When we first step into the strange new waters of social media, many of us don’t have a clue what we are wading into. Some of us are like lemmings following the one in front of us—and let’s face it, with millions of users on social media multiple times a day, it’s the place to be. Some of us have been dragged there kicking and screaming—that was me—being advised that, as a writer, Facebook and Twitter are where it’s at, and for a psychotherapy and coaching practice, LinkedIn is requisite. Some have a natural inclination to social media because it gives them a forum for the very important opinions, thoughts and ideas that they can’t wait to share. Others who may be great communicators by trade, aren’t necessarily naturally suited to this brave new world, but with experience they will find a place.
Gone are the days when all I, or any of my colleagues, needed to start a practice was a degree, a business card, a telephone and a room to engage in meaningful therapeutic conversations. Now we have websites that describe who we are and the kind of work we do, Facebook pages to stay engaged with our communities, LinkedIn for our professional contacts and Twitter to reach out beyond the new blurry borders of our closest circles for immediate impact.
Though I resisted social media as just one more thing on my to-do list that I didn’t have time for, it has not only become a fulcrum for my professional life that has added valuable credibility and influence, but also stretched me in ways that all writers, coaches and psychotherapists constantly seek in a self-growth-oriented business.
Why should you hop on board?
The list of reasons is quite endless but here are a few for you to consider: enhance your credibility, extend your influence beyond what you imagined, discover your ability to communicate ideas, thoughts and opinions that really matter to you, engage in meaningful conversations with fascinating people who could live anywhere, leap over physical and cultural barriers to truly engage in a global world where time and distance seem to disappear.
In the social media arena we engage, share ideas, thoughts and opinions, and connect with others. We may use social media in a very personal way to connect with family, maintain contact with distant relatives, or revive contacts with old friends or colleagues. For professional or business purposes, you can use social media in a variety of ways to engage with thought leaders, colleagues, and those you hope to touch with your message, ideas, thoughts and opinions. It is best used to exchange ideas and engage in conversations.
Every day more and more of my clients are talking about Social Media, “should they or shouldn’t they”. I often hear things like:
- “I don’t have time for this, but everyone says I should.”
- “I don’t know what I would say!”
- “What will it do for me?”
- “What should my profile be?”
The very practical ones ask:
- “What is the ROI (return on investment)?”
The very bold ones jump in, learn to swim later, or drown in the sea of overwhelm. A coherent strategy will help with overwhelm. The ROI for engaging in social media is not necessarily immediate or concrete, but there is no doubt that if you want to ‘play’ in any business arena today, social media will become one of the stars of driving traffic to you and/or your business, central to communicating with your community, and invaluable when developing your product(s) whatever they may be. In any business, today we can no longer passively wait for customers or clients to discover us, we need to reach out into the social media space and make our presence known.
With its growing popularity and multiple platforms, determining how to maximize your efforts and exposure is one of the greatest challenges. To garner traction and attention in the social media sphere requires you to be distinct and targeted in your approach. Let’s focus on two key areas that are central to developing an authentic, coherent personal or business brand.
Define Yourself, Then Align Your Messaging
- What makes you distinct? Who are you targeting? What is it that truly interests you? In communication and in general?
- What Is Your Voice, your brand? What are your values or principles if that term works better for you? Major brands have to set and share them to the world. You have to at least set them.
Who Are You?
What makes you distinct, among the myriad people making noise on social media? It seems like a simple question, but few people can actually say what it is about themselves that has them stand out. Coaching can help you stir the ingredients of all your experiences, skills, knowledge and passions until your uniqueness–what makes you great–rises above all the noise.
Who is Your Target Audience?
Family, friends, colleagues? It’s good to know exactly who you want to share your ideas with, who you want to engage with online and where they hang out in the social media space. The more specific you get, the more likely your experience on social media will be effective and impactful. As you navigate through the process of clarifying and refining your brand, each of these elements will fall more easily into place.
What Is Your Voice, Your Brand?
Your voice—the way you interact with your audience, expresses your brand every time you communicate. Will you be conversational in tone, or humourous, or write as an expert in a particular field? This is your opportunity for expression. Your voice must represent you and align with who you say you are. If you say you are a comedian, you’d better write funny content. Or if you are presenting as an expert, your voice needs to convey depth of knowledge and authority in your chosen field. Your Brand is who you are.
What Are Your Values?
You express your values through your brand, and your voice. By defining these you will know who to connect and engage with. A thorough investigation of your values will influence your voice. The more coherent your values, the more coherent your brand, and therefore the easier it becomes to generate your messages, conversations and connections.
Now Take A Deep Breath
If all of this has you squirming in your seat, worrying about how you are going to be perceived in this brave new world, you are not alone. Studies have shown that Facebook can enhance self-esteem, and at the other end of the spectrum that Facebook can have an adverse effect on self-perception. But, the most interesting findings that I came across that are more targeted to the community of people that I work with come from BRAND fog’s survey of findings that:
“overwhelmingly confirmed that C-Suite executives who engage in social media are viewed as better equipped to lead a company, communicate values and shape a company’s reputation in today’s changing world. Specifically, the survey found that more than 80% of respondents believe that CEOs who engage on social media are better equipped than their peers to lead companies in a Web 2.0 world. What’s more, 93% of respondents believe that CEO engagement on social media helps communicate company values, and grow and evolve corporate leadership in times of crisis.”
Resisting Social Media may be a bit like resisting your partner or child when they want a puppy. At first you can’t imagine that puppy in your life, but once it’s there, you can’t imagine a life without it.
Join us Wednesday, March 21 at 8:30pm for a free webinar that I hope will have you as excited about social media as I have become. You must PRE-REGISTER by Tuesday, March 20, 2012.