My friends and family often ask why Twitter and LinkedIn are important. Admittedly, as I reactively joined Twitter and LinkedIn after I started Dashfire, I am still learning the ropes. That said, I am convinced it is crucial to be proactive on both and I wrote the below post to respond to their questions. Let me know your thoughts.
Facebook came to Georgetown in the spring of 2004, the second semester of my senior year. I was addicted from day one. My friends and I proceeded to use Facebook to adjust to life after college. Wall posting, status updates, pictures, and even poking were (eventually) embraced. But as the social networks – both copycat and innovative – rolled out in subsequent years, we were hesitant to join. We had jobs, so did not see any value in posting professional profiles on LinkedIn. We had Facebook status updates, so did not need / want to learn how to tweet. Looking back on it, however, while we were early adopters of Facebook, we were late to the rest of the social revolution.
We did not join or stay on Facebook to network with our friend’s friend’s friends. We just loved the intimacy of remaining (virtually) close and aware. Don’t get me wrong, we don’t live in the dark ages. We are mobile, buy daily deals and have iPads. Our hesitation is in creating an online, very public, self-brand. We had seen the fallout of a crass Facebook picture or wall post, and accordingly, we kept our brands guarded. So, I understand why my friends ignore me when I plead with them to start tweeting and to join LinkedIn. But it’s impossible to deny the power of the network effect, and remaining offline in an ever increasing digital world may adversely impact future opportunity.
Creating an online brand is as important as keeping your resume updated. In fact, resumes will be outdated in a few years. On LinkedIn, you can’t exaggerate your experiences because your peers and your bosses are connected to you. I became active on LinkedIn only after starting Dashfire because I wanted to build my virtual network. Had I joined while I was working at MDP or Lehman, I would have a robust network at my fingertips from day 1 Dashfire. I use LinkedIn actively to seek warm introductions. Mr. Venture Capitalist or Ms. Technologist responds to me more readily if I’m introduced via their network. You should not wait to build your LinkedIn presence until you are seeking a job. LinkedIn provides you a platform to share your accomplishments and responsibilities in real-time, not after the fact. You are at your supreme value to prospective employers while you are killing it at your current position.
Twitter is a more challenging sell because it is difficult to see the individual professional merit with 140 character messages. The asynchronous follower/following relationship creates a ranking and expert system for the who’s who on Twitter (more on that later). It is immensely powerful for a venture or a business or a person looking to generate awareness. I am not advising reckless tweeting, but the viral nature of Twitter (and Facebook) allows one message to be seen by millions. For free. My friend Varun posted a great entry on why Twitter and Social Media in general is critical to businesses. The same applies to individuals.
Twitter has evolved from a medium to announce that you are currently brushing your teeth to an outlet to share and learn pertinent news and updates. Publicly displaying your thoughts can certainly be daunting and risky for an individual – especially if done recklessly, but creating your social brand is increasingly becoming more relevant. Many employers are asking candidates for their LinkedIn, Twitter, blog, and Facebook profiles – not to find a reason to not hire you – but to learn more about you. If I were selecting between two candidates with identical backgrounds and experiences, but only one had an online presence, I would hire the one with a digital voice. I can better assess whether someone fits within my company through views, stories, blog posts, and tweets than solely from a one page resume.
At the very least, Twitter serves as a leading news distribution medium. Twitter beat out WikiLeaks, HuffingtonPost, and the CNN in sharing the Osama death. For individuals, the beauty of Twitter is that it allows you to create a tailored news stream and gives you a voice. You choose whom you want to follow. My dad follows news channels, Dashfire companies, and me. And that’s about it. His stream provides news and updates relevant to him.
It’s not too late to join. So sign up for LinkedIn and start tweeting today. And if you are not on Facebook, you probably are not reading about this post because we are not friends. Just kidding. Sort of.