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In the era of digital marketing and social media, everyone that shares online is creating an impression or story about their personal values and professional skills. Even if you have previously used social media intermittently, the content that you share, create or comment on has started to build a profile that others will react to. That online impression is just as important as the first face to face impression you make, with mentors, customers, and peers within your industry.

Many professionals feel that unless they are employed within digital marketing, that their online persona has little value to their career. Increasingly, however, corporations and recruiters are apt to do a thorough review of a candidate’s social media profiles, and their communication style before hiring. If you are in the B2B space, you can count on customers and prospective partners to do the same thing.

Now that you know “who is looking” and why it matters to share on social media with integrity, I’ll explain how you can organize your online sharing so that it builds a quality personal brand, that will add value to your professional career. Business is still about “who you know” but that criteria now extends to “who you talk to” and “what you tweet” on social media.

Step 1: Groom Your Social Media Accounts

Decide which social media accounts you are going to actively share on, and start by deleting outdated accounts and email addresses. This clean-up is essential to help funnel the attention to the digital networks you will be sharing on, and the ones that you want peers, management, and prospective clients to pay attention to. Still, have some old social media accounts you haven’t used in a long time? Delete them, especially if they have ‘questionable’ content.

Create a professional, consistent image by using the same profile picture for each of your new accounts. The standard trifecta for most professionals is Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn (and Instagram too). Write a concise but professional profile biography, including any website, professional blog, or landing page that you may have for your work, CV or portfolio. Make it easy for people to learn more about you, and the skills you offer.

Step 2: Get Some Apps to Make It Easy

Log into one account, make a post, log out… and repeat daily? If that is how you think social media sharing is done efficiently, I have a pleasant and timesaving tip for you: apps will do it for you. That’s right! There are many free or low-cost apps that allow you to connect your social media networks, and create one post, that will be automatically published to every one of your channels.

From LinkedIn to Twitter and Facebook, you can even pre-schedule your posts for the week, with industry insights, articles and other content that your peers will find interesting. In less than an hour, you can program an entire week of activity, and then sit back and respond to comments or questions in your feed.

What apps work best? There are many to choose from. For busy entrepreneurs and professionals, I recommend Buffer, as the platform can be started for free, with scheduled posts to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

Step 3: Share Content 3-4 Times Per Week

Be honest; what is your impression of a professional who posts twenty times per day, on every social media network? Certainly, during the novelty phase of social media engagement, more was more. These days, someone that posts excessively can annoy and alienate his or her professional network. Over sharing can also seem ‘desperate’ which is not the impression you want to create online, and people would rather unfollow than be inundated with excessive posts.

Persistency is the key to building a robust and meaningful professional network and audience on social media. That means posting with some regularity, on the channels that make the most sense for you. On average, many professionals post 3-4 times per week, allowing for days in between when they may simply comment or share content provided by others in their industry. Find a pattern that suits your needs, and share on a consistent weekly basis to build a quality online reputation.

Finding it hard to curate content that is relevant to your industry? Check out content aggregates (collectors) like Scoop.It, Flipboard, or Triberr.

Step 4: Make It Interesting and Eye Catching

Re-sharing other people’s content, or simply posting in a broadcast style doesn’t work to the advantage of professionals who want to grow their business network. You have to be prepared to share something that demonstrates your expertise within your industry or role. Personal brand management means giving your social audience proof that you are ‘good at what you do’ and engaged in evolving and growing within your industry, by staying plugged-in to changes and news in your business niche.

Creative content means taking a fresh approach to the kind of things that you share with your network. Is it okay to talk about your achievements? Sure, as long as it is balanced with other less self-serving types of information. Don’t be afraid to share some of your personal life in your business social media feeds as well. Are you visiting somewhere interesting, or volunteering? Do a Facebook Live video and share your experience. Personal content is more meaningful and humanizing, helping followers within your industry to understand you better.

Before you share about your employer, however, get a clear understanding of the social media best practice and guidelines that may exist. Many employers encourage social media sharing, to encourage professionals to advocate for the brand or business, but some prohibit it. The HR professional in your organization can give you guidelines.

Step 5: Import Contacts to Your Social Networks

You would be amazed to see how many people you know, when you decide to import your email contacts from Outlook or Gmail, into a social media network. Email contacts and names can also be imported from most CRM or ERP programs into your social accounts. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn allow for a free import of a set number of contacts.

Don’t worry about offending anyone, it is simply communicated by an email message to the recipient that you are inviting them to share with you on the social network. Those that are interested in networking with you will accept the invite; those that don’t may be inactive or disinterested (and that’s okay too). You want people who want to share, comment and engage with you for mutual benefit.

Avoid Creating a Negative Impression

Now that you know how often you should be sharing, and the type of content that you can use to demonstrate your expertise, it’s important to talk about ‘what not to do’ on public social media networks. Think of your social sharing as a CV or resume of your work, your personality and a reflection of your integrity. Avoid inflammatory racial or religious comments, and tread lightly on political commentary that others may view to be offensive.

Can you have two sets of social media accounts? Absolutely! For example, consider creating a Facebook Business Page as a brand or personality, and then make your personal Facebook account private, for family and friends only. Keep your ‘work social’ separate and your personal sharing private, to create a professional online presence that will help build new connections and career opportunities for you.

There you have it. I’ll come up with more actionable steps in one of the upcoming posts.