Best Practices - Effectively driving Social Media awareness and an effective presence for Sr. Level Consultants and Executives in the gig economy.
Setting up a consistent social media presence and being a member of a community there is the most commonly-recommended first step in building an executive online presence -- several best practices exist for that process alone. Beyond that, medium-priority thought leadership tactics like speaking engagements, blogging, and maintaining a personal website are helpful to set up, and in the long term writing ebooks (or print books) and whitepapers can help solidify an executive's brand. Read on for my full rundown of these best practices!
Establishing social media was generally taken as a given in the best practices sources I found -- several articles focus on specific social media best practices. To bring in more medium- and long-term priorities and best practices, I expanded the focus of my research to building an online presence and cultivating a thought leadership brand in general. I've included both specific social media and content best practices and general brand-building tips below.
Social media is the easiest short-term tool to use for executives to build a personal brand. It's a quick way to establish expertise, preemptively answer questions about background, education, and history, and allows fast access to communities of potential fans and fellow experts and influencers. Executives at the very senior level may also be able to take advantage of their established personal network and client base to kick-start their following.
Personal branding on social media has its own set of best practices. In general at the senior executive level, LinkedIn is the most effective social media platform. Strong LinkedIn profiles have effective summaries, pictures that communicate the executive's personality, and succinct, focused headlines. The new option to change a LinkedIn profile's header image is a good opportunity to add some branding without much effort as well.
LinkedIn also gives executives access to several other tools that are useful to build an online presence (blogging, networking, etc.) without having to spend time on additional tools or platforms. Beyond LinkedIn, using data analytics to figure out an executive's next social media platforms can be a useful tactic -- it's rarely necessary to be active on all social networks, but a more rounded social presence (with generally consistent profile information, photos, and posts on each active network) is a good first step to building an overall personal brand. Executives should shoot for an 80-20 split of social content and self-marketing content to maintain an authentic voice.
Once social media is set up, a common next step is creating a content plan -- even if an executive doesn't have time to create new posts every day, the kind of content they post and share helps build their brand. Here, too, established executives can often take advantage of their schedules to create announcement posts or share other timely content.
If the executive doesn't have time to blog personally but does want to take a next step, building relationships with established blogs enough to write featured posts from time to time can be a good short-to-mid-term step. Curating and sharing content can sometimes be as impactful as new posts with less time investment if time is short.
Finally, any tactic from the mid- and low-priority lists below that the executive can carry out quickly and confidently can happen in the short-term with enough dedication (or can be weaved into the short-term strategy if the executive already has them underway) -- part of solidifying an online brand is focusing on the executive's content strengths and areas of expertise, so while a book, for instance, is generally a long-term investment, executives with more time or faster writing skills might want to accelerate their schedule.
If the blog or personal website isn't set up in the short term due to time or skill constraints, it should be considered a medium-term project in building an online presence -- "every expert should be blogging," according to Elizabeth Harr, an expert in marketing and branding for professional services execs. Speaking engagements can also be a mid-term priority -- getting a keynote or simply appearing on a panel can be a good way to get referred to new clients.
In the longer term, bigger projects like books can help cement an executive with an established online presence as a true thought leader -- books were actually the most effective tool for this purpose according to one study. Both books and whitepapers can be self-published and distributed for free to an executive's online audience through social media or email marketing, and they can be used as promotional offers to build more of an audience on another platform.
Setting up consistent social media accounts -- starting with LinkedIn -- is the first step to creating an effective online presence for an executive. Beyond that, a content plan that might include created or curated content and featured posts on bigger blogs can help spread an exec's reputation and image, cementing them as part of a community of experts and influencers. That can be used to springboard into consistent blogging, speaking engagements, books and other thought leadership content in the medium and long term. The key is focus -- generally, best practices state that sticking to a few topics and a few content types is the smoothest approach to building an online personal brand.