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Social Media Strategy

November 10, 2010 Leave a comment

Follow me on Twitter…Become a fan on Facebook…Add a connection on LinkedIn…unless you’ve been in hiding the past few years, you pretty much know what those phrases mean.  Social media has exploded exponentially and there are no signs it will stop anytime soon.  You don’t need a PhD to figure out that social media takes information from any computer in any corner of the world and, for lack of a better term, socializes or iterates it many times over across the vast canvas we call the world wide web.  According to Wikipedia, social media is defined as media for social interaction, using highly accessible and scalable web-based technologies to turn communication into interactive dialogue.  The communication becomes global, mostly transparent, and in real-time.  It is the main premise of the whole Web 2.0 phenomenon.  Web 2.0 promised us internet-based applications that centered around information sharing and collaboration tools converging on user-generated content.  Traditional media such as print, television, or film do not share the same traits.  They do not command the same kind of instant feedback that social media possesses; thus, social media is the catalyst for guerrilla or viral marketing because content can spread to wide audiences in a short period of time.  Recently, celebrities such as Betty White and Conan O’Brien used social media to market themselves.  A Facebook campaign got Betty White a hosting spot on Saturday Night Live and Conan went to the Twitter/Facebook airwaves to promote his upcoming show.  Social media consist of many applications and interfaces, but some the more popular ones include blogs (WordPress, Blogger, Wikipedia), microblogs (Twitter, Foursquare, StumbledUpon), networking sites (Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace), and multimedia sites (Picasa, Youtube, Pandora).  Now with all these tools, most of them usually free, businesses (no matter how big or small) should utilize social media to build their online brand and presence. But it shouldn’t stop at businesses. Individuals would greatly benefit by using social media to enhance their personal brand and online identity. In our economic times, it’s more imperative than ever to stand out of a crowd to land that dream job or win a coveted contract. Social media is the conduit for you to get noticed, but you need a sound social media strategy to send a consistent message to your target audience.

Earlier this year, I set out to develop my personal brand and increase my online presence. With that, I asked myself, “How can I leverage social media to build a personal social media strategy?  What is to be gained by developing an online presence?”  I first start out by googling myself.  You would think a name such as Quang Le is uncommon, but it’s fairly ubiquitous in the Vietnamese culture.  It doesn’t help that there’s also a well known Vietnamese singer with the same name.  I had a steep climb ahead of me.  I already had webpages on FaceBook and LinkedIn, but none of the searches from Google, Yahoo!, or Bing came back with my name. I was determined to build my online presence with a goal of appearing on the first page of web searches for my name.

I did not have a clear strategy when I started, but I knew one thing, I wanted my personal brand to be as professional and authentic as possible. It was going to be seen by numerous people, former/current/potential employers, and friends/colleagues, so disparaging or vulgar remarks are not the way to go. I wanted to keep it professional, but also convey my passions outside of the workplace. With that in mind, I ventured out to learn more about social media, search engine optimization (SEO), and search engine marketing (SEM) and realized how little I knew about those topics and how enamored I am now with them.

To fully understand social media activity, you need to break it down into manageable parts. According to “What’s Your Personal Social Media Strategy?” by Soumitra Dutta in the Harvard Business Review (HBR), it helps to look at it in two spheres – personal or professional – and against your target audience – private or public.  They are broken down in the figure below:

Figure 1. Finding the Right Presence. Source: HBR

The strategy used depends on your goals. According to Dutta, in order to formulate your personal social media strategy, you need to answer the following questions:

  1. Are your goals personal, professional, or both?  Are there conflicts between how you want to present yourself in the two spheres?  If so, you must decide which is more important.  Think about the three realms of social media leadership – branding ,engagement, and learning – and what you are hoping to achieve in each.  Make sure that your online profile does not contradict your activity in the “real world” and that your messages are authentic.
  2. Is your desired audience private (a limited set of friends, family, and colleagues) or public (your industry or even the world)?  Social media activity  will necessarily increase your presence and make it easier for others to Google you.  How big do you want that presence to be?
  3. What resources do you have?  Does this project require your own time and money?

Using those questions as a guide, I wanted to use a hybrid strategy.  I already had a personal & private (Facebook) and a professional & public (LinkedIn) profile and now wanted to develop my professional/public presence while injecting some personal aspect into it.  I started by creating a Twitter account and began tweeting about industry specific news/topics with some personal tweets every now and then.  I then proceeded to develop a professional blog site, writing first about my knowledge of the telecommunications industry, then the passions that drive me currently, and will continue with personal interests/hobbies in food and travel.  Next, I updated my existing profiles and expanded my network of contacts.  Finally, I interconnected all of those sites so information flows freely between each interface.  My tweets are displayed on both LinkedIn page and WordPress blog.  Blog feeds appear on my LinkedIn and Google Profiles page. And each site has links to other sites.  I still have a long ways to go, but I’ve begun the journey of differentiating myself online to strengthen my personal brand.

Figure 2. Tips for your Online Presence. Source: HBR.

In closing, embracing social media will open up new personal and professional networks.  The technology is here to stay.  For businesses, it uncovers potential revenue streams with little to no capital investment while individuals can harness the power of social media to create a comparative advantage for personal branding; however, to effectively use social media, a strategy must be in place.  The strategy has to exploit the flow of good information and carefully monitor and contain the broadcast of bad information.  You need to understand your goals, target audience, and resources to successfully launch yourself.   Because with so many avenues to express your views, it’s easy to see why we all live in a connected world, where “whatever happens in Vegas, ends up on Facebook”.

Find out more about Social Media Strategy by reading Dutta’s full article in the Nov 2010 edition of the Harvard Business Review.