Social Media & Your Career: Lead or Follow

A lot of more senior leaders or people industries where social media isn’t the norm, don’t bother with it.  Maybe they think it’s just for the entertainment industry…or those marketing guys down the hall.  Maybe they think LinkedIn is for current job seekers, Facebook is for their high school-aged kids, and Twitter is just for sharing pointless information like what you had for breakfast. Well, I’ve got some good news for you. You can use social media to benefit your career, company and industry.

A trusted colleague, Miriam Salpeter, convinces us why social media can be effective for all types in her book Social Networking for Career Success.  Miriam shares an interview with Brett Vanderwater, a strategic financial leader in an industry where not many others have jumped on the social media bandwagon.  The lack of social media role models in his field gave Brett two choices: to lead or to follow.

Brett decided to lead. He regularly tweets and blogs, and when he attends industry events or meetings, people seem to know who he is because of his online activity. He noted:

While I am still adding to my social network, the career value is the circle/network that it has created. The world I once played in was limited to the city where I lived. Now, the landscape is broad, and I have met professionals from all over the world. I have had the opportunity to speak at several professional forums as an expert. These events were directly related to the usage of LinkedIn, Twitter, and blogging.

What I learned was to utilize a skill I have been using in my business career – to lead. When a profession is not at the same place that you want to be or see yourself you have two choices: 1) Conform to the profession’s expectations or 2) Redefine it. I am choosing option two.

Be Unconventional

Social media tools help provide access and opportunity for anyone motivated and talented enough to seize the opportunity.  Making a name for yourself online is not difficult, but does require effort, and an open mind.  Take some time to investigate the various networks available to you, and be patient and innovative in uncovering ways in which they might add value.

The largest networks to establish a presence are obviously LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, but there are other outlets to demonstrate leadership as well.  Contributing to a respected collection of blogs like Harvard Business Review is one option, as is creating expert videos on YouTube and online radio shows and podcasts on BlogTalkRadio.  You may even find a creative use for Flickr, the popular photo sharing network.

Bottom line: even if you don’t consider yourself the “social media type,” these tools can add a new dimension to your leadership and provide an unparalleled opportunity to stand out in your industry and among your team members.

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