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From the Trenches

Two Birds, One Stone: Using Social Media to Build Professional and Company Brands

Mike Sweeney | April 10, 2013

A few weeks ago, we visited our friends at Ringio, a virtual PBX provider, to deliver a social media workshop. As a startup inhabited by almost exclusively engineering types, social media marketing rarely rises to the top of the priority list, and when it does, it is met with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Talking to companies about using social media for prospecting, branding or recruiting is nothing new for us, but the Ringio folks wanted to put an interesting twist on the topic. They didn’t want to talk about social media marketing for the company, but rather how the individuals inside the company could use social media to build their professional brands.

With an inordinate amount of chicken sandwiches and waffle fries as our fuel, we dove headfirst into the topic for a couple of hours. While the handful of people in the room didn’t agree on everything, we came away with a few observations that are applicable to just about every company, and the professionals who work at those companies.

Your professional social media efforts will enhance the company’s social media efforts

Most people tend to separate their social media activity into two buckets: personal and company.

There’s a third category that falls somewhere in between – professional. If you’re doing the right things to build your professional profile, those efforts will naturally have a positive impact on your company. And if and when you decide to leave your current company, you get to take your social media presence—and your professional brand—with you.

Two birds, meet one stone.

The first rule is to show up

I remember having dozens of conversations with my mom that went something like this.

Mom: (Placing a plate of chicken and broccoli in front of me) Here’s your dinner.

Me: (Staring at the plate) But Mom, I don’t like broccoli. You know that.

Mom: How do you know you don’t like broccoli?

Me: I just know I don’t like it.

Mom: You’ve never tried broccoli, so how can you possibly know if you like it or not?

Similar rules apply to social media. It’s fine to be skeptical, and it’s even fine to give up on it at some point, but give it a whirl before you make your judgment. Just show up and contribute for a few months, give it a chance, and then do what feels right.

Content drives social—people will share good content

You don’t call a friend just to sit on the line in silence, do you? Similarly, you can’t be on social media and not produce anything.

Social media is a set of platforms, but content is the fuel.

On the company side, there’s one sure-fire way to get your employees to share company material – make it great! When they share it, they are helping the company and building their own professional brands by choosing to distribute quality content.

Just last week, I called one of my Right Source colleagues, and when she picked up, she said “I was just reading your blog post before sharing it. Had to make sure it was a good one.” While she was half kidding, her example is a good one. If you expect your employees to help you out and share via their professional profiles, then it better be something they can believe in.

Whatever you do, don’t let the social media tail wag the content marketing dog. Your personal and/or company plan for content marketing should come first, then share what you have via social.

Ringio Social Media Meeting

What’s the trick to building your professional AND company brands via social media? Open-mindedness, a content-first approach, patience…and bourbon!

Stop trying to measure everything

Coming from someone who, for a period of time, was affectionately called “data boy” inside our company, this one may come as a surprise. There are facets of your social media activity that cannot, and in many cases, should not, be measured.

It’s not that I don’t see value in measuring the results of your social media activity, but if you make social media all about numbers, you’re likely going to bail within two or three months. Assuming you’re not Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber, your numbers will grow slowly.

Get creative about connecting with others

A member of the Ringio staff asked an interesting question during the meeting: “I am new to the country, and new to the business world. I don’t really have any connections, or any type of network. Where do I even start with social media when I don’t know anyone?”

Not unlike a career, a hobby, or a business, you start somewhere and start building.

In the new-to-the-business-world, new-to-the-country scenario, this individual deals with a lot of Ringio customers. Why not follow/connect with some of those customers? Why not connect with all the other Ringio staff members? There must be other people/professionals that came to the U.S. from Iran to pursue similar career paths – why not connect with them?

Networks, whether developed via the old-fashioned way or via social media, are not handed to you. They are built over time.

Your goal is to “soften” your audience, not to transact

Your ultimate goal may be to get hired, raise money, acquire customers, or generate buzz. You’re not going to complete those transactions via social media, but what you can do is engage with and “soften” the audience that may eventually transact with you.

You really can do two things at the same time—almost as easily as walking and chewing gum. Using your company’s content to help build your professional brand via social media enhances your online presence while supporting the company’s social media programs. Everyone wins.

Trying to figure out how to make social media and content marketing play nicely together? Get easy-to-digest tips and more detailed content marketing and social media approaches from Right Source and other industry experts in our free content marketing eBook: How to Grow Your Business with Content Marketing.


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About Mike Sweeney:

As Right Source’s co-founder and CEO, Mike Sweeney creates, plans, and implements our vision, mission, culture, and strategic direction as well as serving as an advisor to our clients. Mike received a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a major in marketing from the University of Notre Dame and has more than 20 years of experience in B2B marketing strategy, including digital, content, and marketing technology. You can find Mike on LinkedIn.