Self-Promotion for Introverts

Career advancement tips, quips, and insights for the quieter crowd

Social Media: Welcome to Hotel California

“We are all just prisoners here of our own device[s].”

You may enjoy contributing to communities like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, where you can expand your network by connecting from users around the world, share information, and raise your visibility. If you're an introvert, you can use these venues to thrive quietly in your Batcave, devouring facts and figures, theorizing, and philosophizing online sunup to sundown. Each day you can wake up and read, research, and write some more.

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Or maybe it's a love-hate thing, with the ever-expanding options, the need to keep all your profiles up to date, and all the strangers angling to be your "friend." Brings to mind the line from Hotel California that the '70s pop band The Eagles made famous: "You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave." Not to mention: "We are all just prisoners here of our own device." Make that devices!

Patrice-Anne Rutledge, a communication consultant and author of Teach Yourself LinkedIn in 10 Minutes and several other business and technology books, will share her insights about social media trends; she offers her perspective as an introvert as well.

NA: What strengths do introverts have in the realm of social media?

PR: One of the advantages introverts have is that they can often avoid common social media pitfalls such as acting before thinking. Many celebrities have made the headlines in recent months over social media gaffes because they posted or tweeted without researching facts or thinking through the ramifications of their words. Introverts tend to think before acting, which makes them less likely to make public blunders.

NA: How about challenges?

PR: A big challenge that introverts have with social media is the perception that it requires you to be in the public eye and let the entire world know everything you're doing. To be sure, many people go big with social media to the point of over-sharing, but massive publicity isn't a necessity for success. Social media does require some level of public exposure, but remember that you're always in control of what you say and the specific audiences you share with.

NA: What's hot right now in social media?

PR: Social media continues to evolve, and what's hot one day could soon become yesterday's news. Currently, social TV, social sharing, Google+, and the Facebook IPO are among the hot areas of interest in social media.

NA: What's cooled off?

PR: One thing I've noticed, and I think this is a good thing, is a de-emphasis on social media as a numbers game, replaced by a greater emphasis on true engagement and community.

NA: Many of my clients and colleagues who are searching for jobs say they find it overwhelming to keep track of the extensive features of the major social media sites. Do you have advice to help make it simpler?

PR: With so much happening in the world of social media, it's hard for anyone to keep up with all the changes. It really boils down to focusing on what pays off and not getting distracted by all the different options. With so many choices and new social sites popping up every day, you need to avoid the bright shiny object syndrome and focus on the sites that deliver results.

Also, don't think that you need a presence on each and every site out there. For example, Facebook may draw more traffic than any other social site, but it isn't right for everyone. If you're a job seeker, for example, LinkedIn is likely to deliver much better results even though it has far fewer users.

NA: How well do you think you should know someone before accepting them into your network on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or Google+?

PR: Each of those major social networks is unique, so the answer to this depends on the site and your reason for participating on it. For example, job seekers will probably want to focus on strategic networking within their own industry and geographic location. If your goal is to attract a large, general audience to your website or business, however, connecting with as many people as possible could be more beneficial.

NA: Do you think it's a good idea to use the standard invitation language on each of these platforms (e.g., "I'd like to add you to my professional network" on LinkedIn) or should you write a customized invitation when you want to "friend" someone?

PR: Customized requests generate the best response. On LinkedIn, this is particularly important if you're reaching out to someone you don't know. Although some LinkedIn users are open networkers and connect with anyone and everyone, many others focus on networking with people who share some sort of connection. For example, letting someone know that you're a member of the same professional association, work in the same industry, or attended the same university can open more doors than the default request text.

NA: Many introverts prefer having deep relationships with just a few people rather than a huge network. Do you think that makes sense in the realm of social media if they're looking to advance in their careers?

PR: Although amassing a vast collection of connections, friends, and followers isn't required to achieve positive results with social media, you do need to expand beyond connecting only with people you know personally if you want to maximize its potential. For example, a woman I once met at a business event told me she was having difficulty finding a new job despite her strong qualifications. I sent her a connection request on LinkedIn the next day, but she declined to connect with me, saying that she wanted to use LinkedIn only for people who knew her well enough to provide a personal recommendation. This type of thinking, however, is shortsighted. LinkedIn needs to be more than your personal Rolodex if you want to generate results. At the very least, you should expand your network to include people your existing connections know, others in your industry, and, yes, people you meet at conferences and events.

NA: Blogs have been popular for close to a decade now. Do you think they're still a good way for a businessperson to build a following? Or is the blogosphere so oversaturated that it doesn't make sense?

PR: Blogging is a bit different from traditional social media in that it enables you to better demonstrate your expertise and develop a reputation as a thought leader in your industry. Keep in mind, however, that blogs have become so ubiquitous that it's definitely much harder to develop an audience today than it was even several years ago. Blogging is clearly an investment in time and isn't the right choice for everyone. A good alternative to publishing your own blog is to contribute guest posts to other blogs or websites.

Nancy Ancowitz is a business communication coach, an adjunct instructor at NYU, and the author of Self-Promotion for Introverts (McGraw-Hill).

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