This was one of the key themes to emerge from Engaging with social media for fun and career success, a recent SLA Europe seminar, held at Morgan Stanley’s Canary Wharf offices.
Three speakers, Neil Infield, Meghan Jones and Laura Woods, all early adopters of social media tools and with a wealth of experience between them, passed on tips, advice and a few words of warning.
Laura began the session by saying that when on Twitter it important to present yourself as a real person, not just an automated RSS feed. She suggested taking a ‘profersonal’ approach - that is blending professional comments with something a bit more personal. Instead of just retweeting and making dry comments, throw in tweets about your own interests and engage in conversation. The key thing to remember is that just because you’re talking about work issues you don’t have to erase your personality.
This point was echoed by Neil who stated that you 'need to present yourself as a whole human being' when using social media. Of course to what extent you can do this varies from sector to sector. Meghan suggested having multiple personas through different accounts and possibly using pseudonyms. All speakers emphasised the fact that anyone - not just your dedicated followers - can read your posts and comments, so think twice before writing or uploading pictures.
Perhaps it came as a surprise to some, but there are clear career benefits to using social media. Through blogging and tweeting Laura explained how she had raised her profile and as a result had been offered speaking and writing commissions. Meghan talked about the ‘serendiptious opportunities’, be it making new contacts or promoting work projects, while Neil said that his blog was an important tool for driving traffic to the British Library’s Business & IP Centre.
As a warning to those who still feel uncomfortable about the whole ‘engaging with social media’ business, Neil made the simple point that whether you like it or not, your clients are already out there using it. If you don’t get involved, they’ll pass you by.
That said, don’t feel obliged to sign up to everything. Sample different tools (take note: Twitter may not be around forever), but stick to what you feel comfortable with. As Meghan confessed, ‘I’m a Facebook refusnik’.
Other points made included the fact that LinkedIn is perfect for those with a bad memory as after an event you can remind yourself as to who you were talking to. Also, tweeting may be a much more effective note taking method than scribbling away in a notebook - condensing a point into 140 characters focuses the mind.
Possibly the best piece of advice though came from Neil who suggested that it is better to ‘ask for forgiveness rather than permission’ when in doubt about something you want to publish. Perhaps this should have come with a disclaimer but is very much in keeping with the ‘never wrong for long’ approach taken by news website editors.
Photographs: Seema Rampersad
Photographs: Seema Rampersad
Thanks to the three speakers for giving such excellent talks, SLA Europe for organising the event, and Seema Rampersad for the use of the photos.