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How to tweet your way to the top

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Below is an article from the Sunday Times.

How to tweet your way to the top (Frank Dillon Published: 4 July 2010)

Twitter and blogging sites can help to advance your business as well as your career. Just be particularly careful what you say

Paul Krugman, the Nobel prize-winning economist, does it. So does John Motson, the football commentator. Even Davina McCall manages it, when she’s not busy presenting Big Brother. Blogging and tweeting is increasingly popular, but is it advisable for those not courting celebrity?

Paul Mullan, a consultant from the career coaching firm Measurability, says that, used properly, a personal online presence can help executives build strong brands that can enhance their careers, but he warns they need to be careful how they use it.

“Social media have transformed how senior executives can build their personal brand,” he said. “It is a powerful platform to help individuals increase visibility and recognition within their area of expertise. Like all powerful tools, though, it needs to be handled with care and what social media can build quickly, they can also destroy quickly.”

More and more executives are buying their personal name domains and creating website profiles and blogs. Mullan is a fan of the practice.

“Blogging supports personal branding as it enables executives to differentiate themselves, attract requests for media commentary and communicate their expertise to their audience,” he said. Motson, for example, has been posting daily blogs from South Africa during the World Cup. Krugman writes long, considered articles for his New York Times blog. McCall, on the other hand, has been posting only sporadic missives since Big Brother began.

Mullan says it is important to integrate social media tools and not treat them as individual stand-alone platforms. If you write a personal blog, a link to it can then be tweeted on Twitter and posted in a group on LinkedIn, the business networking site.

Irene Dehaene, training and events manager for the Irish Internet Association (IIA), has also noticed that interest in social media is high among executives. “Last year people were dabbling,” she said. “This year they are getting professional training to maximise the potential. They recognise that it’s a valuable marketing tool for their businesses and for themselves.”

While blogging and tweeting is a cost-effective form of brand building, doing it properly takes time, she says. “You need to be available to respond to queries and questions,” she said. “You need to be able to sustain a topical presence.”

You also need to be careful what you write about online, as Krishna De, an expert on social media in Ireland who runs courses for the IIA, points out. “I have seen executives post negative comments about their employers, for example, which is always unwise,” she said.

“Recruiters are increasingly researching candidates online. If you are saying something bad about your current employer, they will wonder what you are likely to say about them if they employ you.”

De uses a wide range of social media but says LinkedIn is the key social networking tool for professionals. “It has a relatively small population compared to Facebook but it is a walled garden and is very professionally focused,” she said.

Keith Bohanna, a self-employed internet consultant and technology entrepreneur, is a keen LinkedIn user. He has 670 contacts on the network and has used it to cold call potential business leads before attending conferences, including a technology event in Los Angeles. “I used it to set up meetings with new contacts there. I doubt I would have been able to do that otherwise,” he said.

He has also found Twitter useful. “I was sceptical about it at first but I really like the instant nature of it,” he said. “It’s the most engaging and supportive communications network I am involved in.”

The rise of the personal brand has been facilitated by social media, says Joe Sinclair, digital strategist and director of public relations firm Burson-Marsteller UK. He says that personal brands, however, need to play by social rules. “Using Twitter to broadcast your idle thoughts to the world is like shouting in the middle of a supermarket — people will look at you strangely and ignore what you are saying. The real power of the personal brand is your ability to make connections, engage in dialogue and answer questions,” he said.

Developing your personal brand is invaluable for both new business prospects and job opportunities but it is transparent, Sinclair notes, so you need to be careful.

“How you use your personal brand can also reflect on your business, so those late-night blog rants might just come back to haunt you.”

Online dos and don’ts

Separate professional from personal business usage and discourage your friends from posting potentially embarrassing content or comments

Never post negative comments about your colleagues or your organisation

Maximise your impact by linking content between different social media that you use n Post useful links and information as this will help drive traffic to your pages

Where appropriate, use privacy settings to filter what you show to different users