​I have been in the software business close to twenty years, and most of this time has been spent with Independent Software Vendors (ISVs). For the past seven years I have had the pleasure of working with Microsoft partners around the world, evangelizing about partner-to-partner (p2p) networking, and educating partners about how to build online reputations for themselves and their businesses.

 
Due to the immediate feel of the new methods of delivering our business messages—Twitter, blogging, Facebook, etc.—we sometimes expect immediate results. I have some bad news—nothing happens overnight. But if you are consistent with your efforts your patience will eventually pay off. In addition to patience, it is important to have a clear vision for your online brand. I can’t even count the times, when I was just getting started, that I began writing a blog and then realized that what I had written lacked a sense of purpose, and failed to truly represent me. It took lots of trial-and-error, but I finally had an epiphany about what I really wanted to say, and I also became aware of several guidelines to follow when using a social media presence to develop a professional brand:
  • You have to focus on a specific topic or area of skills. This will bring you followers.
  • It’s all about consistency—you can’t just disappear for a month without any activity.
  • You need to create your own writing style so people know what to expect. Just like in other aspects of running a business, focus and segmentation will help deliver results.
  • When it comes to your voice, again—consistency counts. When someone reads your blog entries they should be able to readily recognize the writer.
In my educational sessions I often get asked the question—should one separate personal brand from business brand? As the owner of my own company, I once struggled with the same thing. Should I be recognized as DrSalonen (my tag in social media), or should I go with my company name, TELLUS International? It might seem that it doesn’t really matter, since I’m behind both names. But I soon realized that I really wanted to separate myself from the company and to build my own personal reputation in a specific area of expertise. I also decided to create a blog that uses my name and not that of my company. This blog is the window into my world, and I have used it to continually cover certain topics, cultivating a following of return readers.
 
Entrepreneurs frequently ask me if they should prohibit their employees from expressing themselves online. My advice is simple: let individuals flourish by voicing their opinions, and educating the public about topics that are near and dear to them. The more people follow these individuals, the better it is for your company, as they will be seen as domain-skilled professionals. This will drive the brand of your company as well, in an indirect way.
 
Social media is all around us, and many of us are trying to figure out how best to take advantage of it in our business, and use it to create a brand for ourselves. We can agree that the excitement surrounding social media is not merely hype, and that its importance will only increase going forward. I hope you found some helpful information here, which you can use to better represent yourself and your business through social media. In my next entry I will be discussing what I call ‘Influencer Intelligence’—stay tuned for more.​