How to Influence Without Being an Influencer
Way back in 1999, while working in consumer electronics retail, I caught the competition bug with my co-workers. It began innocently enough — making sure I was always on time for my shift, stayed slightly later to help unload a truck, made sure my sales were always at the top, etc. I then became addicted to wanting to be better, and part of that addiction was understanding that even at the age of 18, I was creating “my brand.” To me, my brand was wanting to be the most professional, helpful, accountable and dependable employee they had. Throughout the past 24 years, my brand has not changed much. I still have a desire to be the best and put full effort into what I am doing. However, I have adapted to the times and find myself on social media more than most. (Yes, I will admit that when used in a certain manner, social media can be toxic. It is the reason I worry more about my kids and what they are exposed to every day.) As we delve into the social media realm, the term “influencer” can creep further and further into the negative end of the spectrum. On the flip side of that argument, when used properly, I think social media is one of the single most useful tools that we professionals can utilize. Let me explain why that is — here are my top five practices for Linkedin (and other social media).
Practice #1 — Keep your information current and complete
One of the easiest ways in which I use LinkedIn is to view it as a resume. I want to share my current information, including work history, profile picture, contact information and references such as recommendations and contributions from past work. Sure, this helps in the event you are looking for work, but I utilize this to attract prospective new connections who might have a need that I can help support. I have a firm belief that connecting with someone on LinkedIn is all about a mutual and beneficial partnership between the two. What can you do for me as well as what can I do for you? It is because of this that I think it is necessary to not mislead. Having a current photo of yourself along with a current background tends to help guide the new partnership because both parties know whom they are communicating with. I can promise you, having experienced an acquisition in the past year alone, it is because of LinkedIn that I was able to identify new team members and start building those new relationships!
Practice #2 — Consistency is key
Social media of any form is very similar to how I teach my daughters how to do something. Back when we got a new basketball hoop for the front of our house, it was painful to see both of them struggle make baskets and get discouraged. In those moments, you channel your inner Kobe Bryant, and you just keep doing it. Shot after shot after shot … even when it ricochets off the rim and you have to sprint down the street to get the ball! Social Media is no different. If you post content once and then wait six months to post again, you are starting from scratch. You might as well not have posted that initial piece.
This was a particular lesson I have learned recently. While attending JBL Fest in September 2022, I was encouraged to chronicle my days and give my connections a close-up glance to what I was experiencing at the event. I then repeated the same practice a month later while attending the CI Total Tech Summit in Orlando. Even after having done this for two events, I did not realize the impact until I had multiple people mention to me “I loved following you along during those trips.” Consistency is key to building your brand, no matter what it might be. The more new content you post, the better, although with a suggestion that you schedule it. Posting content ten times a day, every day, might not be as beneficial as posting one or two times per week each week. It is all about what you are sharing and whom you are trying to reach.
Practice #3 — Have fun with it
Another quick story for you: It was mid-year 2020, and we all know what was happening. The phones were not ringing as much. There were many uncertainties in the world. I was left sitting at my desk one morning, and I leaned back in my chair and thought, “what can I do today to pivot?” What could I do to change from the norm during these uncertainties to try to help my brand as a business development manager. Looking around my home office, I saw different pieces of ProAV equipment that I had collected over the years, and it dawned on me “I’LL MAKE A PRODUCT VIDEO FOR LINKEDIN!” I will be the first to tell you, the first take I did was atrocious. I was awkward, stumbling over my words and felt too scripted. By take #97, I was still not enjoying it at all and thought it was a mistake to even attempt this. It was at this moment that I thought of my daughter Samantha and how at a young age she wanted to be a YouTube star. She would record herself just for fun and say “hey everyone, its Samantha” in a perky and friendly manner. So to try something new, I ripped up the script I had and pressed record. “Hey everyone, its Rob Voorhees here, and happy Friday.” Being my genuine self and just letting loose was the ingredient I was missing. The audience knows when you are not being authentic, trust me. If you are a non-technical person, like myself, do not post content that is overly technical and spouting off specs about a certain product. Talk to the audience as you would your family and friends and be genuine and have fun. It will reflect in the views you receive!
Practice #4 — Get out of your comfort zone
The “Comfort Zone Model” is something I preach daily. The old saying goes “if it doesn’t scare you, you are not dreaming big enough.” I believe that wholeheartedly. I am not saying social media is scary, but I am saying that I appreciate how it might be uncomfortable for many people. I never truly utilized LinkedIn specifically until 2017. I looked at my network of connections, which was in the low hundreds, and it dawned on me that I essentially had no network. I had nobody to turn to with business needs or support and especially as I got older, I wanted to know that I had this army of connections behind me. Think about these two scenarios: You are job searching. Would you rather send your CURRENT LinkedIn profile to 20,000 connections looking for a new job, or send it to 120, most of which are co-workers at your current job? If your company has a new product hitting the market, would you rather send the product sizzle reel to 20,000 industry executives or 100 friends/family members who do not work in your line of business? That is why I use LinkedIn the way I do. Videos, podcasts, blogs, etc. are all part of getting out of my comfort zone and reach more people. The further out of your comfort zone that you get, the easier and more fun this all becomes!
Practice #5 — Remember your brand
Let us not forget what we are even discussing here — YOUR BRAND and how to build it. As a business development manager for Exertis Almo Professional A/V, I view my brand as Exertis Almo and the product lines I am tasked with managing. Because of this, you will always recognize my shared content by the Exertis Almo polo shirt I am wearing or the topics I am discussing. Staying “on brand” is part of the practice that many people lose sight of. It is great that you are going outside your comfort zone and doing your first video podcast, but oops, you forgot to wear a company shirt or bring a demo product with you to show off. How will the audience remember who you are and what you were promoting? It may seem trivial and even a little vain, but how you look can be almost as important as what you are talking about. Your appearance speaks volumes for your brand in my opinion. Even if we look at Facebook as another type of social media — I am a member of my township’s Facebook group. We share events, emergencies etc. to the community. I cannot tell you how often we will have people trying to promote their new businesses on the page and their profile picture is something obscene. You are promoting your brand to a new community — is THAT really how you want to get your name out there? Next time you go to share content, little tendencies like sitting up straight, ironing your clothes etc. is what could push you over the top to reach the audience you desire.
My goal with writing this was to encourage at least one new reader to jump into social media. Being an influencer does not mean you are sitting in a restaurant snapping 1,000 pictures of your dinner plate. To me, it means you are providing thought-provoking content to help educate others. That is what this is all about — helping others! LinkedIn helps me every time I get a profile view, thumbs up on content I share, or new connection. All of those can lead to a new sale or new client for my brand, and it is that excitement that keeps me coming back to its daily. In closing, I challenge each of you. Find what social media platform works best for you and HAVE FUN!