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4 Lies about social media

Posted in: October 21st, 2009

Everyone knows that the best way to get a job is to leverage your network. And almost everyone knows that social media is a great way to build your network.

But many of you are making lots of social media mistakes. I know because so many people tell me that social media is a waste of their time. They're wasting their time, and continuing to make mistakes, because there's a set of common lies that people believe about social media. Here are those lies:

Lie #1: LinkedIn is for networking.

LinkedIn is great. I'm on LinkedIn. I have 650 connections. At first I wondered, why do I need this list of connections published on LinkedIn? What was the purpose of it? But now I get it. With LinkedIn, people can tell that I am a very connected person.

Most of you already know I'm well connected—I'm a print journalist, blogger, and startup founder, which are all very network-intensive jobs. But if you're someone who doesn't know how to tell whether someone is connected, LinkedIn is a great scorecard.

Potential employers like LinkedIn because they can glance at your LinkedIn profile and get a sense of how connected you are and how much money you make. (Yes,.) That’s the utility of the scorecard.

But what you cannot do on LinkedIn is build a network. Networks are built on relationships, which grow from conversation. LinkedIn is not for conversations. So you need to go somewhere else to build your network, and then, when it's big, display it on LinkedIn so you'll look great.

Lie #2: Twitter is for conversation.

So if you need conversation to grow relationships into a network, then you look for the social media tools that are for conversation. Right? Twitter seems easy. It's only 140 characters, so it's appealing to someone who is weary of spending every waking minute using social media.

The problem with using Twitter for conversation is that we need more than 140 characters to make a genuine connection with someone. So you're not going to have a whole conversation there; Twitter is great for finding people who have similar ideas, and for keeping track of them in a superficial way.

But you still need to go elsewhere—offline or online—to solidify the relationship to the point where you would actually care about each other in the way a solid network connection does, but Twitter is a good start.

Lie #3: Blogs are personal journals.

Your blog is a record of what you're thinking, and that record will represent you online, as a high-ranking search result when someone googles your name. So if you care about building a network, you'll stop using your blog as a diary.

Your blog is intellectual exercise for you—to keep yourself thinking in a disciplined way about things that interest you. And it's an intellectual exercise for other people—to follow your thought process and decide if they'd like to engage you in conversation. The blogosphere is a cocktail party for the intelligentsia without J Brand jeans or Jimmy Choo shoes. It's just ideas, bouncing back and forth, and you're deciding who to talk to.

I know I'm always telling people to stop worrying about what their blog is going to be and to just start blogging. I say this assuming that you understand that a blog is a networking tool. It's one of the most important ways you can create career stability, by being who you are and connecting with people who like you for who you are. Your blog is a career-management dream-come-true.

Lie #4: Social media is no place for business.

The most common thing idiots say to me about my company is that we are never going to make money. But, we already do. Because companies definitely understand the need to leverage social media to meet their bottom-line goals. And my company helps them do that.

Companies understand they need to participate in conversation, and they are looking a professional places to do it. If you want to be known to companies, you will use social media to allow them to get to know you. (Wait. This just in. Government agencies get it as well! Check out the TSA’s stellar use of social media. A mommy blogger wrote a post accusing airport security of taking her son from her during a security check. TSA disputed her claim by posting video of woman and her son on the TSA blog. The mommy blogger published an apology.)

Which brings me to the seven-second rule. Someone who just met you for the first time, in person, will give you about three seconds to impress them. So you are very careful to show your best first impression in this situation. You already know this.

The same is true online. You probably get ten seconds instead of seven seconds, but the person will google your name, looking for something relevant in the top results, and click. If they are not impressed in the first ten seconds, they won't keep reading about you.

If they go to Facebook, you have no idea what they'll find out about you because so many people write on your wall about unprofessional things. If they end up at LinkedIn and you have a relatively shallow level of experience, you will not look good next to the typical LinkedIn user who is 40 years old, earning more than 0K, and has 15 years of experience.

So where do you want people to meet you for the first time online? Somewhere they can hear you talking about ideas. For bloggers, this is often a blog URL.

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