The way we appear online can either help or hinder our careers, depending on how we wield the ever-evolving digital tools available to us. A 2017 CareerBuilder survey found that 70% of employers use social media to screen candidates before hiring, and that number has likely risen over the past couple of years.
In November of last year, we sat down with Kevin Bryant, CEO of Educated Change, a London-based reputation management, communication, and social media consulting firm to discuss how finance professionals can bolster their online reputations, use social media to boost their career options, and mitigate fallout from online mistakes. Here are five of his tips for how to best represent yourself online:
1. Analyze your current digital presence
Google yourself. If hiring managers and potential clients are going to look you up, you should probably get an idea of what they’re going to find. For many professionals, one of the first things that pops up on a Google search is their LinkedIn profile. For that reason, Bryant recommended focusing on creating a polished LinkedIn profile first, and then considering whether it makes sense for you to delve into Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms. For tips on optimizing LinkedIn, check out this primer from the Journal of Accountancy archives.
As you look over the results of your online search, ask yourself whether you’re representing yourself, your expertise, and your firm to the best of your ability.
2. Have a plan
Within the finance profession, Bryant said, one of the most common mistakes people make is not having a clear idea of how they’re going to use the tools.
“It’s very important to have a plan that identifies what your personal brand is,” he said. “We think in terms of four quadrants: your functional role, your particular expertise, the personal side of your life that might be relevant to the type of people you’re trying to connect with, and, last but not least, the legacy piece, or how you’re going to leave the world a better place.”
You should also have a plan for how you’re going to measure success, Bryant added. If you’re sharing content that people are engaging with, in terms of likes, comments, and shares, then you are likely on the right track. Keep tabs on how various posts go over with your audience, and adjust your strategy based on what you find.
3. Build your network
Bryant pointed out that social media is essentially a digital representation of real-world networking, and so you can think about building your online connections in a similar way.
“Forget about the online space and just think in real terms,” he said. “Who are you trying to sell your wares to? Who’s going to benefit the most from what you have to offer?”
LinkedIn makes it easy to find people with shared interests and mutual connections. For example, if you search for terms such as innovation, disruption, and blockchain, then you’ll discover people who share those interests or desire to know more about those topics. Bryant recommended using LinkedIn’s search function to find the people who are going to be the most interested in what you have to offer.
When reaching out to those people, he suggested referring to your shared interests and contacts in your message.
“It can be quite a powerful way to get people to take notice and potentially connect with you,” he said. “I myself have a rule of thumb that if I see someone who I don’t know, but who is connected to at least 10 people I’m connected to, then there’s a good chance that person is going to want to connect with me.”
4. Understand your network
Once you’ve started to build your network, you have to understand who your connections are, and create and share content with that in mind.
“Some networks will be open to receiving lots of great content, while others will be more inclined to turn you off if you’re over-posting,” Bryant said.
As a starting point, Bryant recommended posting once or twice a week on LinkedIn to start, focusing on the content that you truly think your clients, prospects, and network are going to be the most interested in seeing.
5. Present your full self
Everyone who uses social media has to decide whether they want to use their time online to be purely professional, more personal, or to what degree they’re going to mix the two things, Bryant said.
While you don’t want to share anything inappropriate or divulge any information that might violate company policy, Bryant has found that it’s often best to bring your full person out online so that people can get to know and trust you.
“Any professional is ultimately trying to build trust, and so with social media, it can be really powerful to sprinkle out little bits and pieces of yourself, the tapestry that is you,” he said.