Monday, April 20, 2009

Online Communities - Managing your Personal Brand

Do you twit-blog the interscape? Do you or your organization distribute information through the comprehensive and amazing medium of an "online blog website"? Do you have an account on the new social networking tool Bookface? Perhaps you employ these mediums as a means of connecting with friends, or maybe you're a "pyjama job hunter" (someone who looks for work by emailing job applications through rather than physically connecting with people), or maybe you've got a blog and/or an ex-boyfriend you follow and/or stalk through Twitter.

Whatever the case. However you do it. The vast majority of people today have some kind of online presence.

Here are some amazing findings relating to our online community's behaviour:

Twitter is arguably the hottest thing in new media. Usage is up 752% since December 2008. Last month, about 7.7 million people used the professional social networking site LinkedIn (being mindful of these tough economic times, if you haven't already, get on there and get connected). If Facebook was a country, it would be the eighth largest in the world. Speaking of Facebook, did you know that 20% of Facebook users do not use
any privacy settings? And of the users who do use some or all of their privacy setting, last year nearly one-quarter of them still shared their telephone numbers. Nearly 50% of users concerned with divulging their political views still posted them. And nearly 20% of Facebook users employing their "top" privacy setting.

So, would you like a job one day? Or maybe you fancy yourself as the next Gregor, Gordo, Merkel, or Obama. Maybe your family's opinion of you is the most important thing in the world. Get this. About 25% of graduates from 50 countries say there is something about them online that they do not want their parents or employer to see. And, last year in North America, 83% of employers searched online to learn more about applicants. Of job-applicants who were dismissed in 2008, 43% were turned away because of what recruiters found online.

So that's the game. But how should we play in it?

For students and young people:

- According to the Vancouver Sun's Mitch Joel, "the amazing thing about developing your personal brand in a world of online social networks and blogging is that you can home in and really focus on meeting and connecting with those that have shared values."
- You can be social and professional, people. Trust me, employers, recruiters and friends alike want to make sure you separate work and pleasure. Man, no one wants to check out a Facebook profile that looks like a resume. It's just not fun. Now, you should still strive to build an amazing social and personal brand by using Facebook. Check this out:
- I have a lot of students who are smarter than me. One of them sent me this link to Guy Kawasaki's blog, which outlines 11 key ways to use LinkedIn to connect with professionals in your field. In these tough economic times, take full advantage of this advice!
- Long story short. Having fun is important. Being social is important. Being classy is important, too. Maybe leave the funnel out of the picture next time, dude.

For teachers and counsellors and parents:

- Teach and encourage your students/kids about the concept of Link Love. Get them to collaborate in a positive way and to connect their online communities. The more things written about people and groups, the more "searchable" they become. And when the "link love" is positive, once a group or individual is found, say, by Google, their online brand will be well-received by its audience.
- One of the reasons Generation Y is incredibly useless when it comes to comprehending the implications of putting career and socially damaging photos and information online is because they have not been taught proper online community etiquette from their parents and role models. I mean, Shaquille O'Neal is a Twitter MVP, but that doesn't mean he should replace you/us, parents and teachers. We need to get involved, too.
- First step, get your kids/students to explain to you how an online community works!

For employers and recruiters:

- Is Facebook reflective of a new way of doing business? Find another tool that can put a grassroots movement or a cool new product past the tipping point on a global scale in a more collaborative way in a shorter amount of time. There probably isn't one.
- With our global networks expanding at lightspeed, this figure has never seemed so real. Organizations must be sure to utilize internal and external social networks to attract, engage and retain top talent. Spreading your company's brand through the word of mouth of an elaborate global network, after all, is pretty powerful stuff.
- Recent findings show that a cross-section of industry experts believe that the majority of employers suggest several HR professionals see the world of work transitioning from a "machine" to a "community" and from a hierarchical system of management to one that is more reflective of a social network. If the medium is the message, what do employers today need to know about Facebook and Web 2.0? Probably lots.

The Globe and Mail
recently profiled the, um, online profiles of Gordon Campbell and Carole James. Like much else in British Columbia's election, neither candidate showcases the stuff of inspiration. When managing one's online presence, it's of course important to be sincere, authentic and to have integrity (in the article, the closest Ms. James or Mr. Campbell got to being authentic was when Mr. Campbell chose a quote from the author of Faust, Wolfgang von Goethe, perhaps all too reflective of devilish deals politicians and their ilk have forever made). With so much noisy information clogging the series of pipes and tubes that make up the internet, those of us twitblogging are way through it must also strive to be unique, interesting and entertaining in addition to being sincere. Whether you're a student, educator, employer, or politician, think about how you`ll be adding value to the experience of those connecting to your online community.

We here are The Gumboot add value by talking about pirates, communal nudity and cutting edge architecture way before fringe media groups like the CBC or up-and-coming politicians like this guy Stephen Harper do. Some people talk about what's already cool. We make it cool.

And that's how you manage an online presence. It's a beautiful thing!



Nancy said...

Excellent post. I'm super anal about what I put out there. Some of the things I see people doing make me cringe!

Jo said...

Great post John. I'm just starting this linkedin thing, seems like a useful tool!

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