I spoke about social media engagement in a local group I’m part of, recently – it is a Bangalore-based group of corporate communication and marketing communication professionals and has been in existence for over a decade now. Last Friday, I spoke to them about how they could use social media to their advantage, for themselves, or for their employers.

This group predominantly consists of B2B companies (some of the biggest IT companies in Bangalore) and one of their mandates includes internal communications. So, I also referred to my micro-influencers (mini-Scoble effect) post and got some interesting feedback.

When I gave a couple of examples of micro-influencers in India, I was told that such people may not really help their employers’ image, by association, from prospective employees perspective. That other techies may not see them as a role models…enough to join that organization because it nurtures such micro-influencers. While these micro-brand ambassadors may spread the word about the organization and its products/services and complement the marketing efforts, the feedback that it may not help HR in recruitment at all is interesting.

The other feedback was about work-related knowledge vs communication skills. This is interesting because the group made a clear distinction between being good at one’s work and the ability to sell/articulate their knowledge about the work. What the group seemed to prefer more was the former, while the latter was seen merely as an add-on that requires more time beyond work.

For instance, if you are a good coder, are you expected to only code? If you can go deeper into the kind of coding you do, network with other coders to showcase your prowess, won’t that positively impact your own and your employer’s brand too? I do understand that not all coders may have the natural affinity to communicate about their work and area of expertise effortlessly. That’s one reason why you see PR and advertising folks more active on social media, considering the fact that communication is their forte and communicating online is seen as a seamless extension of their work. But if you do, you stand out among other coders and that impact you personally, in your profession and there’s definitely a rub-off effect on your employer too!

Another connected read!

Late last week, I stumbled on this piece in Workforce Management titled, ‘Discriminatory Twist in Networking Sites Puts Recruiters in Peril‘ and it went on to explain that “sourcing applicants from Twitter or LinkedIn or screening candidates through Facebook or MySpace may open employers to discrimination charges”.

As absurd as it sounds, I’m sure if it does apply, it may only work in the US and nowhere else. That is, if it applies.

As far as I see it, there is no discrimination involved here. A computer and an internet connection is not something that is out of reach. It is as important and needed for anyone as much as a library or even a telephone. On the part of recruiters using social media/networking sites alone to hire…the point is that social media/networking sites are only a mode to source candidates. They still have to meet the recruiter and employer in case of an interview. What was being done via phone calls, snail mail and face to face meetings is being initiated via online modes and still ends up in a face to face meeting.

To connect these two – the piece from Workforce Management and my session, here’s the deal.

These days, it is not enough if you are good in your job/profession; you should be able to sell your work and perhaps your industry, adequately, online too. This is nothing new anyway – before social media happened, a select few articulate ones anyway used to network offline via industry groups to learn, engage and evolve as experts in their field. Now, with the advent of social media, everybody gets a chance to demonstrate their knowledge in their profession/work area. The number of people who listen to you depends entirely upon how knowledgeable you sound and how well you can sell your own thoughts. The beauty of it all is that earlier your ability to demonstrate your work-related knowledge only to smaller groups of people (and word-of-mouth, subsequently, from that group) – now, the world is your audience, but only if you want it to be.

We advise our clients on content for social media engagement – in all cases, we create a detailed content framework that involves, tone of content appropriate for the brand, content outline (on the kind of content that we will create and the time period for each theme/topic) and content guidelines (on how to deal with specific situations and conversations). I don’t see why these cannot be applied to individuals too. Yes, it is great that you can vent your feelings about that movie you saw in the weekend or that errant driver you overtook you on the wrong side…on Facebook and Twitter, but these are far more powerful tools given the reach they possess. It is up to us to use them exclusively to have fun…or, to also use them to construct an image about ourselves as a knowledgeable professional in our space. In simple terms, we have the ability to do our own PR, using social media.

As for the modalities, it need not be as exclusive or time-consuming as a blog. It could even be simple observations about what is happening in our chosen area of work, shared as updates LinkedIn or even on Facebook and Twitter.

The choice is ours!

Pic from Zeafonso, via SXC.