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June 13, 2013

Building Your Brand with Social Media

As AIBTM got underway in Chicago, Sima Dahl presented a class on the art of social networking—or, as she has trademarked the concept, one’s “Sway Factor™.”

Beyond simply connecting online, Dahl said, a business professional must turn themselves into a brand. At the beginning of the session, Dahl “promoted” every attendee to CMO of his and her own personal brand. 

“A brand stands for something,” she explained, “and in this age of referral, the brand is you. It used to be the information age. Now, there’s so much information that it’s become unmanageable. There’s too much information to do anything with. So now it’s the age of referral.”  

Referrals, she continued, come down to ellipses, and that’s what every business professional needs to own. Imagine someone asking, “Who do you know who…?” Every person can be the ellipses (those three open-ended dots) at the end of that sentence. Who do you know who specializes in corporate events? Who do you know who is up to date on the latest event technology? Who do you know who can get me the best room block at the best Vegas hotel? “Think about the question I would ask that you are the answer to,” Dahl advised. “That’s how you define yourself.”


As anyone who has built or managed a website knows, keywords are the prime way search engines find pages online. Imagine someone looking for something online. The words they type into Google or Bing are the keywords that can lead them to you. “Event planner,” “meeting planner,” “meeting professional” are all general examples that would apply to many people in the industry. 

And even if you don’t manage a formal website, Dahl said, you can still own your keywords and make them work for you. Headers on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are perfect places to announce your skills, and even if someone with whom you’ve connected does not remember your name, they may remember what you do and search Facebook instead of Google for a meeting planner…and find your name instead of someone else’s. “’I just met a girl who…I’m connected on LinkedIn, let me find her…’” Dahl imagined the beginning of a new connection. “That’s your brand. Nothing happens until you get those keywords. It’s how I remember you, how I refer you. It’s the answer to the ellipses.” In website design, keywords are linked to a concept called SEO—“Search Engine Optimization.” And in personal branding, Dahl continued, keywords are linked to another SEO: Skills & Expertise Optimization.


An early lesson in Marketing 101, Dahl said, is to create consistency of a brand’s messaging across all different touch points. “Think about what you do, what the client wants to buy and what suppliers THINK you do. Think of how you talk about yourself.” 

And while the message must remain consistent, its delivery can—and must—change depending on the platform. “Think of social networks as communities,” Dahl advised. “People congregate in communities. They share information and content.”  She compared Facebook to a casual barbeque, where guests mill around and chat about anything—important issues, sports, entertainment, politics, whatever. But even chatting about minutiae, a professional can mention his or her business or share a recent success. It may not be the best place to go job-hunting, but it can’t hurt to stay active and connected. One never knows where the next referral may come from. 

Twitter, meanwhile, is like a cocktail party…in 140 characters. While it is sleeker and more concise than the Facebook BBQ, Twitter still offers professionals a chance to share information and advice. (“But you can’t just talk about work at a cocktail party,” Dahl said. “You won’t get invited back!”)

And then there’s LinkedIn, the most popular social networking platform for professionals. “It’s a professional event, and you have to be dressed for the occasion,” Dahl said. “It’s a little bit social, but you’re really there to get business done. So behave according to your network. Don’t tweet on LinkedIn. People there won’t want to know how much you can bench press.” With 200 million people on LinkedIn, its popularity means great visibility for members. “When I Google your name, I find you on LinkedIn first. Does your profile say ‘Rock Star?’” 

Profile Tips

If your online profile across all of these platforms does not inspire people to refer you or call you directly, there are easy things you can do to increase your “Sway Factor.” 

Your indirect marketing needs to be consistent across all platforms, with banner ads on all social media sites reflecting who you want to be to what audience. Photographs are crucial, and should reflect you as a business professional. “Get a formal headshot,” Dahl advised. “No sunglasses—people want to see your eyes. No corporate logos. No family photos or pictures of your pets. Be you.” 

And once all the platforms are in sync (though not synced—remember, business contacts on LinkedIn will probably not want to read what you share with your friends on Facebook), update them regularly with little comments. It’s easy to share your professional life in quick posts of 140 characters. “Doing a site inspection at the Four Seasons. Gorgeous ballroom!” You can even engage your audience with little questions: “What was the best corporate function you ever went to? What made it special?” Readers will see the comments, like, retweet, respond and keep you top-of-mind. 

And finally, don’t be afraid of issuing a press release to industry publications. [Editor’s Note: Just make sure you send the right release to the right publication; and if you want to submit several releases, it’s best to engage a public relations professional.] “You cannot get from the universe what you’re not willing to ask for,” Dahl said. “A press release and a good summary is where you begin to ask.”   


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About the Author: Jena Tesse Fox

Jena Tesse Fox





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