While there are guidelines and policies for usage of professional social media – external (Linkedin especially) or intranet, there is always a profile/ name/ organisation related information about the person who is connecting or commenting. Naturally, as a communications person, I assume that this is a good enough reason for people to be more wary about their own personal branding and reputation. However, every so often, I receive a connect request or a direct message on professional social media, I am always surprised at those (especially from the senior professionals) that seem downright ‘unprofessional’ online. Perhaps it is ignorance, but once you are out there, there are certain things we must get right. Here are the top two:
- Your Profile
Write your name in sentence case: In written communications, you use ‘caps’ for a full word only if you want to scream at someone, highlight a key point in the middle of a sentence or you accidentally hit the ‘caps lock’ button. None of this is possible when you are writing your name. Once, in a tweet, a very senior journalist wrote, ‘I don’t even want to know a person who writes his/ her own name in caps.’ My guess is, he sensed a megalomaniac!
Use an actual photo: Preferably a professional photo, if not then something that shows a professional side of you, but has to be you and there has to be one. Sometimes I get requests from people who do not have a photo at all or some, where they have used instead of a character from a movie or a cartoon. Why is a picture important? Because it is not a face-to-face meet up and to trust a person, we need to see the person! That is simply the least we can do in terms of online courtesy.
Title/ Headline: This is the space where you tell people who you are or what you do. Also, this is the part that instantly connects you to people therefore, ensure that you write a line that’s exactly you. For examples: I once received a request from, ‘Assistant Manager at X company’ and one that said, ‘Engineer at Stay at Home’. The first one only says where you work but an internal designation alone is not a profile nor does it describe what you do. The second one has chosen a default option, perhaps retired from work and now we cannot figure out whether ‘Stay at home’ is a company or state of mind!
- Your Bio:
Check, re-check, repeat: Online, the only window of opportunity to know you is through your bio, write it well.
- Use the 3 C’s of communications and keep it Crisp, Clear and Concise
- Use the ‘inverted pyramid’: Keep the ‘stuff’ on top, ‘fluff’ at the bottom
- Spell check, it’s automatic
- Be consistent. The summary of your bio and your experience should complement one another.
Networking on professional social media platforms
When sending a request:
We can get carried away by numbers in social media. Numbers are the beauty of it, it helps us measure reach with data. However, when we are looking to make a real connect, we have to look at quality over quantity, unless of course, you are a thought leader or an influencer. Recently I sent a request to a very senior professional, living on the other side of the world, with a note that reasoned why I was sending the request. As she accepted the request, she was highly appreciative of ‘intentional networking’ and shared resources on the topic of mutual interest. I must say that connection benefited me like no other on social media. It’s one example of a great connect possible only online. Of course most of the times we connect with people we know or meet at various events. However, should you wish to reach out to someone you don’t know, make that effort to take some time out to write a special note.
When conversing on DM (direct message):
The good thing about social media is to be able to connect via DM when you don’t know the person, personally or offline. However, sometimes the DM is treated much like a chat on messengers! I have received one-liners, even just one word, in several lines! You can use it to make a special request – a job offer, connect on a mutual topic or comment on a post personally.
Social media is a great leveller and can be used to influence and impact lives, by just about anyone. And that’s wonderful.