Make Some Noise: Why You Must Use Social Media to Reach Your Goals

What is it that makes you an excellent candidate for that dream job? Deep inside you are certain that this is the fit for you. But does the interviewer sitting across the table know it too?

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This situation feels very familiar to me, having been on the job market several times. During my undergraduate studies, I hoped for internships each summer (4 times). While completing my BS, MS, PhD, and Post Doc I investigated full-time positions at each break. During every interview the same question arises:

Interviewer: “What interests you about this industry?”
Me: “Things, so many things. I can’t list just one!”

These experiences taught me that while we are in school, we should spend time thinking about our place in the world. We should be building our place in the world.

Success, Today

People succeed when they possess industry-specific technical talent and form genuine human connections. Every student should create a genuine online presence.

Seth Godin points out (correctly) that the Industrial Economy has given way to the Connection Economy. You don’t have to look far to see it. The automotive industry’s big new feature this year isn’t gas mileage, power, or capacity. Its built-in LTE wifi.

In a Connected Economy, people who follow directions are easily replaced by someone just as effective, but cheaper. On the other hand, irreplaceable people create human connections that cause someone to change their mind.

“Depth of knowledge is rarely sufficient, all by itself, to turn someone into an [indispensable artist]… Art is a human connection that causes someone to change his mind… The more people you change, the more you change them, the more effective your art is.” – Seth Godin, Linchpin, assembled quotations

This imperative crosses all industries: authors, engineers, and cashiers all must demonstrate an ability to move beyond technical work and perform emotional work as well. The only way to demonstrate that you are capable of creating these human connections is to do it.

”You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.” – Henry Ford

The days of isolated interviews in which you rattle off answers to HR-approved questions are gone. With the enormous number of students graduating college each year, companies have their pick of talented individuals. Now they seek (in addition to technical talent):

  1. “Notes of recommendation from three people I know and respect
  2. A past project I can review
  3. Media buzz about what that person has already done
  4. Leadership of a group on a social networking site
  5. A regular blog that is compelling and engaging
  6. A high EQ (Emotional Quotient) vs a high IQ
    Don’t have these things? Then why would someone see you as an outstanding candidate?” – Dan Miller, 48 Days to the Work You Love

I’ll give you a hint: you won’t find these items in a lecture, homework assignment, or test. You must connect. Your dream job is being offered to someone who did.

Its Time, Right Now to Build Your Place On the Web

This three step plan will get you connected to the community in your industry of choice.

  1. Create a blog. This is your digital home on the web, if someone wants to know more about you, this is where they land.
  2. Create social media profiles. Several popular/effective platforms are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. On each platform, join/create groups that center on topics that matter to you.
  3. Contribute regularly, with substance. Create new content (blog posts, digital portfolio of projects). Share your new content (via social profiles, let your people know you’re contributing). Share other’s content (via social profiles, recognize great ideas and help your followers access resources you found useful). React to others’ content (comment on blogs, respond to social posts).

Its never too soon to start, but it can be too late.

Your goal is to demonstrate a track record of engagement with important topics and people who are actually working on them. Think: Digital Portfolio. The conversation is happening, participate! You will interact with the movers and shakers of your industry. And as a bonus, you’ll have a chance to frame genuine answers to the question, “How are you interested in [insert field here]?” Remember,

“Thoughts disentangle themselves when they pass through the lips and fingertips.” – Dawson Trotman

What can you do today to start building your community? How are these uses for social media different from the ways you use social media now? Leave a comment below.

5 Painful Mistakes New Bloggers Make

Blogging can feel like a chore. Writing is heavy mental labor, and we want to see a reward for our efforts. Unfortunately, most new bloggers begin with the same five engagement-limiting mistakes.

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I’m a long blogger. My friends are long bloggers. My older posts were l-o-n-g. 2,579 words. A 4-part series with each post at least 1,500 words. As a result I wrote a measly 17 posts over 3 years.

I had a hard time getting started, as I pictured the gargantuan task of finishing. My posts were highly irregular and so was my number of readers. The problem with writing this way is that it leads to monologues instead of conversations. Monologues that are few and far between.

We’ve all read a long post. There is so much content that it makes it hard to respond. I’ve been drafting a follow up to a friend’s long post for 6 months! Almost every new blogger makes 5 mistakes that add work and cause lower engagement from their readers. Bloggers should eliminate these mistakes immediately.

Mistake 1: Writing posts that are too long. Solution: aim for 500-700 words.

Long posts are interesting because they can deeply explore a topic. But they are harder to read. They include so much material that readers can’t figure out which nugget they want to respond to. Think firehose.

We tend to feel the need to cover every aspect of our thinking about a topic in a single post. The fear of leaving something out can cause people to never publish. Instead, write small posts with one central idea that people can discuss easier. Then publish more frequently. You’ll find more people reading more of your ideas.

Things like blogging have an interesting property: the more regularly you post the more traffic you see. A short post several days each week is better than one long post every few weeks. Don’t believe me? Check out Seth Godin.

Now for the fun part for you “long bloggers”: write one long post and break it into several stand alone pieces that link to each other. Then, instead of publishing right away, use a service like WordPress to schedule your posts to release on a regular basis. You can publish one every day, or every other day, with no extra input on your part. You’ll see more people engage.

Mistake 2: Too much text. Solution: Make your posts more scannable.

Everyone is turned off by a wall of text. Use short paragraphs, simple sentences, bullet points and lists. Think white space. The more the better.

Mistake 3: No invitation for the reader to participate. Solution: End your posts with an italicized question inviting comments.

Something open-ended that grabs people and makes them want to share.

Mistake 4: No invitation for the reader to share. Solution: Add social media share buttons.

Not in an obnoxious place, but certainly prominent.

Mistake 5: Not sharing your own posts. Solution: Advertise a little.

People shrink away from this one. We feel egotistical when we self-promote. Here’s an attitude shift that may help: Write things that you truly believe matter to someone. If you’re producing content that is meaningful or helpful, then the selfish thing would be NOT to share it.

Share links to new posts with a snippet or picture on social media. Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn and such. Even if only your family reads it, a liked link invites the network effect to begin. Who knows what friend of a friend works at your dream company and clicks to read.

The Bottom Line

The large majority of bloggers give up after a few months. The main reason is that they make it too much work and they reap little reward in the form of engagement. I know you’re excited about that idea that leads to a 2000-word post. But hold some back. Most of your initial posts will probably become entire categories of posts in the future.

What blogging habits have you unintentionally picked up that are sabotaging your ability to consistently produce quality content? Share in a comment below.