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Personal brand, social capital and how to use LinkedIn more effectively

There are two ways to use social networks: you can spend your time or you can invest it. I am acutely aware that each of us have limited time on this planet, so I like to focus my work on helping people invest their time more strategically in social networks – in ways that will benefit them and their businesses.

I recently had the pleasure of presenting and discussing some of these strategies to the Calgary chapter of IABC. The presentation slides are embedded below:

The presentation Powerpoint can be downloaded from the Slideshare site. For those of you who could not or did not attend, I have summarized my remarks here.

Personal Brand

I first encountered the concept of personal brand in an article entitled The Brand Called You by Tom Peters in the August 1997 edition of Fast Company. In this article, Peters lays out a vision for personal branding that was not yet fully possible by the technology of the time. It would take the social networking revolution almost a decade later before all the tools of personal branding were at our disposal. That should give you an idea of how far ahead of us Peters was in his thinking.

The concept of a brand has at least five aspects which I refer to as: visual identity (such as a logo), an experience, a value proposition, reputation and goodwill. These same aspects can be mapped to personal brand as follows:

  • Visual identity = Your smiling headshot in social networks
  • Experience = Your satisfied customers (or colleagues and peers that work with you)
  • Value proposition = You niche or special subject matter expertise
  • Reputation = Your search results on Google
  • Goodwill = Your social capital

There are lots of other ways to frame personal brand. I like the notion that your personal brand lies in the intersection of your talent, passion and experience. I also like Nilofer Merchant’s concept of “only-ness” or a kind of uniqueness of experience and history that is a crucible for your personal brand. Jeff Bezos’ definition of personal brand as “what people say about you when you leave the room” captures this important aspect of branding in the social age: your brand is not what you tell people it is, but rather what people tell each other it is. In other words, BE your brand.

bezos-on-personal-brand

Social Capital

Which brings us to the concept of social capital, which I define as:

“The value/benefit that accrues to a person, business or organization by virtue of their social relationships.”

Social capital, along with financial and human capital, are the very drivers of business and return on investment (ROI). The relationships we build and the goodwill we earn are as fundamental to our success as how much we invest or who we hire.

Social networks such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Google+ can be seen as creating new economies of influence and attention, in which the likes and retweets and comments we receive are a form of currency. People who take the time to read our content and like it or comment on it or, even better, share it with their network are literally paying us with their attention in this influence economy.

See also: Stop marketing and build social capital.

10 Tips for Using LinkedIn Effectively

While there are a number of important social networks in which one can build their personal brand and accumulate social capital, the following tips focus on LinkedIn.

1. Use a smiling professional headshot on your LinkedIn profile. Let people see your eyes and smile – it gives them a chance to like you right off the bat.

2. Craft a professional headline. This is a free-form field right under your name and it follows you around LinkedIn. Craft something that suggests your value proposition and describes why someone might want to connect with you.

3. Complete your profile. Linked favours complete profiles in search results, so if you want to be found make sure your profile is as complete as possible. And make sure you complete the summary section and add some multimedia content to spice things up.

4. Customize the order of sections in your profile. LinkedIn is highly customizable, though its default layout is to look like a resume. If you are not in the market for a job, but want to build your personal brand and/or your business, then customize your profile to emphasize what you want.

5. Customize your skills. Every wonder why people endorse you for skills you don’t really have or consider that important? LinkedIn generates these skills from your profile and sometimes misses the mark. You can easily delete skills that you don’t want people to see and focus on the skills you want people to endorse you for.

6. Always customize your connection requests. Making connections on LinkedIn is an art and it’s high advisable to mention something specific to the person you are connecting with in order to warm up the request. If you enjoyed meeting them at the event last night, then say that when you request a connection.

7. Ignore some connection requests. If you don;t know the person requesting a connection and/or the person is based in a country in which you have no business connections, then don’t accept the request. It’s highly likely that it’s a spammer or cold caller you probably don’t want bugging you.

8. Pay attention to your LinkedIn feed daily. When you log into LinkedIn, the default page shows what content your connections are sharing. Take time each day to review this feed and like and comment on whatever you find interesting. For one, you may learn something. But you will also send a message to your network connections that you are paying attention to them. This attention will be reciprocated.

9. Find and share great content. Sharing great content is the oxygen of social networks. It’s how you engage people in your network and add value. It’s also how you earn people’s attention. Pay attention to what you audience likes and wants and share more of that kind of content.

See also: 6 reasons why your business needs to curate content.

10. Publish articles on LinkedIn. Recently, LinkedIn has added a long-form publishing function that is a lot like a blog. When you publish articles on LinkedIn, your connections get a notification message and can easily read and share your article. Publishing articles on LinkedIn help you communicate your personal brand value proposition and subject matter expertise to your network.

 

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