a chore. Here are five tips that can help you get the most out of social networking, without becoming a burden.
You don’t need an account for every social media platform — find where your audience is and focus on building your presence there. For example, if your professional network is on LinkedIn and Twitter, you don’t need to worry about posting on Instagram or Facebook.
“Executives should understand what sites are their best natural domain and focus on those. If they're in the design business, I'd focus on Pinterest and Instagram for example. If they're in the recruiting or marketing business, LinkedIn is the platform of choice,” says Gray.
To get an idea of what platforms you want to try, look at other industry leaders to see where they frequently post and engage with an audience.
Take time to think about what you want to get out of your online presence. Do you want to grow your audience, engage with clients and customers or connect with other industry leaders to create networking opportunities?
“With a system and a plan, you can make it your servant and goldmine. Think of it as going to a virtual conference — you have the power to decide with whom you engage and how,” says Christine Hueber, career coach and expert.
If you understand what you want to gain professionally from social media, it will be easier to concentrate your efforts — and you’ll be less likely to waste time and energy when you log on.
Quality not quantity
Your network — both online and offline — should be about quality, not quantity. If you have more followers on Twitter, but notice you have stronger engagement with a smaller audience on Facebook, you might want to ditch Twitter. It’s not always about the number of followers you have; it’s about the level of engagement you get from that audience.
“Worry less about followers counts and more about connecting with other influencers. Stop looking at it as social media and start treating it as social networking. If you treat it as just another part of the networking process, your attitude will quickly change,” says Robert Richardson, president of Richardson Marketing.
Focusing on quality will also keep you authentic, which is important to your personal brand. Maintaining a considerate, professional and engaging presence builds a stronger network than someone “who is just blasting out meaningless marketing content on a daily basis,” says Richardson.
Stick to what you’re best at
If you’re better in-person, you should continue to invest your time in face-to-face interactions. This is also a great way to ensure your online network is built with quality connections. Take advantage of your networking skills at events and meetings and use social networking to reinforce those bonds after you part ways.
“There is an argument to be made that time spent on building and connecting with your network in the ‘real world’ will be more valuable in the long run than hours spent perfecting one’s social profile. While social profiles can help support a personal brand, it ultimately won’t be a substitute for how people engage in their professional life on a day-to-day basis,” says Amy Reichanadter, chief people officer at Adaptive Insights.
Outsource your social media
If you can’t stand the thought of managing your own social media, or you simply don’t have the time, consider hiring a social media manager. There are plenty of people who will know exactly how to handle your online profiles either full-time, part-time or freelance.
“Social media is its own kind of language, and there are experts that are fluent with it. Even though it may seem obvious how to use social media, the expertise is really helpful — and it lessens the burden and saves you time,” says Gray.
Or you can opt for third-party social media management platforms, like HootSuite, which can help consolidate your social media profiles into one place. These user-friendly platforms allow you to manage your social media presence, while also giving you analytical insight into how your efforts are paying off.