The Brand Called U: A Blueprint for Building Your Social Brand

With an anaemic economic growth rate and a high rate of unemployment, change is the only constant treasury and financial professionals face today. The old paradigm of moving up the corporate ladder no longer exists. With so many companies tracking social media to hire and fire workers, it’s not something that anyone can afford to ignore. When used to its fullest potential, actively engaging a network online can transcend a career. For this reason, savvy professionals are using social networking tools to connect directly with companies and recruiters, while engaging with peers for increased credibility, visibility and thought leadership.

Large companies like Nike and Coca Cola understand the importance of brands. Today, in the age of smart internet-connected mobile devices and with the rise of social media, treasury professionals have to be their own brand. Regardless of what age, title or industry we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding and nurturing our brand equity.

Fortunately with social media, everyone has an opportunity to stand out. That, coupled with recruiters and hiring managers’ ability to frequently make employment decisions based on what they find on the web, social media is a powerful weapon in one’s career and branding arsenal.

Social media, which lets consumers share content, while creating connections with others, has the ability to disseminate information to a staggering number of users. Consider these facts (statistics extrapolated from corporate websites):

  • Almost a billion (845+) million users are on Facebook today.
  • More than 465 million Twitter accounts are in existence.
  • With 160+ million members, Linkedin has a trove of information on business people in over 200 countries.
  • There are more than 200 million blogs.
  • About 3 billion videos are watched every day on YouTube. More video footage is uploaded to YouTube in one month than the three major US networks created in 60 years.
  • Almost 4 million articles are in Wikipedia.

Building Visibility

The first step in your brand management is to build your visibility. Like any brand manager, you have to ask: how do I differentiate ‘me’? It begins by enhancing one’s profile and online presence. One of the most effective tools in a career toolbox is Linkedin. Highlight your brand assets:

Craft a smart headline

In developing a profile, create a headline that sums up your professional brand in a short phrase, such as “Accomplished Finance Professional,” “Experienced Treasury Executive,” or “Payments Expert” to position yourself for a future job opportunity.

Build your profile

Include employment (current and past), education, industry, degrees, certifications, and any accolades in your profile. Recruiters are increasingly using Linkedin as a tool to validate that the resume aligns with information available online. Link relevant information such as a blog, twitter handle, published articles, or a company website. Write a rich summary incorporating key search terms that sells your skills and experiences, which can be easily found in keyword searches.

Display a professional profile photo

Select a photograph that positively represents you to a potential interviewer. It’s probably the first impression you’re going to make.

Develop, connect and use your network

Take advantage of forums such as the Association for Financial Professionals (AFP) or regional chapters to network and develop relationships. As Anita Patterson, director of treasury services and Patriot Act compliance officer at Cox Enterprises, who also serves as vice chairman of the board of directors at AFP, says: “These tools are a quick, helpful way to stay in touch with people and discuss issues.” The number of connections on the profile is a strong indicator of how well you network and how many positive working relationships you have developed. Successful professionals network extensively to expand their breadth of knowledge and expertise, as well as glean intelligence on growth opportunities.

Solicit strong recommendations

Third-party endorsements help build credibility. Recommendations tell companies whether you generate ideas, are a go-getter, a natural leader, or a conscientious and driven worker.

Engage with professionals and establish thought leadership

Offer responses to questions on Linkedin groups (without compromising any sensitive company information, of course). Pose a question to your peers, if you need information or assistance. Post a useful article that you have read, which your peers may find helpful, or even share a blog post that you’ve written. Recruiters are looking for talent who contribute intelligent advice or demonstrate critical thinking skills in value-added jobs. They are monitoring influencers and targeting candidates through these dialogues. Linkedin groups are also useful in tracking and staying on top of trends in your industry. Astute professionals continually assess the market to strengthen and diversity their skill set.

Patterson, however, cautions between perception and reality: “Once you put it out there, you lose control of what you may have said and what you may have meant.” Indeed, employees need to be cognizant of corporate social networking policies. By engaging with social media, treasury and financial professionals are leaving their digital signature on the internet and once posted, it cannot be removed. It should be also noted that posting or discussing any company related information on blogs or social media sites is much the same as providing information to newspapers, magazines or broadcasters as it is then in the public domain. Therefore, social media should always be considered and treated as a news source.

Being Digitally Smart

Patterson notes the positive attributes of social media. At her own company, Cox Enterprises, practitioners use Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, along with internal tools such as Yammer, to stay engaged, and foster collaboration including to “help put all project information in one place – no fear of missing an email or being left off a memo.”

Patterson, nevertheless, expresses concerns about ‘privacy’ within the realms of social media. A critical element in brand management is reputation. It is important to police the information that is available on the web, whether Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. Social media has become a key influencer in the hiring process or even promotions, as employers use social media to learn more about potential workers. With the line between personal and professional networking blurring, if you are not cautious, you can be vulnerable to social media pitfalls. So, it’s important to be digitally smart:

Activate your privacy settings

Whether on Facebook or Google+, you can choose visibility settings based on what you want others to be able to see on your profile. Private information can damage your work reputation.

Be discreet

Know what to share, when to share, and with whom to share it. According to a Microsoft survey on online privacy issues, 70% of employers have rejected a job candidate because of information they found about that person online. Compromising photos or negative, unflattering status updates can derail a potential candidacy or career with no recourse and no notification.

You are who you associate with

Pay attention to how you interact with others and they with you. Their profane comment or dirty picture is a reflection on you.

Avoid inactivity

An empty or disengaged social media profile suggests inability to finish projects and unable to take advantage of the tools available to you. As an example, people frequently set up Twitter accounts only to abandon them. However, Twitter can be a powerful job search tool with direct access to companies or people with whom you may otherwise not be able to communicate. Tweeting about news related to your industry, following influential people in your field, or companies with whom you have an interest, will put you on their radar.

Your online image correlates to employment

Eighty-five percent of employers say that a positive online reputation influences their hiring decisions, while another recent study in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology found personality assessments based on social media to be an effective performance indicator.

Capitalise on the growing social trend to develop your professional brand, and develop strategic moves for marketing your assets. You need to take action to continue learning, growing, building relationships, and delivering great results. In promoting yourself, you’re helping youself and your company.

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