A Bill of Rights for Professionals Using Social Media

Client: “Do I really have to do this?”

Me: “No. But…..what do you have to lose?”

Client: “My pride? My reputation? Billable time? I mean…what if people think I don’t have anything better to do?”

If we could build business by letting our work speak for itself, many of us would. Unfortunately, that isn’t an option anymore. Clients need to find you in the places where they’ll look for someone with your expertise. Including social media.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed by the cyber-world, remember your Bill of Rights.

1. You have the right to be yourself.
Uncomfortable broadcasting your latest accomplishments and impeccable credentials to the world? I have good news for you: you don’t have to. Just be yourself. No one likes incessant chatter from braggarts or bores. The same goes for online conversations.

2. You have the right to be curious.
I use social media to aggregate news and updates in one spot. I use it to share my blog posts. I’ve found a lot of useful information for presentations and client intelligence. I’ve also encountered some very nice people who I wouldn’t have otherwise met. 

3. You have the right to be helpful.
Isn’t this really what networking is all about? Endorsing a colleague’s skills, answering a request for information about a business problem or introducing people in your network will bring you more than good karma. It will build a reputation for being supportive and credible.

4. You have the right to limit your social media time.
It’s so easy to get lost in the vortex of tweets and posts and Youtube videos. It’s okay to tune out once in a while.  Try scheduling a certain time of day to catch up on what’s happening. You control your social media activity. It doesn’t control you.

5. You have the right to think before you speak.
The pressure to “live tweet”, “follow back” and accept all those invitations to connect can be overwhelming if you’re as popular as I am. (Ha! Just checking if you’re paying attention.) Seriously though… it’s better to contribute new information or an authoritative opinion to online conversations. Consider the context in which your comments will be measured. If you’re unsure, ask yourself:

 How will this reflect on my firm? Would I say this to the author directly and in-person? Am I being fair?

 6. You have the right to control the quality of your network.
 If you haven’t figured it out, the ties that bind social networks are much weaker than those in real life. But if someone is offensive, untrustworthy or genuinely annoying, then you should disconnect from them.

7. You have the right to be nice.
Some experts are always online, pointing out “what’s wrong with law firms today” and “10 signs your marketing efforts are failing”. They may be right. But, generally, they’re not constructive or pleasant. If you can’t say anything nice….

8. You have the right to privacy.
I will never tweet about what I’m having for breakfast or where I go on vacation. I don’t judge others for doing so, but it just isn’t for me. Many people in my LinkedIn and Twitter communities feel the same, preferring to use one platform for personal activity and others for professional activity.

9. You have the right to keep a healthy perspective. 
Some people will never connect with you on LinkedIn, endorse your updates or follow you on Twitter. Don’t take it personally. It takes time to build ‘influence’, if that’s what you choose to use these platforms for. Social media is one tool in your communication kit. Nothing more. Nothing less.

I have versions of the conversation quoted at the top of this post every day. Social media is still viewed by as a curiosity in some sectors that tend to be in the “laggard zone” of the good old market adoption curve. The key – as with everything else in life – is a little levity.

What would you add to this Bill of Rights? Send me your suggestions and I’ll add them to the post (with credit, of course).