Social media is an essential element of career brand management.   Not to understand the available tools or effectively use them in this fast paced, hyper-competitive market is to place one’s self at a disadvantage.

When I first entered healthcare, executives advanced on performance, reputation, and their slowly evolving profile within the industry.  This was largely controlled by membership in the American College of Healthcare Executives, the graduate school attended, the number of books or magazine articles written, speeches made, or the number of recruiters known.  There was no instant access to the levers of brand development.  It took time, consistent performance, and a healthy dose of luck.  Self promotion was thought to be unseemly, a practice that mainstream, ethical executives did not engage in.  Those that did were frowned on.  There were far fewer hospital graduate management schools and virtually everyone was guaranteed of getting a residency—then a required part of the curriculum—and the vast majority landed permanent jobs.

Those days are gone forever as are the old school rules that governed career management.

Today, with LinkedIn, Facebook, and a variety of other social media platforms, executives develop their own branding strategy and execute using these tools.  Blogging, posting articles and comments with special interest group sites, if properly done, can establish you as a thought leader on one or more topics.  But there are new rules, and not to understand the power for good—or damage—to one’s career is a major mistake.

Mastering social media need not be a hit or miss proposition.  There are a growing number of qualified social media consultants available to help you understand the strategy, the rules of the road, and which platforms offer the greatest exposure and opportunities for gains.

Becky Pearce

Here are seven ideas an executive should keep in mind, according to Becky Pearce, social media consultant and an advisor for JohnGSelf Associates, Inc.

  1. Leveraging social media to advance your brand is not an automatic process that will run on autopilot. It takes constant attention.
  2. Develop a comprehensive and complete professional profile with a winning picture.
  3. You need to push content to your page on LinkedIn, Facebook or other sites you might choose to use.  This includes interesting articles that others will find helpful.  Add comments to emphasize your insights, skills and experience.  If you want to maximize benefit of social media, you must post updates, or interesting articles several times each week.
  4. Start by connecting with professional friends and those you meet at a meetings through your day-to-day activities. Focus on growing your networks around a personal brand strategy.  Do not waste time linking with people who cannot, or will not, help you reach your goals.
  5. When someone sends an invitation, respond immediately and follow up with a personal email thanking them for the connection. Productive networks are based on  value and respect.
  6. Unless the only job you have is to manage your career network, do not become an open networker—someone who is more into the total number of contacts accumulated as opposed to the value that the network can bring to enhancing your career.  Networks, like vegetable gardens, require care and attention, including pruning.  On LinkedIn, you will see the term, LION, which stands for Linked In Open Networking.  This means you will to connect virtually anyone.
  7. If you feel you have a unique perspective that you want to share, blogging may be another useful tool.  However, this, too, requires a great deal of effort.  There are millions of blogs.  To build a following you have to provide content that interests people and you must post on a regular basis.  Develop a written plan and a focus for your blog and post it where you can see it to ensure that you are staying true to your objective.   Having a blog just to say you blog is a colossal waste of time.  Typepad and WordPress are examples of well-known blogging sites.

© 2012 John Gregory Self