5 Tips for Building Your Social Media Identity

Social media has been and continues to be an incredible platform on which to build and improve a professional brand. But while the American Bar Association’s (ABA) most recent Legal Technology Survey indicates that lawyers are beginning to experiment with social media more than ever, for more risk-averse individuals, navigating the social media waters remains a daunting task. That’s likely due to social media mistakes, which are incredibly public and often lead to salacious headlines and high page views for news and gossip sites alike.

In 2009, a Florida lawyer blogged about a Fort Lauderdale Judge, calling her “An evil, unfair witch.” The lawyer was reprimanded by the Florida Bar and issued a fine.

In 2012, a Miami public defender – really, again Florida? – posted a picture of her client’s underwear to Facebook, with the caption, “proper court attire.” The trial, a murder case, was declared a mistrial.

These mistakes are not just reserved for those in the legal industry. In 2013, Justine Sacco, a senior director of corporate communications, sent an ill-advised tweet just prior to boarding a flight from London to South Africa.

Justine Sacco Tweet
In 2013, Communications Director Justine Sacco lost her job and became a worldwide trending topic for her ill-advised tweet.

Sacco became a worldwide trending topic on Twitter in the hours that followed, all while mid-flight and completely unaware of her public gaffe. Her subsequent firing, and battle to regain her reputation, was recently profiled by the New York Times.

Stories like these are popular Internet fodder and serve as a warning to everyone who uses social media on a daily or even occasional basis. But you shouldn’t be scared away from social media by these horror stories. Here are five tips that will help you start building a healthy and professional social media identity today.

Set Your Goals

Before venturing into the world of social media, it’s important to ask yourself what your goals are for the medium. Do you want to be seen as an industry thought leader? Build your network? Attract new clients? Land your next job?

Having a plan for social media will help you choose which networks to join, which networks to focus the bulk of your attention on, and what types of content to share.

Start Small

There are dozens of popular social networks out there, each with its strengths, weaknesses, unique audience, and level of complexity. This can lead to confusion and paralysis when determining what and where to post content.

If you are just getting started with social media, start small with a few of the more well-known and established social networks. By focusing on establishing a consistent presence on a few select networks, you’ll avoid spreading yourself too thin, which often results in inactive, inconsistent, and outdated social media accounts.

Listen First

With each new social network you join, it’s important to observe network best practices before barraging your followers with status updates. Search for and connect with colleagues, mentors, or industry leaders on each network. Then, observe those users and try to answer some of the following questions:

  • What types of content do users share?
  • What types of content seems most popular?
  • How do successful users balance conversational and promotional content?
  • Do users frequently use hashtags?
  • How often are users typically posting?

As you answer the questions above, you should gain a general feel for the culture of the network. Once you understand the proper etiquette on a respective network, feel free to get started with your own updates.

Ultimately, whatever your goal on social media is, remember that the key word in social media is social.

It’s OK To Show Personality

This tip is likely to be the most nerve-wracking piece of advice in this article, but trust me when I say that showing a little personality can go a long way. Whether your goal is to build new relationships or land your next job, showing some personality can improve your odds of success.

As Technical.ly Philly founder, Christopher Wink, wisely stated in a recent visit to Temple Law, “people like people”. With that idea in mind, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that personality is one of the top five things recruiters look for when researching a potential employee on social media.

Social media offers an opportunity to demonstrate your personality beyond a networking event or job interview. So post that photo of your latest culinary masterpiece or snap a picture of yourself admiring the scenery on your latest vacation. Be personable. Be interesting. Be authentic.

Always Be Tweaking

Finally, always remember your ABTs. Social media moves fast, and it can be overwhelming to try and keep up with new networks and features. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t periodically look at your social media activity and adapt your content to better meet your goals.

For example, you might find that posts with images perform better than text-only updates, or that posts about current events generate more engagement and need to adjust accordingly. Social media, and the technology that powers it, is constantly evolving. You need to be evolving too.

Bonus Tip

Ultimately, whatever your goal on social media is, keep in mind that the key word in social media is social. When you’re publishing on social media, you’re really just interacting with other people. If you can handle that, I think you’ll be satisfied with the return on your investment.

Stephen App is the Assistant Director of Communications and Admissions at Temple Law School. He earned his BA in Communications from Stonehill College and his MS in Communication Management from Temple University. You can find him on Linkedin at linkedin.com/in/stephenapp and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/stephenapp.


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