In today’s job market, an optimized LinkedIn profile and a strong network of contacts are vital to your career prospects. However, what about other social media platforms? Is it worth investing time in Facebook or Twitter?

Peter Shankman, acclaimed speaker, entrepreneur, and author of Nice Companies Finish First, declared at High-Tech Connects networking event that in the world of Brand You, all social networks affect your professional success. He went on to emphasize that there is no division between one’s public life and private life.

As I listened to the presentation, my initial thought was “Ugh. Seriously? Now I need to sell myself to my Facebook friends and family?”

In contrast to the traditional concept of selling, Peter Shankman believes that being helpful and kind is key to building an effective personal brand. He stresses the importance of social networking as a way to reach this goal. To demonstrate just how easy it can be, he issued a challenge that was successful in proving his point!

How does being nice help me out?

“I’ve never seen the value in being an asshole,” said Shankman. Contrary to popular belief, being kind has a significant monetary worth. According to Shankman’s research, “nice” companies generate 30-40% more profit than their counterparts that lack the same level of kindness and courtesy.

It doesn’t matter if you are a big company or an individual, being nice is the key to success! That’s why it is so important for your reputation online and off to be known as someone who respects others. Nowadays, social media makes it simple for individuals looking to hire new talent, form collaborations with partners, or even access managers that can help propel their careers forward. They will take time out of their day to evaluate potential candidates’ due diligence through online research – making sure they’re hiring the right person. Make sure those opinions are positive by always being kind and courteous in all conversations!

Last year, I had a meeting with a financial management firm partner. When it was almost finished, he surprisingly asked me about my lacrosse experience which originated from my LinkedIn profile but not on my website. This proved to be an eye-opening moment for me as someone had taken the time and effort to go beyond what is stated on my page – this impressed upon me the power of details when it comes to making connections!

Try this at home

My own experiences back up Shankman’s belief that social media is the catalyst and major source of knowledge in a lot of professional affiliations. Therefore, it’s essential to ensure our individual brands are overflowing with greatness. So where do you begin? With your very own social networking sites! Regardless if you have hundreds of Facebook friends or LinkedIn contacts, none of those amount to anything unless there is purposeful engagement among them all.

As Shankman says, “The idea that you’re friends with someone just because you went to second grade together is bullsh*t. Your network is all you have and it’s only as strong as your weakest link. That weakest link is the person you haven’t bothered to say hi to in six months. Why are they in your network?”

Shankman urged us to take action and make some changes: go home and log into Facebook, find five or six individuals with whom you haven’t communicated in half a year, then either reach out to them on their wall or unfriend them.

That night, I decided to give it a shot. Revisiting my Facebook mailbox, I found an unread message from someone I had known in fourth grade whom I hadn’t contacted for months. She had reached out after hearing my name mentioned in a Forbes article about Steve Jobs and revealed that she holds a master’s degree in multimedia journalism – instantly transforming our connection into something of a professional relationship.

Establishing a positive online presence starts with responding promptly and nurturing relationships. To continue to build your reputation, take the following steps:

  1. Don’t forget to stay connected with those in the media, and send them a kind note when you see that they are being profiled, quoted, or mentioned. According to Shankman’s advice, two tools can help you track these activities: News which keeps tabs on what your Facebook friends and LinkedIn connections were featured in. Each day, Prep work sends you an email with detailed information about the individuals that you’ll be meeting. This includes their LinkedIn profiles, recent blog posts, and Twitter activity – all to help make your meetings more successful!
  2. Sharing interesting articles, blogs or other items is a fantastic way to make a lasting impression. Oftentimes, I don’t get an immediate response from the person who receives my share but when I occasionally meet that same individual again it’s not uncommon for them to express their gratitude and say something like: “Oh thanks for sending me that article. It was really interesting.”
  3. By taking the initiative to assist someone in your network, or just asking how you can be of assistance, you’ll immediately stand out from others. This simple act will distinguish you from other professionals.
  4. Follow the DBS (Don’t Be Stupid) Rule when attending events that you do not want to be advertised on Facebook. Refrain from bringing your phone with you, as it will only lead to temptation and social media posts about what is happening at the event. And don’t forget- people are always watching and may post or tweet pictures of what transpires! “Everything is fair game” warns Shankman – so just leave your device behind for a worry-free night out!

Where this journey of connections may take us is uncertain, yet venturing into the unknown always trumps sitting in stagnation. Moreover, as you go along your way, don’t forget to nurture your reputation for being kind and helpful; according to Shankman, doing so will aid you to reach success first!

Bozoma Saint John, the Director of Music and Entertainment Marketing at PepsiCo, is an expert in keeping your personal brand alive through social media. Discover her strategies for success today!

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