Being a professional used to mean keeping the different parts of your life separate. At work, you’d put on your game face. At home, you’d be the caring spouse and family person. When out with your friends, you’d be one of the gang.
Social media is changing this aspect of business life. Now, more than ever, you are expected to be the whole person you are. You are not only a professional and/or business leader, but also a person with a family and an ethnicity, perhaps you have a spouse and kids, and you most certainly have interests, passions, causes and hobbies outside of work that you do.
Business has always been about relationships. Important business relationships often germinate in professional settings, but take root in the firmer soil of personal compatibility – things like reliability, trustworthiness and shared personal interests. Thus, it is precisely through sharing your personality – developing and articulating your personal brand – that people will be attracted to and form deeper relationships with YOU.
Social media strategies and tools offer unprecedented opportunities to build and express your personal brand. Whether you work individually or with others in a firm, practice professionals stand to gain (or lose) the most from the changes being brought about by social media.
Professionals build their practices on a diverse range of specialized knowledge – financial advisors, planners, and brokers; business professionals such as lawyers, accountants, and consultants; medical and health professionals; and creative professionals. Yet, despite this diversity, the businesses that successful professionals create are built on the same common foundations:
- demonstration of often highly focused subject-matter expertise;
- a strong reputation for trustworthiness and doing good work; and
- robust word of mouth referral networks.
So, how does the social professional develop and leverage a personal brand that builds credibility and trust and drives business? Try this.
First, be credible. Set up your blog and use it to provide quality information and add value to online discussions. Focus on connecting someone with a problem to someone with a solution. You can do this on sites like LinkedIn and Quora by providing answers to questions. Share great ideas and articles that you read online. And when you engage in online discussions, do so in a respectful and thoughtful way.
Next, be reliable. If you decide to publish a blog, commit to writing regularly. Consistently read influential media and blog sites and comment, so people get to know you. Respond in a timely manner when people reach out to contact you by email, or on LinkedIn or Facebook. If you use Twitter, acknowledge followers when they mention or share your work.
Then, share personally. Talk about what moves you and what you care about. Connect with people by being interested in them. Don’t rant about things you hate – instead, rave about what you like. It is precisely through sharing some of your personality that people come to feel more connected to you.
Finally, be a giver. Go out of your way to promote good work done by others. Be helpful and generous of spirit. Consider recommending your most respected competitors for their strengths – especially if you think it might be a better fit for your prospect/client.
Follow these simple guidelines to develop your personal brand online and, in good time, the referrals will come knocking.
(This article appeared in Personal Branding Magazine, volume 18.)