Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Taking the first steps: content is everything

Posted in social networking and business by Timothy Platt on October 1, 2009

This posting is a continuation of a series I started with my September 29, 2009 “Taking the first steps” posting and it focuses on how to proceed once you have planned out precisely who you are trying to reach by demographic group and community, and for what.

Marketing and market analysis can bring people to your storefront in the brick and mortar world, or to your web site, blog, social networking profile etc. in cyberspace, but even the best marketing per se cannot in and of itself prompt that visitor to stay and do business with you, let alone come back again to give you repeat business. In cyberspace and its various venues that means converting those first time page hits and site visits into something more, and the only way you can do that is with the content your offer, and your presentation of that content in effective layout and format Here, content is everything.

There are some really obvious sides to this. It is not a good idea, for example, to put things into your Facebook page and on your Facebook wall as a student, sharing with fellow students that would come back to haunt you when looking for a job a year later. The things we put online do persist and as any politician who has found themselves facing, what in retrospect is an indiscretion, could tell you it can all come back to light again and at any time. There are even sites that archive and present old versions of web sites, etc that have been replaced and updated. None of it goes away completely, ever. So what you do not put up can be as important as what you do post.

What you do put up counts too, and I will cite an all too common form of this here, by way of example, citing online social networking sites and their profile posting capabilities.

Many people sign up for sites like LinkedIn and they may even try building a little network there, contacting people they know already who are on the site to exchange connection links. But they never, ever add any real detail to their profiles. This means, among other things, that there is nothing there that anyone could find them by using the search tools that the networking site offers. So if you are an expert at X, some important but relatively uncommon skill and you have impressive credentials for having worked at X and you are an active member of the professional association for experts in X but none of this is in your profile, no one using that social networking site to try to find people like you will ever even get to know you exist, at least through the site. And then a lot of people who do not put up effective, information-rich profiles that really support their goals and priorities for networking in the first place wonder what the fuss is all about. After all, social networking has not done anything for them – given them any new business.

I do not claim to have either the best or the worst LinkedIn profile but I have maintained it to try and keep it relatively up to date and current and I have written and maintained it with the objective of offering a profile that is useful to me as an online brochure for what I do. Once again, I am careful with what I do not show, such as consulting client names (for confidentiality reasons), and I am equally careful in what I do show. And I have collected some online recommendations that in effect validate what I write about myself as a self-assessment. It is always important to do that as self-assessments can never be as effective as third party endorsements. Selective use of the special features and posting options of the site can come into play here too. LinkedIn, for example offers a Q&A forum where members can post questions to the LinkedIn community, and respond to questions that others have posted. I have responded to 23 of these questions and I have been selected as having offered best answers/expert responses 15 times. This adds to my credibility on LinkedIn and makes me a more attractive option when someone looking for people with my skills and experiences finds my profile.

I did not cite that last detail regarding the LinkedIn Q&A to brag in any way but rather to highlight that a well reasoned and carefully written response, or alternative a really good, penetrating question posted can convey a very powerful message and it can validate what you say you can do with proof that others can read and in effect see in action.

Do you have an online social networking profile and supporting content offerings? Make sure they work for you and that you are going to be comfortable with what they say moving forward. Do you blog? Make sure that represents a positive image too, where you can develop and maintain a blog to develop contacts who know you are an expert at what you do and come back every day or so to keep up on what you are doing. Do you tweet and instant message? This is a lot more ephemeral than web site, networking profile or blog content but once again, you are sending out messages that tell a back-story about who you are and what you do and can do. So if you tweet or IM for business reasons, and certainly if you do this explicitly with marketing in mind, you need to do so with care as to content.

I will just add one more point to this posting, and this one with Twitter and IM as a working example but it applies to all online social networking. If you are an attorney and are explicitly marketing and demonstrating your fluency in legalese then go ahead and do that. Otherwise, you have to find that fine line between being overly controlled in what you write and in meaning one thing as you send out something else. This is very important with a medium like IM and tweeting as you are limited to 140 characters per message, they are immediate, pretty much real time communication, and it is easy to misstate or miscommunicate when online chatting on the fly. So you want to get the content right and still not sound like the fine print on the back of an auto loan contract. And speaking with your own, real voice also means presenting yourself in terms easy and natural for the audience you are trying to reach, so they will be receptive to you and to your message.

One final thought – if you currently have a blank social networking profile, start with that and start with your best-version resume so you can mine it for content. Just get going and refine it from there. I add I really invite comments on this posting and particularly if you would like to share a little from your own experience in developing an effective content and voice in your online social networking.

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