Social media can be your best friend if you know how to use it, but it can also be overwhelming if you don’t. I have to admit that I’m not a digital native, and having so many channels to choose from scares me a bit. However, I think the best way to learn which channels you should use and when is—like I said above—to think about them as your friends: You go to different friends for different reasons, such as turning to one for career advice and another for entertainment. (More about the personalities of different social channels later). If you use your social channels properly, you truly can build a powerful brand.
Let’s start with why it’s important to have a social brand. One of the biggest issues for women in the messy middle is visibility. Social media can be an amazing tool for amplifying your voice on a bigger scale, because—unlike the Mad Men days—your visibility doesn’t disappear once you leave the office. Visibility is key for getting promoted and rising up into leadership positions. If you’re not part of the conversation on social, you’re missing out on a huge career opportunity to share your ideas with the world and create important connections.
How can you use social media to stand out from the crowd? Here are some tips to amplify your voice, grow your community…and keep your sanity.
STEP #1: DEFINE YOUR PERSONAL BRAND
In the age of social media, we all have a personal brand. Defining your personal brand simply means knowing who you are and what you stand for. What sets you apart? What are you passionate about? My personal brand is about transforming workplace culture and creating solutions for change. Action and passion are in my DNA, and so I want my messaging to be inspirational.
We call it “social styling” in our community. Style your social channels the way you style your life. How would you describe yourself? For me, I like grace with grit, bringing femininity combined with strength.
STEP #2: OWN YOUR VOICE
Make your voice on social reflect your personality and be real. The words you choose matter. What are some words or phrases you use often? Are there certain words to avoid? I try to stay away from words like “do” and “don’t,” because my message is not about mandating action, it’s about inspiring change.
On the other hand, determine the boundary you want to create between showing who you are and what you want to keep private. A good rule of thumb is to not put things on your social channel that you wouldn’t want other people to see and share. Remember, you’re not sharing it with one person, you’re sharing it with the universe.
STEP #3: KEEP IT CONSISTENT
Review your social channels to make sure they’re streamlined. For instance, I use the same @ShelleyZalis handle for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Also use the same bio and headshot across channels such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook so users can easily recognize you at a glance and see what you’re about.
While you might not think of your profile image and bio as very important, I learned that it’s actually often the first thing your audience looks at before choosing to follow you. Nola Weinstein, Global Head of Culture, Engagement & Experiential Marketing at Twitter, explains that you should never underestimate your bio, because it gives people a sense of who you are and why they should follow you.
Finally, keep your audience engaged by posting consistently. You might come up with themes for specific days, such as using the hashtag #MotivationMondays and sticking to inspirational messages on this day, while Tuesdays could be for posting news relevant to your industry. For more structure, you could create a formula, such as making 30% of your posts inspirational, 30% the latest news and 10% original thought leadership.
STEP #4: MAKE POSTS REFLECT THE PLATFORM’S PERSONALITY
Like people, social channels have their own unique personalities. You can’t truly tap into the power of social media for boosting your personal brand if you’re posting and engaging in the same exact way across channels.
To keep from getting overwhelmed, Weinstein advises that you focus on the two platforms that best align with your overall goals (such as trying to attract your next employer), and, from there, craft your content and strategy accordingly.
To simplify, you might think of popular social channels like this:
- LinkedIn is like your work buddy. Keep it professional on this platform and share your thought leadership on business news.
- Twitter is like the friend who is always up for debate. It’s where you go to find out the latest on your industry and engage in conversation.
- Instagram is the friend you turn to for inspiration and entertainment. It’s a visually-driven platform where beautiful images are the focus and you can give behind-the scenes snapshots of your brand or business for a more personal feel.
- Facebook is like your supportive cheerleader friend. It’s where you can update your audience about both your work events and personal moments, such as your vacation pictures, in a personal tone.
STEP #5: BUILD YOUR COMMUNITY
After you’ve streamlined your brand, voice and overall content plan, you might think about building your following. Start by consistently and continuously engaging with others. Think of it this way: If you’re in a meeting or out to dinner and you’re the only one talking, people will probably stop listening after a while. We are drawn to people who engage with us.
Moreover, by asking questions and commenting on what others share and post, you can get on the radar of people who don’t know you. For example, by sharing and commenting on an article posted by a LinkedIn influencer, you’re inserting yourself into the conversation—and others interested in your thoughts may begin following you, expanding your reach.
One more thing to keep in mind is the appropriate use of hashtags to help people find your posts through search. Remember that less is more, and the ideal sweet spot is three to four hashtags for each post.
STEP #6: SPEAK UP WITH CONFIDENCE
Finally, I want to leave you with something that I so passionately believe in, and that is using your voice to make a difference in the areas that matter most to you. Weinstein shared that she often hears women repeat, “I have nothing to say,” or “No one cares what I have to say.” This is unfortunate because, as Weinstein says, “We need to see more women in business and leadership at every level who are willing to put forth thought leadership and share their point of view…to inspire the next generation.”
Your voice matters. If you don’t have confidence in yourself, it will be hard for others to have confidence in you. As my friend Wendy Clark says, “Shut that b*&#! up in your head.” It is so important for women to stand up, use your voice and share your advice. Social media gives us all a platform, so let’s use our voices for good.
By Shelley Zalis
Shelley Zalis is CEO of The Female Quotient, which is in the business of gender equality.