I have been leveraging the internet since I started my business in late 2004. I first started with a company blog in 2005 where I talked about anything from men’s grooming products and services to company team-building event. When social media started, I jumped on every platform possible to promote my business. I created a company page on Facebook business pages in 2007. In the beginning, I just wanted to have visibility wherever I could and did not have a plan. I just knew the more places I was on, the more my business would be found. At that time, very (and I mean very) few hair salons were using the internet as a tool for business growth. This meant there was little to no competition. That did not last long though. As more businesses in my industry got online, I had to learn to be more strategic. This is when I learned I needed a unique voice and began only posting content related to my professional expertise. I wanted to be the person men came to when they had grooming questions. I started forming online connections that fit my goal on and offline. At first, I accepted every incoming friend request, but over time I realized that just having connections did not meet my overall objective. I set out to make connections that inspired me as much as I was hoping to educate others.
According to Dr. Dawn R. Gilpin, social capital is the “collective value of all social networks and the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arises from them.” It is one of the reasons I never ventured into buying followers as in this MIC.com article. In this article, Winkie paid a social media influencer $20 to boost his follower count so that he too could be considered an influencer. Buying followers was an option for me when I was just starting out, but it just did not feel right. As Dr. Giplin pointed out, social capital is built through authenticity and trustworthiness by focusing on the relationship. I built my following organically. I posted three times per day, seven days per week with content designed to solve a problem, inform or motivate my followers.
A Pew Research survey on trust, the people polled reported felt when an individual is not found online, they are only found to be 27% trustworthy. 57% of employers said they will not extend even an interview to someone without an online profile. It appears job seekers will need to establish a profile online to advance career aspirations. Social media platforms are not the only way to be found online. A few years ago, it was recommended employment candidates create a personal website to showcase their body of work online. Forbes confirmed 56% of recruiters thought a personal website was the best branding tool. However, only 7% of candidates had one in 2013. Monster.com also encourages job seekers to create a personal website and affirms it gives seekers a competitive edge over other candidates. LinkedIn is the largest social media platform for business professionals. This platform can be an ideal social platform for the professional, especially since it has garnered a “controversy-free reputation.
An approach to building an online community is by earning social capital. However, to earn social capital, a person must be willing to give up some privacy, socialize within their community, and keep content real. Being your own brand ambassador on social media and documenting professional experiences gives followers the feeling they know you. A fun aspect of making virtual friends is when you happen to meet one in public, and the interaction feels like one with a lifelong friend. The result is building a following of people interested in the same things. This process is called homphily. It feels effortless to engage your community and socialize with them without feeling like they are strangers by having similar interests. The content you post can open the door for a like-minded community to be comfortable socializing with you online. The final piece to earn social capital is authenticity. Posting content about your professional accomplishments, along side fumbles is an excellent way of showing an authentic self. Presenting the authentic you is what turns followers into raving fans and potential employment opportunities!