For busy executives, being active on social media is kind of like networking. It’s one of those things that everyone says you absolutely have to do to benefit your career, but it’s hard to make it part of your daily routine. Let’s be honest: it’s even harder for those who came of age before social media became ubiquitous. It can be tough to pin down what channels you should be on, what you should be posting, and the specific ways that a strong social media presence will bolster your career.
Supply Chain Management and its related functions (Procurement, Planning, Vendor Management, Logistics, Operations) are on the opposite end of the spectrum from functions like sales and marketing – areas where your brand is everything.
But from our perspective, there are still lots of different benefits that Supply Chain and Procurement executives can gain from building their social media brands:
- The most obvious – and relevant to a recruitment company like Argentus – is that having a strong presence on social media makes you a more attractive candidate for employers and recruiters.
- Social media activity can help position you as a thought leader in your industry, which can help connect you with new possible suppliers and strategic partners that you can bring into your Supply Chain. This is just as valuable as leads that a Sales professional might gain from being active on social media.
- Being a thought leader raises your profile in a job search, but it can also raise your profile within your company. If you feel stuck or siloed in a certain function, it can give you the opportunity to speak out about other topics within Supply Chain and Procurement. It can lead to increased responsibility and more leverage when it comes to promotions and salary increases.
- If you’re an executive (let’s say Senior Director, VP, and C-Suite), you’re a voice for your company. You can help raise the company’s profile as an employer. This is huge for attracting talent – which is a major difficulty for companies in this tight job market that favours candidates.
With all that in mind, how do you actually gain these benefits? Here are a few tips:
1. Think about goals.
How many of us have heard, “you should really get active on social, it can help your brand,” then signed up for a service, half-heartedly used it for a week and a half, and quit?
It’s important to be strategic about why you’re using social media to help further your career and brand. Are you looking to move into a new job? Are you aiming to connect with possible suppliers and partners? Are you trying to help your company seem like an awesome place to work? Are you going to offer thought leadership to be seen as an expert in the industry and widen your horizon?
When you’ve set concrete goals, it’s much easier to figure out which social media activity is going to be most effective when building your brand.
2. Streamline your channels.
This follows on the previous point. It’s easy to adopt a shotgun approach and sign up for – or resuscitate – your accounts on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and all the rest. But it’s best to pick one or at most two channels based on your goals. LinkedIn is always a good pick for networking and personal branding – check out what we’ve done with LinkedIn Publisher. It’s also, obviously, the best tool if you’re in the hunt for a new job and want to network with peers, recruiters and hiring managers.
Twitter is the still the best channel for industry news, whether you’re commenting on it or having conversations about it. Facebook and Instagram are more personal networks, so have less value for your professional career, but if you’re already comfortable on those platforms they can be useful places to be active. Some fields like Procurement have dedicated social media networks (we happen to really like Procurious), which will help you connect with people in the field and share best practices.
One other thing to consider is video. It’s more time – and possibly cost – intensive, but many executives have used YouTube, Vimeo or LinkedIn native video to speak about industry topics and build their personal brands. You might have to develop your video skills (modern smartphones can take videos with more than acceptable quality) or even hire outside video producers, but video has great engagement, so it can be well worth it.
3. Brand yourself.
Once you’ve chosen your channel or channels, you want to focus on creating a professional brand that resonates. This can sound intimidating, but often it just amounts to putting that little extra bit of “polish” into your social media profiles. Upload high quality pictures, include examples of your work or presentations that you’ve done. Think about your niche and the expertise you have to contribute.
4. Develop Content.
The next step is to post on your chosen channels regularly. If you’re on LinkedIn or Twitter, seek out connections and follow people and publications that are active in Supply Chain and Procurement.
Picture your social media feed as a place to develop content that might be interesting to other professionals in the field. This is something that a lot of people struggle with, but it’s not too difficult once you get the hang of it. The best way to start is to re-post interesting articles with a comment. Say you’ve seen a great article about technology in Supply Planning: share it, and comment on how your organization does it. After you’ve developed a rhythm, make a quick post asking your network for best practices. Solicit advice. Shine a spotlight on people in your network or company. Make a comment on Supply Chain trends. What’s a big story in the news that has implications for how organizations manage Supply Chain or Procurement? There are so many angles, and once you get active you start seeing more. Writing out your opinions about, say, Strategic Sourcing, might actually help you discover new ideas you didn’t have before.
5. Focus on engagement rather than just numbers.
The return on investment for time spent developing a personal brand isn’t always obvious. Things to pay attention to are new followers, connection requests, or mentions. But numbers aren’t everything. Take it from us: if you’re a consistent voice on your chosen channels, people are often paying attention even if they aren’t “liking” every post. Lots of people are surprised when someone brings up their posts in conversation months later – even if that person has never given any online indication that they’re reading. The key is to focus on quality of engagement rather than quantity of views or other metrics.
Even though it’s quite a buzzword, a strong personal brand is a major asset to any executive or aspiring executive. It doesn’t have to be a chore. It can actually become an illuminating part of your work routine, and it pays off. We hope these tips are useful even if you’ve been active on social media in a professional capacity before!