P.Mean: Using Social Media to promote your consulting career (created 2011-08-01).

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I am leading a roundtable discussion of using Social Media to promote your consulting career. Here are some things that I plan to discuss.

I want to start with an icebreaker. When and where did you first start using the Internet? Was it email? Was it FTP? Was it the World Wide Web? Was it "Angry Birds" on your iPhone? I first started using the Internet in the early 1990s. I used email a lot, with some Gopher and FTP applications and this new fangled thing called the World Wide Web.

Also, what is the most "exotic" thing you have done on the web? I've editted a few Wikipedia pages, though I'm not sure it's all that exotic.

I then want to present a few definitions, borrowed from Wikipedia. Even if the definitions are not commonly agreed upon, they open up the floor for discussion. I follow these definitions with my subjective opinions about what represents the two key defining features in these definitions.

Web 2.0 is "Web applications that facilitate participatory information sharing, interoperability, user-centered design, and collaboration on the World Wide Web." The two key defining features of Web 2.0 are
--> ease of content creation, and
--> ease of collaboration.

Social media? "The use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into interactive dialogue. Andreas Kaplan and Michael Haenlein define social media as "a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content." The two key defining features of social media are
--> building a network of friends, connections, or followers, and
--> bi-directional commentary.

A blog "(a blend of the term web log) is a type of website or part of a website. Blogs are usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order. Blog can also be used as a verb, meaning to maintain or add content to a blog. Most blogs are interactive, allowing visitors to leave comments and even message each other via widgets on the blogs and it is this interactivity that distinguishes them from other static websites." The two key features of a blog are
--> primary ordering of content by date, and
--> open commentary from your audience.

A webinar is "a presentation, lecture, workshop or seminar that is transmitted over the Web, specifically a portmanteau of web & seminar, to describe a specific type of web conference. Some argue that webinars might be one-way, from the speaker to the audience with limited audience interaction, so one-way broadcasts are perhaps more accurately called webcasts. Webinars themselves may be more collaborative and include polling and question & answer sessions to allow full participation between the audience and the presenter. In some cases, the presenter may speak over a standard telephone line, while pointing out information being presented onscreen, and the audience can respond over their own telephones, speaker phones allowing the greatest comfort and convenience. There are web conferencing technologies on the market that have incorporated the use of VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) audio technology, to allow for a completely web-based communication. Depending upon the provider, webinars may provide hidden or anonymous participant functionality, making participants unaware of other participants in the same meeting." The two key features of webinars are
--> remote viewing of audio and video of your talk, and
--> ability to ask questions (usually by keyboard).

Facebook is "a social networking service and website launched in February 2004, operated and privately owned by Facebook, Inc. As of July 2011, Facebook has more than 750 million active users. Users may create a personal profile, add other users as friends, and exchange messages, including automatic notifications when they update their profile. Facebook users must register before using the site. Additionally, users may join common-interest user groups, organized by workplace, school or college, or other characteristics. The name of the service stems from the colloquial name for the book given to students at the start of the academic year by university administrations in the United States to help students get to know each other better. Facebook allows any users who declare themselves to be at least 13 years old to become registered users of the website." Two key features of Facebook are
--> the wall, and
--> the "Like" button

LinkedIn "is a business-related social networking site. Founded in December 2002 and launched in May 2003, it is mainly used for professional networking. One purpose of the site is to allow registered users to maintain a list of contact details of people with whom they have some level of relationship, called Connections. Users can invite anyone (whether a site user or not) to become a connection. However, if the recipient of an invitation selects "I don't know", this counts against the person inviting them, and after five such "IDKs" a member cannot invite another to connect without first supplying their recipient mail address." The two key features of LinkedIn are
--> building connections and gaining introductions.
--> posting resumes and job openings.

Twitter is "a website, owned and operated by Twitter Inc., which offers a social networking and microblogging service, enabling its users to send and read messages called tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters displayed on the user's profile page."
--> the broad range of ways to send and receive tweets, and
--> the ability to RT (retweet).

An electronic mailing list "is a special usage of email that allows for widespread distribution of information to many Internet users. It is similar to a traditional mailing list — a list of names and addresses — as might be kept by an organization for sending publications to its members or customers, but typically refers to four things — a list of email addresses, the people ("subscribers") receiving mail at those addresses, the publications (email messages) sent to those addresses, and a reflector, which is a single email address that, when designated as the recipient of a message, will send a copy of that message to all of the subscribers."

A website, "also written Web site, web site, or simply site, is a collection of related web pages containing images, videos or other digital assets. A website is hosted on at least one web server, accessible via a network such as the Internet or a private local area network through an Internet address known as a Uniform Resource Locator. All publicly accessible websites collectively constitute the World Wide Web. A web page is a document, typically written in plain text interspersed with formatting instructions of Hypertext Markup Language (HTML, XHTML). A web page may incorporate elements from other websites with suitable markup anchors." The two key features of a website are:
--> the ability to link within your website and to outside website, and
--> the ease of combining text and graphics on a single page.

Email marketing "is a form of direct marketing which uses electronic mail as a means of communicating commercial or fund-raising messages to an audience. In its broadest sense, every email sent to a potential or current customer could be considered email marketing. However, the term is usually used to refer to: sending email messages with the purpose of enhancing the relationship of a merchant with its current or previous customers, to encourage customer loyalty and repeat business, sending email messages with the purpose of acquiring new customers or convincing current customers to purchase something immediately, adding advertisements to email messages sent by other companies to their customers, and sending email messages over the Internet, as email did and does exist outside the Internet (e.g., network email and FIDO)."

It would be a mistake to ignore non-computer methods of promoting your career.
--> word of mouth
--> writing a book
--> giving talks
--> volunteering

If you use social media to promote your career, you need to worry about blatant commercial pitches and flaming. If you are perceived as engaging in either activity, you will get a ton of bad publicity and you might get banned from further participation. You should look at whether your efforts have a synergistic direction towards a common goal. Also, be liberal about sharing personal information. Finally, find an empty niche and fill it with content.

Blatant commercial pitches (often mistakenly labelled spam) are an unacceptably overt attempt to promote something. The word "blatant" of course is relative. Things that make a pitch blatant are:
--> Excessive length
--> Explicit discussion of money
--> Irrelevance to the current discussion.

If you keep things brief, non-commercial, and on-topic, that will avoid criticism. Every Internet venue is different. You can be more blatant on your own website than on someone else's blog. LinkedIn seems (at least to me) to be more open to commercial pitches than Facebook.

Flaming is an angry comment posted in an email or another electronic mode of communication. Although flaming is quite common in the Internet world, you should avoid it at all possible costs. Never put anything negative in an email. Avoid rude language and insults. AVOID COMMENTS IN ALL CAPS. If an Internet venue is too rough for your tastes, find a different venue.

Think synergy. Rather than trying to do it all and spreading yourself too thin, pick a primary venue. Use other Internet venues to supplement and to promote your primary venue. For example, I place most of my attention on my website. I use Facebook and Twitter mostly to announce new pages and new Internet resources on my website. My email newsletter borrows heavily from content on my website and crosslinks to key web pages. My talks are usually web pages that I print and pass out as handouts. I routinely attach my website to my email signature (though I adjust the brevity to the norms of the Internet venue).

Don't be afraid to get a little bit personal. A lot of people try very hard to separate their professional and personal lives, but I think it is a good idea to let a little of your personal life spill into your professional life and vice versa. My interactions with clients are enhanced when they ask about my latest vacation, or what my son Nicholas is doing in Cub Scouts.Also personal friends are always a potential source of business, so if they know a bit about what I do when I'm not clogging, they can refer potential leads to me. Tread carefully, of course, in areas of religion and politics.

Finally, find an empty niche and fill it with content. Some examples of niches (already filled, unfortunately) are
--> SPSS macros: http://www.spsstools.net/
--> One R tip a Day: http://onertipaday.blogspot.com/
--> Silly charts: http://ilovecharts.tumblr.com/BenGreenman
--> Bayesian Biology: http://twitter.com/#!/CjBayesian

Here are some questions for discussion.

1. What types of social media and Web 2.0 applications have you used? Have you found them helpful?

2. What social media or Web 2.0 application would you like to use more? How do you see it helping your career? What barriers keep you from using it more?

3. What's the biggest mistake you made in using social media or Web 2.0? What have you learned from this mistake?

4. Is all of this new stuff just a passing fad? Is it a big time sink? Is it an expression of personal vanity?

5. How can newer Internet tools be combined with more traditional approaches to promoting your career?

Creative Commons License This page was written by Steve Simon and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License. Need more information? I have a page with general help resources. You can also browse for pages similar to this one at Human Side of Statistics.