Six weeks ago I started a Social Media class without any specific expectations. Beside the twelve page intimidating syllabus, I didn’t have any idea how this class would change my opinion of Social Media.
One of the first things we were asked to do was to read ME 2.0 by Dan Schawbel. This book is a huge advertisement for social media. The author is self-centered guru for personal branding; full of ideas how to market oneself online. The use of social media for purposes of self-branding is one of author’s mantras. The contents of the book got me thinking about social media in a different light.
My opinion of social media was based solely on personal use to connect to friends and family without any plan, agenda, or professional purpose. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t have a positive opinion of social media prior to this class. My perception was that it is time consuming, as well as a privacy, security, and self-destruction online mechanism that can cause more harm than good for an individual.
I am aware that the online community is our new “corner of the street”, a public place where everyone and anyone can see our actions and judge us by the same. Only online, the instances of our behavior are captured forever, and can be shared and replicated with, or without our approval. Naturally, this concept is very intimidating to me. I have always tried to stay away from over-exposure and annoying updates from friends who don’t seem to understand the concept of sharing too much information.
Then I started this class, and was given a choice to choose between marketing personal or professional interests and goals, using social media. I decided to go the professional route, since I’m changing my career and it is little intimidating being on unfamiliar ground. I figured this class would be great practice, with instant feedback about my progress.
The first social media we had to sign up for was a blog at WordPress.com. I never blogged before, so I really didn’t know what to expect. After using each social media for a week, I had to blog about my opinion on the media and its uses for my brand. Blogging for the first time conflicted with my opinion of sharing my thoughts online with just anyone. Once I got over the initial post, I felt better, and more confident about the process. I continued blogging multiple times a week for the remainder of the class.
In the second week we had to sign up for Twitter, which was very different for me, since I’ve never had a Twitter account, let alone, participated in my newly career inspired interests. The first week using Twitter was confusing, but later on, I learned more and felt more comfortable navigating.
The Facebook assignment opened my eyes about the uses of Facebook for professional purposes. If one takes the annoying friends and family out of the equation, and instead focuses on professional interests and groups, the Facebook possibilities are endless. Cautionary use is advised such as; joining groups with a good reputation and not befriending people you don’t know. It is also recommended to keep personal and professional profiles separate.
Next in line was the bookmarking site Diigo. This is a great way to collect sources for class projects, and articles of personal and professional interests, accessible from virtually any computer with Internet access.
We then tackled LinkedIn, the headquarters for professional self-marketing. It offers a wide variety of options for students, newcomer professionals, or seasoned professionals, who want to be part of a huge community that offers much more than self-marketing. Groups of interests are formed and people can join based on their professional needs or interests. Job openings are advertised, along with options to have different account levels based on personal need. I’ve signed up as part of the assignment and I am still exploring the options that are available.
Finally, we opened a YouTube account to explore the content beyond just entertainment. I located many helpful and educational videos that I can relate directly to my brand, or use for professional purposes.
I have to admit before taking the class; I failed to see that I can take control of my information that is online and use it to my advantage. I also failed to recognize that being part of the online community (the professional) is very important for many organizations; big and small. In fact, online presence is welcomed, not “frowned upon”. That being said, our online behavior should reflect our offline behavior. We don’t want to associate ourselves with elements that could potentially harm our reputation online, just as we would offline. Our goals, and the “brand” for which we went to be known for, should be consistent, both online and offline. This way we can expose our brand to a greater range of possibilities, and increase our chances of achieving our personal or professional goals, faster than using more traditional methods.
I still believe that common sense goes a long way when it comes to online behavior. I don’t agree with all recommendations that we should expose ourselves to everything that is available online. I believe a person should define goals and research about which online can be the most beneficial. I would suggest they choose the ones that are the best fit and the easiest to use. Over time, expansion should be strategic and online presence should be consistent and simple. I think that overdoing it; can have the potential of doing more harm to a brand, then not being present at all. I didn’t think that my prospective and understanding of social media would change in only six weeks, but with an open mind and a healthy dose of skepticism, I managed to learn something that can be of great use for my professional future.
- What We’re Reading About This Week: How Businesses Utilize Social Media (sandlerwald.com)
- Social Media and Movies (jamienspringer.wordpress.com)
- The Next Frontiers in Social Media (grasshopper.com)