As the most followed CFA charterholder on LinkedIn, Eric Sim, CFA, has expertly leveraged social media to connect with other professionals, build his personal brand, and advance his career. In the How to Master Social Media series, adapted from his recent book Small Actions: Leading Your Career to Big Success, Sim shares some critical lessons on how to make social media work for you.
Your internal brand is essentially what people in your company think about you. It’s usually set in stone within your first year on the job.
Whether your colleagues initially view you as resourceful, creative, ineffective, or useless, it’s difficult to change their minds once you become a longer-term employee. While there’s little you can do in your day job to boost your internal brand, it’s still possible to shift internal perceptions by changing your external brand through the strategic use of social media, in particular LinkedIn.
My boss and I once attended a meeting with an important client in China whose company was planning to list shares on the stock exchange. My manager knew the client respected university lecturers, so he introduced me as “Professor Sim.” The client laughed at first because he didn’t think a senior banker would have the time and inclination to teach, but my boss then asked me to give the client my university business card. I was surprised that he even remembered my second job as a teacher because he was so busy chasing banking deals, but it was at the top of his mind when he introduced me.
This goes to show that your outside activities, which you can promote via LinkedIn or other social media, can influence your internal standing.
LinkedIn is a powerful tool that can change the course of your career, so it’s perfect for building both your external and internal brands. For example, if you’ve given a successful speech outside of work, you could post about it on LinkedIn to grow your brand externally. Then your colleagues who follow you on LinkedIn will know about your talk, which gives your internal brand a nice boost.
But don’t just have a LinkedIn strategy, have a social media strategy. Below are three small actions you can take to improve how you approach social media as a professional.
Strategy 1: Use LinkedIn as Your Engine to Drive Other Channels
Think of LinkedIn as the powerful engine that drives your branding on social media. LinkedIn allows you to write longer, more thought-provoking pieces that can get your brand more recognition over time. So when you’ve developed a topic that will interest your followers, post about it on LinkedIn first.
After LinkedIn, you can tweak the post and share it across other relevant social accounts. You can sometimes also share your LinkedIn post with friends via messaging apps. Job and business opportunities can potentially come from any platform.
I became a lecturer at a Hong Kong university in 2016 because an ex-colleague from a US bank saw my Facebook post about a talk I’d given at Cambridge University. She contacted me on behalf of her professor friend, who was looking for a finance professional who knew how to teach. I then met the professor for coffee, and next thing I knew I was made an adjunct associate professor to teach finance and communications.
Strategy 2: Make Your Profile Consistent Across All Platforms
It’s important to have a consistent personal brand in your offline life. You should also be consistent when setting up your social profiles. Many people have a formal headshot photo for their LinkedIn profile, and use a more casual profile image for Instagram. While that’s a popular approach, if you really want to build your brand quickly by making it easily identifiable and consistent, I recommend using the same high-quality professional photo for all your channels.
I also use the same title, “banker, lecturer, speaker, writer,” across my profiles on LinkedIn, Instagram, Clubhouse, Facebook, Twitter, Telegram, WeChat, and WhatsApp. If conversations start on LinkedIn and then move to Telegram, for example, my new connections experience a seamless transition without wondering whether they’re still talking to the same person.
Another good reason to stay consistent: The line between casual and professional relationships is becoming blurred, so many of your connections will see you on several platforms. Your Instagram friend may become your colleague or even your boss one day, and your client or manager may eventually become your Instagram follower. Meanwhile, HR people and hiring managers may try to check all your profiles, not just LinkedIn, before interviewing you, and you should give them a consistent impression.
Strategy 3: Speak the Native Language of Each Platform
While it’s important to keep your social profiles consistent, you need to tweak the content of your posts according to the native language of each platform. Here’s how I adapt my posting style on some of the main social networks.
You should use professional language, add value to readers, and tell a good story. Writing either long articles or short posts is fine, and it’s usually best to include a relevant image alongside your text.
If a topic has performed well on LinkedIn and is also relevant to my Facebook friends, I may post it on Facebook. I don’t publish anything too technical on Facebook. It’s best to shorten the post and use a more personal and casual tone.
Your text should be even shorter on Instagram — one or two sentences is usually enough — because the photos are the focus. When my LinkedIn posts have powerful pictures that deserve to go on Instagram, I try to use them. When I spoke at a CFA Institute event in Bahrain, I posted some fun photos of my trip on Instagram alongside some quick tips (“try the local food, visit the national museum”) on how to engage with an audience in a new country. My LinkedIn post about the same talk was much longer and more formal, so I respected the native languages of both platforms.
Of course, whatever you write, it’s important to write it well. And how to do that will be the subject of the next installment of the How to Master Social Media series.
For more tips on social media and career development don’t miss Small Actions: Leading Your Career to Big Success, by Eric Sim, CFA, and his co-author Simon Mortlock.
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All posts are the opinion of the author. As such, they should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute or the author’s employer.
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