More on Blogging When Your Industry Isn't Into It

The other day I posted on how to blog when your industry or occupation hasn't embraced the whole social media thing. Today I ran across a great article on 15 Practices to Deepen Human Connection and Engagement Online that I think are a nice complement to some of my previous suggestions. Some of these ideas include:

  • Ask people for advice and favors.  People like to help.  Helping others gives them a sense of autonomy and choice, which is a reward to the brain.
  • Use videos and audios to deepen the connection with your audience, activate the mirror neurons and synchronize the brains.
  • Ask open-ended questions: who, what, when, where, how, why, etc.
  • Host online chats and events where people can talk about a specific topic for a longer stretch of time.
  • Organize a local meetup or tweetup for your online friends to meet in person.

Also, in comments on my previous post, Sarah Stewart asked about facilitation as a blogging strategy, thinking about using a blog to facilitate conversations:

You have listed a number of things you can use a blog does facilitation fit into this picture or is "facilitation" a broad term to decribe all these functions you have listed?

Sarah is currently running a FREE(!)  course on Online Facilitation (that looks fabulous, by the way) so I can see why this is on her mind.

In my opinion,  many of these practices would fall under the facilitation category, although I see that as a somewhat more advanced technique in blogging that requires you to have some level of an audience before you're able to do it. It can also be one of the most fun and rewarding activities you can do with a blog and will certainly help you build a positive brand if you can pull it off. In my experience, it's these kinds of activities that have also led to the best networking and deepest connections.

If you want to go the facilitation route, Sarah's course is actually a good example of using a blog to facilitate learning.  We also did that with the 31 Day Comment Challenge a few years ago. 

One thing I've been thinking about is facilitating other activities/conversations through a blog. On Twitter yesterday, LaDonna Coy shared a blog post she'd written on using The World Cafe Model to have some conversations about sustainability. That has me wondering if it could be adapted as a blog activity.

Another one that would be interesting to try facilitating through a blog discussion (although maybe it's better on a wiki) is this "Breaking the Rules" activity Frank Calberg shared during today's Twitter #lrnchat

Just some additional thoughts. . .

Your Guide to Job Search and Personal Branding on Twitter

Twitter--the 140 character social networking site--is becoming increasingly useful for job seekers. It doesn't work for everyone, of course, but it can certainly turbo-charge your networking, a key strategy for successful job hunting. It can also be an effective part of your personal branding campaign.

Here, then, is a (somewhat) definitive link guide to getting a new job (or losing your current one) through Tweeting. (I put this together for a client, so thought it would be nice to share).

Getting Started on Twitter--If you're new to Twitter. . .

Twitter Skills & Culture--You'd think it would be easy to type 140 characters and go, but like all social networks, Twitter has a culture that requires some skill to navigate. Ignore this section at your own risk.

Pimp Your Profile--Think of your Twitter profile as your "digital interview suit." First impressions count.

Twitter for Job Search--The nitty gritty of job searching on Twitter.

People and Sites to Follow

Job Search Tips and Tools

Case Studies

Twitter Brand Building--The Twitter job search is also about building your online brand.

Twitter Fails--Twitter isn't rocket science. These mistakes can be avoided with a little forethought.

Monitoring Your Social Media Presence

I've written before about the importance of monitoring your online reputation. In today's economy this is even more important, both for individuals and organizations. Here's a nice article on strategies for monitoring your social media presence in 10 minutes a day. (There's some argument as to whether or not 10 minutes is a realistic timeframe, but still this is a do-able daily list).

The comments offer a few additional ideas, such as setting up RSS feeds to monitor blogs in your industry or occupation where you can go to observe, interact, comment, etc. As we discussed during last year's Comment Challenge, online interactions are another important aspect of brand building.

Another comment:

I'd love to see a follow up post on the analytics and reporting on the other end. That is, once you've finished these 10-20 min of daily monitoring, what tools do you use to compile, track, analyze and share the social media results? How do you take those Google alerts from your inbox to a well-organized report? Or compile and rank tweets, LI answers, etc.? 

This is a great question--anyone have suggestions for how they do this?

Bamboo Project Readers' Guide to Blogging for Personal Branding

Last week, I asked my readers to share their best advice for using a blog for personal branding and job searching. As usual, I got some incredibly thoughtful and helpful responses that merit elevation to a new post. I've also added some links and other resources. So below is the Bamboo Project Readers' Guide to Blogging for Personal Branding.

Should You Blog?
To the question of "Should I Blog?" the answer for most professionals is "Yes." Google is often the first place people turn  for information on potential employees and as we've discussed before, Google is not a search engine, but a reputation management tool.

Monitoring and managing your online reputation is a critical career management skill and your blog can be THE best tool you have to maintain that reputation.

A blog can:

  • Improve your search engine rankings
  • Establish you as a "thought leader" in your profession--someone with an opinion, credibility and a point of view.
  • Show potential employers and/or clients how you operate in a way that's more meaningful than what you put on your resume or how you answer questions in your interview.
  • Provide you with a valuable way to network with others who are online, expanding your connections and exposing you to new people and ideas. 
  • Be a valuable tool for your own ongoing learning and professional development.

All my commenters are bloggers themselves, so clearly they believe that blogging is an important part of the branding process, too.

Heather Carpenter shared a paper that she wrote based on interviews with Rosetta Thurman, Trista Harris and Sean Stanndard Stockton, all of whom have experienced incredible career growth as a result of their blogging experiences. If you want to read some real-life stories of how blogging has accelerated several careers, definitely check out Heather's paper.

Sacha Chua, another poster child for how blogging can support personal branding, offers additional advice in her presentation, Networking 2.0: Blogging Your Way out of a Job Into a Career (see above). She points out that blogging can help you develop your passions, build skills and make networking contacts, all of which are essential components of building your brand.

And if you need a final bit of convincing, then see what Tom Peters and Seth Godin have to say.

Time When Should You Start a Blog?

The entire issue of blogging for branding arose from a conversation we had in our first Career Commons webinar last week. Several people indicated they were in the process of starting up a blog as part of their job search, which raised the question of whether or not professionals should be blogging and, if so, how did that fit into the job search process?

Ideally, you should start a blog BEFORE you're in the market for a new job. As Catherine Lombardozzi pointed out, "Blogging for personal branding may be more productive as an ongoing strategy than a job-hunting one when you're in a crunch. Branding takes time..."

Tony Karrer, echoed this thought, pointing out that time spent on blogging is time NOT spent on your job search.

I would argue that the time to start a blog is NOW. If you are not actively job searching, then you'll have more of an opportunity to begin developing your brand over time.This is the ideal situation if you can do it.

However, if you ARE actively job searching, I still think it's worth spending time on setting up and maintaining a blog. It can:

  • Serve as an online portfolio and as a hub for all of your online identities and connections (i.e. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.). 
  • Be your platform for connecting to other bloggers and the conversations happening within your industry and profession.
  • Provide you with a way to show your ongoing engagement with topics in your industry and profession and help you stay up-to-date on what's happening. This can be particularly important when you're unemployed.

Just don't get so hung up on blogging that you forget to spend time on actually looking for work! Set up your blog and then spend a few hours a week working on it. The rest of your time should be spent on making connections and working your network.

What Should You Write About?

Clearly if you're using a blog for professional branding purposes, your blog should focus on topics related to the skills, interests, and ideas you want to showcase as being key to your brand.

Clark Quinn said:

They should write posts talking about the things that interest them (positively or negatively) in the field they want to work in. That is, riff intelligently about the field. Chronicle new ideas, reflect on some issues, be constructively critical. You're showing that you're an active thinker in the field.

Catherine offered this advice:

Consider defining what you want the blog to be about - for a "personal branding" blog, you don't want to just post about whatever comes into your head. It should be about the area(s) in which you want to be seen as a thought leader or expert.

And Sacha said:

Read. A lot. Read blogs, books, and anything else you can get your hands on about the field or industry you want to be in. This will give you plenty of material to write about.

Join the conversation. Find other bloggers and comment on interesting posts. If you have more to say, write a blog post and link back.

Write about your experiences and what you're learning from them. Write about what you do and how you can do it even better. Teach people as you learn.

Create value. Don't worry about the number of readers you have or the number of comments you get (or the lack of either). Write things that are useful for you, then use that practice to write things that are useful for others, and then keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities to help others. When you answer an e-mail with generally useful information, spend a few extra minutes on putting that into your blog, where it can create more value for others. Think of ways you can help others, and use your blog to reach more people than your initial audience.

I would also recommend looking for blogs written by others in your industry or profession to see what kinds of conversations are happening. (Here's a good article on some ways to do that).

What are the topics people are talking about? Where are there gaps that you might be able to fill through your expertise or ideas? What questions are raised by what you're reading and what answers are you finding in response to those questions?

From a purely practical point of view, you might also want to check out these different types of blog posts--they can give you some ideas on the kinds of posts you could start writing. Just apply the basic posting types to the content in your field and see what you can come up with. (For example, this post is a combination of advice, collation, and link posting.)

Moocards How Often Should You Write?

Most of us live in a perpetual time crunch, so the issue of how often to post is a pressing one for many new bloggers. From reader comments, it appears that frequency of posting ranges from once a day to once a week.

Said Clark:

I try to hit a post a business day. I don't get there, it's more like 3-4/week, but it's my goal. More than one a day I think puts a burden on your audience. May seem too frenetic. Tweets are for short thoughts, blogs are for more reflections. Of course, it may depend on your field; maybe it's important that you're processing and reacting to an ongoing slew of announcements of new products, pieces, etc (ala Engadget or Gizmodo).

I'm like Clark, shooting for once per business day, although not always hitting the mark, depending on what's happening elsewhere in my life.

Catherine favors once a week:

I find a commitment of one blog post per week is a good pace. I think it's frequent enough so people won't lose interest in monitoring the blog, but far enough apart that I have time to ruminate on a good topic. It takes me several hours to write a blog post, so I can't be doing it every day at this point.

And Sacha says at least once a week, but try for more often:

Write at least once a week. You don't have to write every day, although you'll get the most benefits from blogging when it becomes a natural part of the way you do things. Learn something? Blog. Do something? Blog. Got through another week? Blog about your achievements and your plans for the next week.

Most bloggers find that if they are writing shorter posts, once a day can work, but if they are doing longer, more thoughtful posts, then once or twice a week is your best bet. Plus most readers can't handle really long posts every day.

The point, as Soha El-Borno pointed out, is to get in the habit of writing regularly. You should also be sure that whatever you're writing is creating value, as Sacha mentioned earlier. Better to write nothing, than to write just for the sake of writing.

What About "Voice?"

Another issues that many new bloggers worry about when they are blogging for branding is their "voice." More to the point--what's the balance between sounding "professional" and sounding like a human being?

Catherine reminds people that it's OK to let your personality show, something I agree is critically important. Blogging, by nature, is a medium that invites you to have an opinion, to tell stories and to show who you are.

If you take the time to check out other bloggers in your professional space, you'll find that there is usually a range of "voices" from the purely professional to the sometimes irreverent. Each blogger has to find his/her own way on this, but in general, the more "you" that shines through, the better. 

It's Not Just About YOUR Blog

As several readers pointed out, blogging for personal branding is not just about writing your own blog posts. It's also about connecting to other bloggers and participating in the conversations happening elsewhere online. 

Said Catherine:

To be visible, find ways to get your blog out there... answering other's blogs is a terrific start - especially Learning Circuits and like forums. Respond to hot topics on other's blogs - I've found some of my favorites by following links when I was reading a comment trail on a particularly interesting post.

Soha echoed this:

Make friends and link to other bloggers. Add your point of view. . . . always leave comments and connect.

And Tony offered this advice:

I would highly recommend the trick of engaging in interesting conversations with some of the bigger bloggers in the persons space.

For example, if you are in the world of eLearning, you should definitely engage me around one of my conversation topics.

If you're blogging for branding, keep in mind that blogging is not simply the act of posting to your own blog. It's also interacting with people who leave comments in your blog and the comments you leave on others' blogs.

It's all part of a package and for blogging to work as a strategy for branding, you have to be prepared to visit and comment on other blogs as well. (For more advice/ideas and practice in commenting, check out the Comment Challenge activities)

Additional Advice

A few commenters had some additional advice:

Clark suggested:

Pick a good name (.blogspot or .wordpress is okay, but have a good 'meme'), and pick a professional design.

Ideally, have a branding that follows through on Twitter, FaceBook, LinkedIn, etc.

Make it easy for people to follow (make your RSS feed easy, and have an email link, ala FeedBlitz).

Have different topics, and list your categories. Have a blogroll of people you follow. Do follow other folks, go out and comment on their posts; let people know you're active and supportive.

And Catherine said:

Personally, I generate readers when I teach, and when I present at conferences, plus I put my blog URL in appropriate e-mails and other communications. Getting listed in eLearningLearning has also helped.

Additional Resources
I'm going to close this post with some additional resources and links that might be helpful. And a BIG thank you to all the readers who commented and shared their advice. I think that together, we came up with a great (if a little overwhelming) guide!

UPDATE--Check out this post on blogging when your industry/occupation isn't that into it.

Flickr photos via Tonivc and  mexicanwave

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Wordle What You WANT to Do

Yesterday I suggested exploring your personal brand by using Wordle on your blog. Shannon Turlington tried that exercise out and found that she didn't like the results, so she "wordled" her semi-private journal where she's been writing about what she wants to do for the future. The results were much more to her liking.

I think this is a great twist on the idea if what you're doing now isn't where you want to be. Why not try writing out a personal vision/values statement and then running it through Wordle to see what you get? Or maybe write about what you're doing now and then what you'd like to do and then Wordle both pieces. I think that quick shot of a visualization could give you even more insight than simply writing out your ideas.

One resource I'd recommend for exploring this whole issue of vision and values is Total Leadership. We're using it in the Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington's Future Executive Director Fellowship program and its one of the best resources on personal leadership I've ever seen. Some detailed info and exercises are here and I highly encourage you to consider getting the book.

Personal Branding for the Business Professional

If you haven't seen it already, definitely check out Chris Brogan's free ebook, Personal Branding for the Business Professional. It's a quick read--mostly bullet points--and sums up some excellent strategies for building your professional reputation online.

There's a lot you need to do offline, as well, like working to make yourself a career untouchable. I'd also suggest exploring the Total Leadership model. This is something I'll be using in the Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington Future Executive Directors Fellowship I'm helping to lead over the next several months. I plan to write more about the Total Leadership approach in the coming weeks, but for now, I highly encourage you to take a look at the model.

Why You Should Own Your Name as a Domain

Apparently Glenn Tilton, President and CEO of United, didn't get the memo on personal branding. He didn't own his name as a domain, so the United pilots looking for his ouster purchased it and are using it to as the URL for the website, Glenn Tilton Must Go. A significant amount of Google juice there, as number 4 on a search for his name is the anti-Tilton site. Not that you might end up in this situation, but stranger things have happened. I'm thinking the wrath of the ex or maybe an angry colleague. This is a bell that can be hard to un-ring. Might be a good idea to buy that name today. . . . Thanks to Laurie Ruettimann for the link.

Expanding Your Portfolio

A few months ago I wrote a post on how to use to create an online portfolio. Yesterday Will Richardson posted that he'd used the idea to create his own portfolio, adding a couple of twists.

First he suggested that he could repurpose the tag feed by pulling it into a Pageflakes (or Netvibes) tab. That's a great idea and one that could work really well if you wanted to use the concept for maintaining eportfolios as part of a class. Each person could set up their own portfolio tag and then the instructor could aggregate all the feeds into a single tab. This would also be a great way for a manager to see the work of employees. Again, each worker sets up his/her own portfolio tag and then the manager can create an aggregate tab for all of them.

Will's other helpful suggestion is to create more detailed tags--for example, "michelemartinblogposts" or "michelemartinpresentations." These could then be bundled, making it easier to see the different segments of the portfolio.

Sarah Stewart also had a great idea. She created her portfolio in Wikispaces, but set up a portfolio to keep track of her citations. Then she embedded a widget in her Wikispaces portfolio to pull the citation feeds over into Wikispaces. This makes it much easier for her to keep track of her citations and have them automatically added to her portfolio.

One of the things I love about blogging--we can build on an initial idea to make it even better!

5 Questions to Ask Yourself If You Want to be a "Career Untouchable"

Off_limits_final I've always said there's no such thing as job security. Whether we realize it or not, most of us are essentially independent contractors, working at the whim of our customers, assured of employment only as long as we are able to add value in some way.

This weekend I started thinking about ways to become a "career untouchable."  That is, how do we position ourselves so that we are always providing value to our customers, whether they are an employer or some other kind of customer. I came up with 5 key questions that I think we need to ask ourselves and be able to answer yes to:

1. Am I doing work that I'm passionate about?

Usually this is the work we tend to throw ourselves into and that passion shows. People who are intrinsically motivated tend to far out-perform those who are motivated by external things, such as pay.

2. Am I doing work that plays to my strengths

There's the stuff that we can do, but it's not a strength, and then there's the stuff that we're REALLY good at. We are most likely to be adding value when we're doing work that plays to the things we're strongest in, rather than when we're doing work that isn't where our talents lie. Knowing what we're good at and building our skills to capitalize on those strengths will take us further than building a career on skills that we struggle to develop and maintain. Now Discover Your Strengths is a great resource for doing this.

3. Does my work involve one or more of Dan Pink's six key competencies?

Dan Pink, author of A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, argues that we've left the Information Age and moved into the Conceptual Age where the key to adding value is by utilizing 6 "right brain" competencies:

  • Design – Design--creating simple, elegant ways of doing things--is difficult to outsource or automate.
  • Story – The ability to construct a compelling narrative
  • Symphony – Seeing relationships between diverse and seemingly separate elements.
  • Empathy – The ability to truly understand where another person is coming from.
  • Play – Good salary and benefits are not enough to keep a team working with you. They must be able to enjoy and have fun at their work.
  • Meaning – Understanding and embracing that people are spiritual beings and when we help people find meaning we are adding value in ways that machines cannot.

(NOTE--You can download a great mindmap of Dan's book here)

4. Am I continually monitoring trends in my field and upgrading my skills to be ahead of the curve?

So many industries and occupations are being transformed by new technologies and new structures. These trends require us to adapt and acquire new skills. If we aren't on top of these trends and doing what we can to develop ourselves, we could easily be left behind. That's why we need to develop a PLE.

5. Have I set up a passive online marketing plan that includes an online portfolio and active management of my reputation
so that I'm communicating a positive personal brand?

To be a career untouchable, we need to keep our options open, both within our organizations and outside of them. We need to be aware of and communicating about our passions, our strengths, the ways we want to develop and add value. Tools like online portfolios, blogs and social networking profiles, (such as on LinkedIn) can help us keep our networks active and our talents out there. They help us establish our personal brands and maintain a positive professional reputation.

Answering yes to these questions suggests that you've positioned yourself well for your future. If you answer "no" to one or more of these, I think it might be time to do some career fine-tuning.

What do you think about these questions? Can you think of others we need to ask in order to make ourselves "untouchable"?

If You Do Not Work On Important Problems, You Will Not Do Important Work

Big_question Why do you go to work in the morning? More importantly, what makes you WANT to go to work in the morning?

Yes, it might be that pesky thing called a paycheck, but I'm guessing that those of us who bound out of bed, ready to hit the day, do so because we believe that the work we're doing has meaning, that we're contributing to something important. A lot of us, though, have lost that meaning and that sense of doing something important and I wonder if it isn't because we've lost track of working on important problems.

I thought about this while reading Brad Neuberg's little gem of a blog post on Creating a Personal Research Agenda. In it, he quotes a speech by Richard Hamming in which Hamming observes:

"If you do not work on an important problem, it's unlikely that you'll do important work."

That bears repeating:

"If you do not work on an important problem, it's unlikely that you'll do important work."

For many of us, feeling like our work has lost its meaning is a result of working on unimportant problems. We've become lost in the minutia of life and have lost sight of the big picture.  We can wait for our companies or organizations to do something for us (enjoy that) or we can do something about it for ourselves. That's where constructing a personal research agenda--a series of important questions, problems and issues we want to explore--can re-ignite our passion for work and our desire to continue learning.

Asking Important Questions
Brad comes from a coding/scientific background, so he uses the term "personal research agenda." In a broader sense,though, a personal research agenda is really just a list of the "big issues" that you think deserve your attention and towards which you want to direct your learning and experimentation. But how do you identify these questions? A few things to think about:

  • What makes you passionate? Not long ago, I went on a tangent about homophily, born of my ongoing interest in the digital divide and my observations of parallel activities going on in online communities with similar interests who are largely disconnected from each other. As a theme in my life, issues of inclusion/exclusion and creating community have loomed large, so it's no surprise that some of the big questions I tend to explore always come back to those themes.

To find your "big questions," think about the themes that make you passionate on a regular basis. What issues seem to always draw your attention and how do they signify a larger theme or problem?

  • What are the anomalies in your world? What things don't make sense?    Last night I watched the HBO documentary, Resolved (HIGHLY recommended!) It's about the world of high school debate, which has evolved from our traditional notion of a discussion of two sides of an issue, to a complicated and bizarre place where the winners of a debate are those who can marshal the largest set of facts presented at a level of speed auctioneers would envy.

Two young African-American men, disciples of Paulo Freire, see a major problem with this, noting that the new framework for debate excludes large swaths of the community from discussing real-life issues. How does this relate to you finding your "big question?" These kids are a tremendous example of looking at the assumptions and issues within an existing system and beginning to ask important questions about why things are the way the are. They saw things that didn't make sense and then tried to explore why and how they could be changed.

  • What things bother you about your profession or your sector? Think big here--what seem to be systemic issues with no easy answers? What have you observed in your personal experiences or through reading, research, etc.? What do you see as being the "big issues" your profession or sector needs to grapple with in order to be successful? Defining and addressing work literacy is one of the things I'm seeing. What about you?

Working with Your Important Questions
Once you have your important questions identified, this opens up a variety of learning opportunities for you:

  • What research can you conduct to get a handle on the question?

Use these important questions to drive a learning agenda for yourself. They can keep you fresh and excited about your work. They can remind you of why you do what you do and give purpose to your on and off-line learning activities.

Remember: "If you do not work on an important problem, it's unlikely that you'll do important work." So how can you find your "Big Questions"? What can you do to work on them?

Flickr photo via wok.