This blog is not intended to tell you the HOW of social networking. The point is to tell you WHY you should get involved. There are tons of SoMe for Dummies guides online to get you started that will be far more thorough than I.
It is important to note that I am not a marketing professional. I do not pretend to be an authority on terms like ROI and SEO and how those may benefit your business or personal brand. I do not know or follow all of the stated rules of the road when it comes to social networking. This works for me.
A few months ago, I gave my 1st presentation on social media to our Portland CSI (Construction Specifications Institute) chapter for our lecture series. This last week, I gave the 2nd one to our local Association of Professional Estimators and No. 3 will happen October 14th at our CSI Chapter meeting. Since this is not my field of expertise, it is interesting that I am being asked to speak about it. I think that is because people want to know WHY from someone just like them. No spin.
What I do know is how much benefit, exposure and education I have gained since I joined in with social networking.
It may also be of interest that I am an all or nothing kind of person. There is very little that I do halfway. If I find something interesting or that I am passionate about, I am likely going in at 200%. Such has been the case with social media.
While there are many venues out there, I have chosen to limit my focus to the ones I believe provide the most benefit in my quest to connect with like-minded professionals and positive people not afraid to go all out. My motto is Go Big or Go Home.
My avenues of choice are Facebook (for family and friends), Twitter (to build relationships and share information) and LinkedIn (to learn from Industry Leaders and connect with other AEC Professionals). In addition, I recently started a blog called “The Voices in My Head” www.cheriseschacter.com where I can unleash on any number of topics depending on which inner personality has something to say on any given day. I have more to say about some than others.
For me, Facebook is for family and friends. I am connected to a handful of work and CSI people on Facebook only because they have crossed from associates into people I consider part of my inner circle. I rarely use Facebook to look up a business and never use it for professional reasons. I know many companies feel like this is a good way to connect with their customers but for me this venue is not where I want to engage professionally. It is a wonderful way to keep up with all kinds of people in your life that you care about, near and far.
Twitter has become my favorite way to connect. I am rather impatient and Twitter fits nicely with that particular personality trait. I originally thought Twitter was about the dumbest thing ever. This was a perfect example of making an assumption based on ignorance. That’s OK, I am not afraid to own it.
That all changed when I attended CSI Academies in San Diego in 2012. Somehow I landed in Joy Davis’ class on the ROI of Social Media. Honestly, I likely chose it because I did not see a class in that time slot that was of particular interest to me and figured this would be a good time for a nap. I had not yet met Joy at that point. Yeah well, any of you who know Joy will know that I did not get a nap that day. By the time Joy was done with me I was signing up for both Twitter and LinkedIn accounts having no solid idea of what I was going to do with them once I signed up. Over 29,000 tweets later, I think I have figured out the value.
Joy suggested lurking for a while and getting a feel for how others tweet information. Again with the impatient thing, I lurked for about 5 minutes and dove in. I have been neck deep since that day.
I started this adventure by following CSI Members on Joys Twitter list. I quickly realized that the value of the information shared on Twitter goes far beyond the 140 characters you are allowed in a tweet.
My twitter account is pretty focused on members of the AEC industry so I can get the information that I want to see. I can often learn more in one day reading tweets and links to great information than I could get in weeks or even months otherwise. Much of it I may have never seen. Because I focus on AEC, this information is automatically curated for me.
Really though, Twitter is about the people. I was extremely skeptical that you could make true, authentic connections online. I tend to be a touchy, feely type of personality and it just didn’t make sense that you could really connect without things like body language, tone of voice, etc. Again, I was wrong (I really hate having to say that)!
I love smart, motivating, positive people and they abound on Twitter. I now have connections all over the country (and beyond) who have become my go-to people of choice. In some cases, I have been lucky enough to meet many of them in person and not once did they disappoint. A few have become some of my closest friends and I am grateful that I was lucky enough to find them.
It is absolutely crucial that you understand that you only follow who you choose to follow on Twitter. If you don’t want to see it, you don’t have to.
My network and reach has become so wide, that there is no topic or challenge I encounter that I can’t find advice or guidance on Twitter. The support I have received from my Tweeps (buddies on Twitter) has helped me step outside the box into new adventures like public speaking, blogging and leadership roles in CSI. I now have supporters and cheerleaders I never would have imagined. They have been instrumental in my personal growth and professional development.
Whether you are a little crazy and tweet over 29,000 times in 2-1/2 years (like me) or you only tweet a few times a week, you will find value in the effort and you will meet incredible people. The key word in this effort is relationships. It is not a one way street. You have to engage and share to really benefit.
Here I go being wrong again. I thought LinkedIn was solely there to look for a job or connect with potential employers. I figured it was rather useless if you were already employed. I didn’t know that LinkedIn had industry specific discussion boards to share information, Pulse News curated for your field or that you could connect with other industry professionals to share information.
For me LinkedIn is strictly for business and should be that way for anybody. While I will cross lines between personal and professional on Twitter, I stay within the lines on LinkedIn.
On any given day, I can read cutting edge articles and tips from leaders in my field, I can message other professionals for advice and I can participate in discussions on any number of work related topics with multiple people all over the country.
While Twitter is more immediate and ongoing real time conversations, LinkedIn is the long term sharing of information between professionals in your field with something to say. I have 1,565 AEC related connections from multiple disciplines and various areas of the world on LinkedIn. Those connections give me a potential reach to over 12 million professionals. Where are you going to get that?
There will never be a networking event possible that would give me the opportunity to meet or benefit from the expertise of these people. This interaction is crucial in today’s technological environment to keep up with the changes we see coming at amazing speeds.
Whether you blog for personal or professional reasons, this is a great way to share who you are, what you have to offer and what you know. An added bonus is that you can promote your blog on other social networks to help get that information to corners of the world that were, in the past, unreachable.
When in our history have we had the opportunity to share our expertise with the entire world at little or no cost besides time and effort? Your potential influence either in your industry or personally is limitless.
Honestly, I could write pages on why you should engage in social networking and how you will benefit but there is really only one reason you need. You can’t afford not to!
I will be thankful every day that I didn’t take a nap in that class and that I was honest enough with myself to admit that maybe I was wrong and could me missing out! My work and my life have been greatly enriched by having that open mind and not being afraid to change.
I wish the same for you!