As an online journalist and news junkie, there are multiple platforms that I use in gathering news and digesting the plethora of information out there. Whether it is to keep up on my areas of interests (tech, social media, business models in journalism) or areas of news that I simply enjoy being informed about (local news, politics, Middle East, etc), there are plenty of options to find this news and keep track of it.
But what journalists and other professionals often don’t think about is that these tools help build your online presence, which results in further shaping and developing your brand. And of course, there are various social sites and platforms that can help you achieve this (Twitter, Facebook, Google Reader, Delicious, Digg, FriendFeed, Publish2). Most of these are interlinked, allowing you to share and bounce around the different platforms, but of course there is a method to the madness.
Though I am not going to dive into the very details of each of these platforms and the best practices, the idea is to give you a crash course of how these influence your brand and online presence.
Personal Website or Blog
It is evermore important for business professionals, especially those working in the media industry, to have a personal website or blog that reflects your professional goals and experience. It is of the key ways to start developing your brand by providing a place where all your online personalities meet – a central website where potential employers and the public can learn all they need about your professional credentials, as well as learn ways to contact and connect with you. I recently wrote specifically for journalists on this topic, but a lot of the points can be applied to all professionals.
This should include your portfolio, resume, a professional blog that demonstrates your expertise, links to and feeds from your social media presences. Don’t feel intimidated by the technology behind it. It is really quite simple and there are some great tutorials out there that will walk you step-by-step on how to set up your own site or blog. If you truly feel unqualified to build your site, invest the money to have someone do it for. It will be worth the investment. Also, blog for other sites and expand your reach. Your blog will build it’s audience slowly and a good way to gain some exposure is by blogging for others.
Still skeptical about Twitter? I really hope not. Twitter is very important because it brings your online presence to your audience and network in real time. It is the one social media broadcasting site that allows you to have an online presence throughout the day. You can keep up and connect with other professionals that have similar interests.
Keep your tweets professional and make sure they add value to your followers. No one cares about what you had for lunch or that you’re going to sleep now. Instead share your expertise, your professional ideas, articles you’re reading about the industry you’re in and of course the blog posts you write or are articles you are featured in. Share these, but do not be pompous or spam your followers with only the articles that you are featured in.
Your brand is important, but so is the community receiving the tweets. Make sure that you tweet often to keep your online presence alive, but don’t do it just to do it. No one likes stale users. At the same time, no one likes users that don’t add value to their network. Quality, not quantity is ultimately what matters. Most of all, be authentic and engage the rest of the community. Your brand will be strengthened if you put your network first. It’s not all about you. Check out Mashable’s Twitter Guide Book for everything you need to know to be an effective user.
Though syncing your Twitter updates with your status can be an efficient way of maintaining your presence across platforms, I would be selective in how you do this. An effective Tweet doesn’t always translate into an effective Facebook status update. However, try using TweetDeck, Hootsuite or other tools to update simultaneously. Also, keep in mind the fact that your networks on these platforms may be completely different.
In the Twitterverse, you can be connected to professionals with similar interests that you have never met. Facebook has always been focused on networking and enhancing your real-life friendships. But this is also one of your strongest networks and using Facebook to develop your brand and create an online presence is just as important as Twitter. Share and link your blog posts with your friends. Send them to people that you know would find the content interesting or would benefit from it.
Control access and the image that you present. Remember that 45 percent of employers now screen applicants’ social media sites. Be careful about your statuses and how they reflect your character and professionalism. There are countless stories out there of applicants not getting jobs because of the photos or status they had on their Facebook profile. If you’re concerned about this, simply make sure you control the access you give people you are not friends with. Organize your connections and keep track of who has what kind of access to your profile. Also, one of the key things is being consistent in the message within the bio blurbs and “about me” sections of these networks. Be personable, but make sure it reflects you as a professional.
No matter what anyone tells you, it’s not about what you know, but who you know. LinkedIn is your active, social resume. It’s Facebook for professionals and much more, as this great video tutorial demonstrates. Use the network and make connections with your colleagues, former classmates, business partners, etc.
What I often find is that journalists and professionals don’t take advantage of using LinkedIn or maintain it. They simply create the profile and expect the magic to happen. Building a strong network takes a lot of work and a real desire to stay in touch with people that could have a business proposition for you, a job, or simply some professional advice.
Also, make sure that your profile is complete, update your status regularly, reply to messages promptly, and engage in your network by replying to threads in discussions and statuses. Posting discussion topics around the topic of a story you are working on can be quite effective in engaging people and it ultimately leaves your mark. Don’t just update your status and expect people to come to you. Seek them out. Help people just like they would help you. Remember that the appearance of your profiles on social networks strongly reflects on your character.
Other key tools
- Google Reader: Google Reader is not only effective in keeping up with your favorite reads, it is also becoming increasingly social with the addition of sharing features. It also allows you to “follow” people’s shared reader items and see their comments as well. Sound familiar?
- Publish2: Publish2 is a site that is specific to journalists and can be described as a journalistic curating, social bookmarking site. The site has a lot of great functions. It allows you to connect to other journalists and keep tabs on what they are sharing. You can also feature your shared links through a “what I am reading” widget, which is used by many news sites across the country, including The New York Times. The site also has a great WordPress plugin that makes pulling your links into your posts quite easy. Hey, and guess what, the bookmarklet allows you to sync what you share on Twitter and your Delicious account.
- Digg: When you dig something, digg it. Seriously though, the user-driven social news site can do a lot to drive traffic to a site when an article becomes popular with Digg users. Imagine the exposure that you can get when your own blog posts blows up on Digg.
- FriendFeed: The question that I often get is: “You don’t really expect me to keep up with all these, do you?” Yes, I do, that is if you are serious about establishing your presence on the Web. Friendfeed can help you sync all of your networks together. So that when you have some activity on Facebook, Google Reader or post some photos to Flickr, your Friendfeed “subscribers” will see it in their feed. However, just like any other site, the key is quality and maintenance.
Author: Vadim Lavrusik is a digital storyteller who is currently pursuing a Master of Science degree in Digital Media at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York City. He has reported for the Star Tribune, Mashable.com, The Minnesota Daily, the Mpls./St. Paul Business Journal, and more. He writes for Poynter.org and a blog on new media at Lavrusik.com.