How would Taylor Swift grow her social influence? (courtesy of Hypable)
Can anybody become a social influencer these days? What are the steps needed to build your personal brand online?
Well, the world isn’t quite the same as before.
In the past, our professional and personal lives were mostly kept distinct and separate. What you did from 8.30 am to 6.00 pm at work was strictly work.
Lunch was the sacred hour where you can let your hair loose (well at least a little), and be who you are, either with colleagues or friends. While our colleagues knew a thing or two about our personal lives then, their knowledge was often fuzzy.
These days, the lines separating our professional and personal selves have blurred.
Armed with the ubiquitous connectivity of smartphones and mobile social networks, we are viewing YouTube videos, Whatsapping each other, updating our statuses on Facebook, and sharing photos on Instagram at all hours of the day. Increasingly, we’re also bringing work home and communicating with each other on work matters in the evenings and on weekends.
Like it or not, our online activities play a part in contributing to our professional reputations. People will judge you based on the sum total of what you have shared online. And the Internet never forgets – even if you attempt to delete what you have posted before.
How should we manage our online activities to grow our social influence?
The first and most important thing you need to do is to create compelling personal profiles on all the social platforms you’re hanging out in. This almost certainly includes LinkedIn (the first place potential employers or business partners would look), Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.
If you are in the food, fashion, travel or lifestyle business, an Instagram account is a must. With the growing proportion of people accessing social media through mobiles, Instagram will only grow in importance.
Similarly, if you’re in the business of design or aesthetics, it’s probably useful to have a Pinterest account complete with boards that showcase the breadth and depth of your interests and capabilities.
The trick here is to present yourself in an interesting manner. This varies from platform to platform. It is important to include a well-taken photograph of yourself which shows you in the best light. Profiles without photos tend to be viewed less favourably.
Now that you’ve got nifty social profiles set up, it is time to show the world what stunning content you’re capable of.
In case you don’t already know it, social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are the world’s largest and most extensive “show and tell” platforms for content. Naturally, this should be something that you’re proud of – a beautiful poem which you’ve just composed, a breathtaking photo of the sunset, or a delicious dish which you’ve just prepared.
Content which educates, entertains, or encourages usually work better than self-serving product pitches. Which brings me to the next point.
Nobody likes a boastful dude who endlessly spams others on his “masterful creations”. Nor are we enamoured by a person who constantly talks about her awards, achievements and accolades.
Periodically, you should give others the stage. Share the good work of others or acknowledge those who contributed to your success. Give a shout out to a boss or a colleague who made a difference, acknowledge the role which your organisation played in your success, or thank a great client who helped you with your first sale.
Indeed, the importance of relationships cannot be over emphasised. Always remember that social media is social first and media second.
Don’t be an online hermit. Instead, participate in online communities where you can both give to and receive from. This would vary depending on your professional or personal interests of course.
One thing I’ve note is that many of the successful social influencers make it a point to provide value to the communities that they participate in. They generously choose to share knowledge, news, or useful tips which help others to do better wherever they are.
It is also important to reciprocate the kindness of others by paying it forward. Offer to help others when the occasion arises. This spirit of giving and sharing will ultimately pay dividends for you.
Beyond giving and sharing, you also need to be consistent. This will influence your identity both online and offline, and affect how others view and perceive you.
Being consistent means that you will commit to a certain schedule in publishing content regardless of how you feel. It also requires you to have the discipline to engage with and respond to others in a manner that is in line with your persona.
Some of us keep anonymous blogs with private profiles that can only be viewed by family members and friends. The idea behind this is to allow them to vent online without the seeming danger of being seen by the prying eyes of colleagues, non-BFFs, competitors and bosses.
This can be tricky. While there are different levels of “security protection” which you can afford yourself, you never really know who your real friends and enemies may be.
What happens if you mistakenly updated the wrong stuff on the wrong channel? Moreover, with hacking becoming so prevalent, it is impossible to stop somebody intent on uncovering your identity from doing so.
Personally, I prefer to adopt the policy of ensuring that whatever I choose to publish online should be fit for public consumption, regardless of the circumstance. This makes it certain that I wouldn’t commit an online faux pas which I may regret later on in life.
Finally, it may be useful to imagine how somebody you respect and admire would behave online given a similar situation. They can be celebrities like Barack Obama, Steve Jobs, Taylor Swift, or anybody you adore.
Ask yourself the following:
To be the best, we need to learn from the best. Follow the masters of online influence. Read their books and subscribe to their blogs. Like their Facebook pages and follow them on Twitter. Deep dive into their online world. Apply these best practices and you’ll be able to multiply your chances of success.
Are there other strategies you can adopt to build your social influence online?
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