Digital networking: prelude to a handshake, not a replacement

By: Yasmin Ranade

January 29, 2010

We have embraced the computer, and we have embraced digital networking.   We are connecting with each other online with unprecedented enthusiasm.  However, you need to be careful.

Maggie Fox, the founder of Social Media Group, spoke at a Wired Woman Toronto Chapter event last week on the topic of managing your personal brand and your digital career lifecycle.

This topic is not only highly relevant in today’s career market; it is right on the money. If not done properly, it impacts our ability to land that dream job and connect with the right people.

Times have changed. Gone are the days when I started networking –100% non-digital.  My networking started in university, and consisted mostly of personal meetings, going to events and phone calls – skills that are far from out of date.  Maggie told us that digital networking on its own is not enough. Personal networking and events like this are essential.

Today, it’s possible to research any person, company, group or product that may come into your network. Resources are abundant like search engines, websites, social media sites, blogs, email and more. Hence, career building now also involves the creation of a personal brand; a digital, personal brand.

“We are CEOs of our own companies,” said Fox.  It’s “ME Inc.”

She explained how Facebook can represent a digital brand in one’s transition to a professional life, that LinkedIn is one’s professional resume, and that blogs and Twitter are used more pointedly for thought leadership. The stratum has sorted itself out to be this (for now).

And she warned against the danger of a too-personal Facebook posting or an off the cuff remark in an online thread which can negatively add to your digital brand. Ouch. Filter the personal stuff to just your inner circle through staying abreast and using privacy settings.

Today, it’s paramount to manage the message.

For example, it’s important to establish an online domain in your name. Fox offered the tip of using Namechk.com to determine if your name has been taken across an array of social media sites. “In addition to using marketing to communicate your brand, you are also the curator and cultivator, and you have to also manage your own disclosure,” said Fox.

What I also found relevant was Fox’s points about consistency. Choose one professional photo and use it consistently. Further, keep a “consistent presence on networks”, she said, including your photo, but also in terms of contributions offering your points of views on topics and being sincere about your areas of expertise (i.e. not offering a laundry list of areas of expertise while your experience demonstrates just a couple).

There’s value in one’s personal brand on so many levels. For example, Fox conveyed that “those with more than 20 connections on LinkedIn are much more likely to find a job.” Further, Fox presented IBM research data that calculated monetary value for one’s network, stating that roughly “each person in your contact list is ‘worth’ $948 to your employer, and execs are worth $6,395”.*

Your digital brand is worth something, today.  Maybe even everything in your professional life. However, while it’s important to personally nurture your digital brand it’s ultimately through in person connections and human contact that brings the most value to everyone.

The good old handshake, eye contact and a smile always works the best.  While our world changes by the minute, some things will never change.  Thank goodness.

* In response to my query Maggie provided the source for this research. It is:
New Language of Marketing 2.0, 2009
Value of Social Network – A Large Scale Analysis on Network Structure, Impact to Financial Revenue of
Information Technology Consultants, 2009


3 comments

  1. paul@squarepegsolution.com'

    Yasmin

    Great to find you here and wishing you every success with this exciting venture.

    An interesting review and Maggie obviously made some very salient points and tips. I absolutely agree that there is a need to combine the virtual and in person networking. One of the great advantages with the virtual is that we can connect and collaborate globally now and much faster.

    The Namechk.com reference is a good one, although probably the vast majority of people will be best to stick with the main players in social media in terms of presence, does not hurt to secure your name in as many as possible.

    Another great company (and it’s Canadian – yeh!) to check out and reserve domains, even personal e-mail is http://www.hover.com .

    I would also be interested in seeing the reference to the monetary value of a LinkedIn contacts (I might be a millionaire !!!!) – Are Facebook ones worth less because it’s more social and Twitter even less (at least $140 less I would think ;-o )?

    I have also heard from others in the social media space about the need to have a consistent photo on profiles. I do not always think this is the case and in fact would suggest that for various media with a different audience an alternative headshot or even cartoon or avatar might be more relevant and on brand. I for one use all different photo’s on my LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter accounts for that very reason. People have connected with me because they recognise the photo on Facebook but would never have on LinkedIn.

    Final word, when you do network in person and are doing a follow up e-mail or dare I say Thank You card – conduct a quick Google check on the person. Not to see if they are who they say they are (although that helps!) but more to see if you have other things in common you did not know about and make the initial connection even stronger – another advantage of both forms of networking.

    Just my toonies worth.

  2. leslie.hetherington@rogers.com'
    Leslie Hetherington

    Good points. Sorry I missed Maggie’s session due to work. I found the monetary value attached to contacts particularly interesting. Makes you think if a basic contact is worth $948, how much is an online endorsement? (Comparing an endorsement to the meaningless ‘available on request’ line in dated resumes is like night and day.)

  3. jessica.muhlbier@gmail.com'

    This was my first – and definitely not last – Wired Woman event. I really enjoyed Maggie’s presentation; not only did she outline the importance of a strong digital footprint but she emphasized how necessary it is to make that connection online, and in real life. While a hearty LinkedIN profile and active Twitter account is extremely beneficial, nothing beats a firm handshake, eye contact and a friendly smile.

    At this event I was able to network IRL as well as share and exchange knowledge with other talented women. Not only did I walk away with some great new connections – believe it or not – I landed an interview, and eventually a brand new job.

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