Second in a series of three blog posts, this post highlights content from our session “Take Your Thought Leadership to the Next Level” at the recent Trailblazer Summit, where about 150 Trailblazers from around the world gathered for two days to network and learn about how to take their community leadership to the next level.
Attention is a scarce resource. Despite the conveniences of modern life, we are just plain busy — which makes it difficult for you to scale your personal brand. But, with the help of social media, you can capture the attention of and truly connect with your audience.
Over the past decade, I’ve learned a lot about social media and how to use it to build my personal brand as a Trailblazer, and I’m excited to share this knowledge with you. In this post, I will review the platforms you should use, how you should use them, and the benefits you can expect to receive.
Here are a few reasons why social media and thought leadership work together so well.
Social media gives you the ability to reach millions of people and grow your network. It is the closest we have ever been to the democratized sharing of ideas, where content is king and barriers to entry are low.
Never underestimate the power of a retweet. By re-sharing, commenting, and liking the messages of others, you can share valuable ideas and information with your community that may have otherwise gone unnoticed. Not everyone has a huge following or the confidence to broadcast widely; you can help them spread important ideas.
People like to help others, and social media is a great platform to build a supportive community. Often in the Trailblazer Community, people ask for life advice, technical help, and job placement inquiries. Even if your direct followers can’t help you with a question you have, they may know someone who can. And vice versa — if you can help someone, it feels great to chime in with an answer and make someone’s day.
By following a curated group of people, organizations, lists, or hashtags, you can funnel information you need to make informed decisions about your life and your career, and be “in the know” about upcoming events and opportunities relevant to you.
If you can’t attend an event in person, you can participate via social media by following the live stream or the event hashtag. By keeping up with the perspectives and interpretations of an event via the social posts of those in attendance, you can get a good sense of what it’s like to be there.
As explained in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, human beings need to feel a sense of belonging. Social media can open the doors to new communities and friendships both in the virtual and real world. It can be particularly useful for introverts, as it is really easy to jump in and out of as needed without feeling drained from being around too many people.
This is perhaps the best benefit I’ve received from social media over the years. When you share things about yourself on social media, other people begin to get a sense of who you are before they even meet you. So if you eventually meet in person, you feel like you already know them. I’ve been on both ends of the pre-introduction effect, and it can be an incredible booster for real-world connections.
If you are new to social media, or new to it in the context of a certain community like the Salesforce community, I recommend starting with one or two platforms to get a sense of what they are like, and what differentiates them from each other.
Nowadays, there’s channel overload which makes it nearly impossible to be active on every channel at once. If you find one or two that work well for you, focus your efforts there!
Over time you will find certain channels are better for different segments of the ecosystem you are in. But I can’t stress enough to just try one and see how you like it; if it doesn’t work for you, move on to the next one — don’t feel like you need to be on all of them. In the long run, you’ll gain a sense of what platforms are available along with some deeper expertise on a subset of those channels.
Personally, I like to use Twitter to stay on top of the Salesforce ecosystem, but other folks prefer the Trailblazer Community, LinkedIn, or Facebook — all of these are viable options.
Everyone has unique gifts to bring to the table. Be yourself, but also experiment with how you express yourself. Words, emojis, photos, videos, audio, and hyperlinks, either alone or in any combination, are powerful building blocks you can use to convey any idea. Experiment with posting a variety of content like poetry, professional videos, memes, authentic selfie videos, inspirational quotes, surveys, photography, and more. Over time you will discover your voice and finesse it along the way. Don’t worry if you can’t master things like video. It’s much better to be really good at one thing than not so good at everything.
Like most things in life, hard work is a key ingredient to building your brand on social. Put in the time, engage with your followers, test different types of posts, and you will get the results.
Make sure to provide more value than you ask for. Pick a ratio like 10:1 or 3:1. For example, share three inspiring messages before advertising your upcoming meetup. Once you get the hang of it, it doesn’t need to be this precise or mechanical. But the ratio can be a good tool to help train yourself in the beginning. Make sure people are getting something for the attention they are giving you, and they’ll keep coming back.
The social media space is always changing. Play around with new features, apps, and functionality, and experiment with how you’re using them to engage your community.
When you are at an event, keep in mind there are other people who want to be there but can’t. Do your best to make them feel like they are there. Think about it from your perspective and what you might want to see if you couldn’t be there. Share photos (like the example below from Trailblazer Summit), videos, helpful summaries, and links to related content. Even a simple live video of a keynote can be super beneficial for someone else.
You need to put in the time each day or week to be effective on social media. If you’re only active for five minutes once a month, you’ll find it difficult to get much out of it or provide much value to others. When you establish a regular cadence of posts, you’ll accustom your audience to hearing from you and they’ll return for more content.
Social media is becoming very saturated, so anything you can do to stand out will really help you to cut through the noise. Posting high quality, creative, well-timed, and authentic content are all ways to stand out and get noticed. For example, a photo taken with a DSLR and a zoom lens may look much better than a smartphone snapshot. When people are scrolling quickly through their feed, your content may cause them to pause and take notice. Or instead of sharing something that is purely factual, consider weaving in some cultural references just like marketers do to bring another dimension to what you’re sharing.
You can enrich your life by making new connections, opening doors, and helping others when you use social media. It has connected me to people around the world, given me the chance to help others with coding issues, landed me in a private airplane hangar with Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google, introduced me to new customers, given me the chance to hear business pitches, and provide advice to the Trailblazer community.