INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.—Imagine a large dinner party with dozens of conversations going on at once. That is how you can think of Twitter, according to Nathan Hand, vice president of development at The Mind Trust, an educational non-profit. At a recent personal branding workshop hosted by the IU Kelley School of Business Indianapolis Women’s MBA Alumni Advisory Board, Hand led a discussion about how to make the best use of social media for professional purposes.
“Some of these conversations matter,” Hand told the group. “If I sell pens and walk into a restaurant where three conversations are discussing the need for pens, I won’t hear them in the back of the room. But if that conversation is on Twitter, I can be a part of it.”
The one-on-one interaction is the appeal of Twitter, Hand explained as he talked through the basics of the online social network. Businesses now target mommy bloggers for word-of-mouth marketing and quickly respond to customers who complain via tweets, instantly affording consumers direct connections to major companies.
“There are 200 million tweets a day,” Hand explained. “If you want to find the topics you care about, you have to organize the chaos by filtering tweets using applications like Hootsuite or TweetDeck. This helps you funnel out all the junk so you can interact with the people and topics you care about.”
Hand offered tips for increasing engagement on Twitter: using hash tags to signal a popular topic and showing gratitude to others for re-tweets. When it comes to tweeting on behalf of an employer, Hand cautioned attendees to be vigilant so they don’t accidentally send personal tweets on a company account, citing recent mishaps on the Twitter accounts of well-known national brands.
“Companies should set a social media policy,” said Hand. “Share positive stories and volunteer opportunities. Make a list of things you agree to discuss. It’s also important that everyone’s on the same page when it comes to debatable topics.”
The workshop also included a panel discussion led by Kelley Women’s MBA Alumni Advisory board members Karen Stuerenberg (MBA ’08), Claire Gregory (MBA ’11), and Louonna Kachur (MBA ’08).
“Social media has allowed my company to access a larger audience,” explained Stuerenberg, who works in marketing. “Giving kudos online is often reciprocal, and it blends into offline feedback. That’s been an advantage for us.”
The panel discussed how personal web pages on social media sites intersect with professional careers. For instance, Kachur, a human resources professional, has used social media to check for non-compete violations after an employee has left. When it comes to your current job, Facebook is often seen as a more social site whereas LinkedIn is professional.
“I put a different image forward on Facebook than LinkedIn,” explained Kachur. “If I make that a hard, fast policy, then I don’t ever accept Facebook invites from anyone I work with. If someone calls in sick and you see they were out partying the night before- that becomes an attendance issue. You have to make hard choices and I absolutely take someone’s web page into consideration during hiring.”
Gregory, a communications professional, said accepting a colleague’s invitation online might depend on what kind of industry one is employed.
“It depends if you’re in a corporate or creative environment,” said Gregory, who has asked potential hires about their social media sites. Some applicants tell her their social media pages are private. “I think that’s the correct answer,” she said.
Be sure that your résumé on LinkedIn matches the paper résumé you deliver to a potential employer, added Stuerenberg.
“If LinkedIn and the résumé don’t match, I can consider other applicants who want that job,” she said. “You can make a really good impression on a piece of paper, but what I can find online in a quick Google search may tarnish that impression.”
Attendees say the workshop was eye opening.
“A lot of people already use social media, but I’m a novice,” said Gale Prizevoits (MBA ’85). “I’m more interested in Twitter. Nathan was very entertaining and helped me understand what to say if I’m looking for professional opportunities.”
Many say they will implement new policies for their social media pages.
“I don’t have a good presence in social media so the workshop gave me an idea of what it all looks like, what the benefits and disadvantages are,” said Meheret Abebe, an accounting graduate student at Kelley. “Now I have a pretty good idea and I can decide if I want to be active in social media.”
“I thought Nathan did a good job explaining how to handle social media in the workplace,” said Deanna Gallo, a Kelley senior majoring in human resources and management. “I can interpret that for my work at school and also for my involvement in on-campus groups such as Women in Business and the Society for Human Resource Management to make sure that my online presence shows who I want to be.”
The workshop was the third personal branding event hosted by the Women’s MBA Alumni Advisory Board. Board member Sunny Lu Williams (MBA ’10) tweeted throughout the event using the hash tag #KelleyIndy12. “I’m proud to be a part of an organization that provides professional development programming to promote women in business and leadership,” she said.