Your personal experience with social media informs your professional use

Your personal use of social media informs how you use it professionally or as a volunteer. You can not possibly expect to use social media to benefit your organization or business if you are unfamiliar with how it works for you as a person. I am speaking from my own experience.

I reluctantly joined Facebook. I didn’t see the point in connecting with people online but as it grew exponentially I realized that as a professional communicator I needed to understand how Facebook worked and the possibilities that it held for my employers. I was especially interested in seeing if it could help me reach my organization’s target audiences cost-effectively. By joining, I got a firsthand look at how people connected and interacted. After a while, I was able to identify that (at that time) the best way to bring people together was as a group. Later, I learned about how the introduction of pages enhanced how an organization connected with people. I also experienced how news feeds work and gained insights into how to make sure pages remained relevant to “fans” and continued to grow.

I was even more reluctant to join Twitter. At least on Facebook, I had real friends and family. I didn’t care to know what strangers were doing all day long. But during the 2008 presidential election, it became obvious that Twitter was a force that could not be ignored. It was an integral part of the success of Barrack Obama and a key way that television was engaging viewers. Again, I felt the need to understand what all the fuss was about and the opportunities it presented.

Now Twitter is the only social media tool that I consider to be indispensable. I quickly discovered that the power of Twitter was not in telling people what I was doing or reading about what they were doing. The power was in telling people what I thought, what I cared about passionately and getting others to join me in making my community and our world a better place to live. I also realized that the 140 character limit was just the tip of the iceberg as many of the best people to follow provided links to where they shared their expertise or helped to identify where substance could be found online. By following people that knew social media and communications, I tapped into the best source of professional development I have ever found. But I also realized how Twitter’s greatest benefit is to help establish relationships or enhance existing ones. I determined that it was a natural extension of the community building work my organization was doing and chose to add it to my mix of communications tools.

Twitter eventually connected me with the blogosphere. I realized that I had more to say than I could say in a tweet, by retweeting others or by connecting people to other’s thoughts. And because I had established a community of followers on Twitter, my personal blog Perspectives from King and Ottawa quickly found a following. By using it to try to shape my community, I learned how it could make an impact especially when combined with my use of Twitter and Facebook. As a result, my blog has now established its own community of readers–a community that has helped to shape what is said and shared. On a very practical level, my personal blog introduced me to the blogging tools such as WordPress that are available and the high quality website/blogs that could be created–at no cost!

So when I decided to launch my own communications firm, I knew the power of social media and how to harness it. I knew for example that I could build my own website/blog that presented my firm professionally. I also knew that a Twitter account was indispensable to  presenting myself as an expert in communications and social media. As well, I knew I needed a business page on LinkedIn for my professional network and a page on Facebook for my personal network. I also understood going in that I couldn’t expect any quick wins taking this route but that over time these tools, as a part of my ongoing behaviour as a communicator, can help me achieve my objectives.

My cumulative experience with social media personally, for my last employer and now running my own communication firm has given me insights that I am now sharing with others. I am able to do so because I knew that I needed to have a personal experience with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and blogging. I understood inherently that if I was going to take advantage of the opportunities they presented to connect people as a communicator that I needed to know how they connected me to the world.

While I continue to have a personal presence on social media, my use of it professionally continues to informed by my personal use. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell the two apart. A case in point is Social Media Breakfast: Waterloo Region which I run with a team of other volunteers. I believe its early success is more of a result of what I have done personally and the connections I have made as a result than professionally. In fact, it is a side project that is not a part of my business. Yet, I can’t deny that being involved in organizing it helps me professionally. So is it personal or professional? Does it make a difference?

Just keep in mind, the best way to learn about social media is to do it for yourself and then use your experience at work or as a volunteer.  It helps too that its a whole lot better to learn from your mistakes from your personal use.

More on the connection between personal and professional use of social media

The connection between the personal and professional use of social media has influenced our choices for Social Media Breakfast topics–and why these sessions are accessible to both the person dipping their toe into the water as they are for those fully immersed. A great example is the next Social Media Breakfast: Waterloo Region which features a panel of individuals who have used social media to build communities online that have made an impact on the real world or have used social media to enhance real life communities. In general, they have not been paid for their community building but I am sure that their personal use of social media has informed how they use it professionally or as volunteers. Join us and see how you can learn how to make social media work for you and your organization.