Tony Conrad's announcement this past week of About.me got me thinking that it's about time we gathered up all these threads of the Professional Web, as I call it, and interlaced them together into a metaphorical rope.
Before I continue, let me define what I call the Professional Web. As workers and professionals, many of us follow and contribute to the social web, interacting with it several times a day, if not every two minutes :-). We leave implicit traces of our presence behind (e.g. Twitter streams, Quora answers, LinkedIn group postings) as well as explicitly build profiles across all these websites. I call this the Professional Web. The sum total of all this personal content is our personal brand on the Web.
So why do I think it is important to proactively manage your presence on the Professional Web? Firstly, this is what other people see (probably through a Google or LinkedIn search) well before they meet you for the first time, as well as on an ongoing basis once they've gotten to know you. First impressions are important, as we all know. Secondly, many of us in the knowledge economy make our living based on our reputations either directly from the Web (e.g. through Crowdflower or Turnhere) or indirectly influenced by the Web. This applies to entrepreneurs, investors, proprietors, corporate employees, consultants or service providers. So this directly hits our personal bottomlines.
So, I've listed below seven of my favorite Professional Web services and do's/don'ts for each of them. In a follow-up post, I will write about some new opportunities that I see in this area.
Seven Tools to Super-Charge your Professional Web Presence
Here're the slides - there is more context and discussion below the slides:
I've been an active user of LinkedIn for several years and use it as my master work contact list. I hit 3000 connections recently. I find this to be an invaluable tool for finding current email addresses, contacting CEOs of companies I'm interested in, doing competitive analysis, finding common contacts when meeting someone for the first time, and much more. I'm even paying LinkedIn because I'd feel guilty if I didn't pay them for all the value I'm getting out of the website!
- Do: Integrate Twitter and SlideShare into your LinkedIn profile.
- Do: Use LinkedIn to find and contact people who have just left the company you're interested in.
- Do: Create a group for the area you are most interested in - use this to post relevant content and drive deeper conversations with industry contacts.
- Don't: Accept connections with people you've never met.
- Do: Create lists where you track people in different segments that you're interested in. I track segments such as Payments, Local/SMB, Enterprise, Mobile and India-Tech-and-VC. The added benefit here is that you can offload people from your main Twitter feed.
- Do: Time-shift your posts (using a tool such as Hootsuite) so that they get posted during regular business hours, preferably early afternoon. This will ensure the biggest audience.
- Do: Track conversations at conferences using their # hashtags to get an idea of the back-chatter.
- Don't: Connect with others just because you want to increase your follower count.
I've been using SlideShare since early 2008 (full disclosure: we are investors in SlideShare). I find it really useful for tracking content from leading thinkers and opinion-drivers, including Dave McClure, Eric Ries, Jan Chipchase, Fred Wilson, Charlene Li, Steve Blank and Chris Messina. I follow about 150 people.
- Do: Follow 50+ people by starting on the Slideshare profiles of perhaps some of the people above and clicking through to who they follow.
- Do: Follow your real-time newsfeed on Slideshare, once you've started following 50+ people. Incredibly rich content from your favorite experts. Very different from Twitter streams.
- Do: Upload a few pieces of your own content - drives great SEO back to you.
- Do: Embed a Slideshare widget on your blog - deep content gives your blog audience insight into what you are interested in.
Plancast is a great way to communicate future plans with your audience. I use it to keep track of all the conferences I attend as well as see what public (or private) events other people are going to. I follow about 80 people.
- Do: Put up all your professional/public engagements so that other people know where to connect with you
- Do: Use the Google Calendar or Outlook integration feature to suck these events into your personal calendar.
- Don't: Give out addresses for private events!
Of course, blogging is a proven way of putting your opinions into the conversation stream in a much deeper way than Twitter allows. It's very very easy to get caught up posting to Twitter and to ignore your own blog. However, I think you create social currency (earned media) by contributing deeper thought pieces to the conversation. I use Typepad.
- Do: Reserve your own URL, rather than relying on a Typepad or Wordpress extension. Benefit is that you can move to other blogging platforms in the future and can drive more personal branding through the URL you choose.
- Do: Put widgets from your other Professional Web services here, such as your Twitter feed or favorite slideshows from Slideshare
- Don't: Leave your blog unattended for long periods of time (i.e. several weeks or months). I'm guilty of this myself, though!
I've started using Quora quite recently. I think it could be a great method for engaging on very specific topics with the wider opinion-maker community as well as with entrepreneurs. I don't have a list of do's and don'ts here as I am very recent user. But I see a lot of promise here.
I also see promise in services such as About.me or Flavors.me which enable users to create a personal profile page on the web, outside of the confines of any specific professional networking service. We had an investment in this area called Nombray and I find the value proposition to be quite appealing. The value (to me) would be to provide a single-page to drive your professional contacts to (e.g. from your business card or email signature profile); a single place for analytics across all your professional profiles/websites; and a key way to drive up your ranking on Google searches of your name.
You may have noticed I haven't included Facebook in this list. Personally-speaking, I try to separate out my business and personal/social contacts. It's a challenge for me but I feel there is some value in keeping them separate. For many people, the lines have blurred - and in that case, it's important to keep appearances up on Facebook.
So tell me one unconventional way that you use the Professional Web for your own benefit.
Stay tuned for a follow-up post on the challenges facing companies in this space and new opportunities that I see.