How Networking Can Make or Break You

Think before you “click”

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We’re all very concerned about keeping up a social presence, ensuring that we maintain a level of exposure both in and out of our niche networks. After all, it’s important to be seen, isn’t it? Well, that depends – on a lot.

Everyone Has a Brand

You need to be “seen” to draw attention to your product, brand, podcast, online store, and of course, to yourself. Exposure spreads like wildfire for the simplest of reasons, so why not try to capitalize on that as a professional. You need to make sure you keep it exactly that – professional.

Anyone who runs a business, sells a product or provides a service will tell you that your image isyour brand. You have to put in hard work every day to promote, preserve and improve your brand. It’s more work than a full-time job, or so it would seem.

With ease-of-use built into each platform and medium, it can be effortless to share, post, pin and glorify the daily progress you achieve in pursuit of whatever your heart desires. Sometimes, it’s tooeasy to also give off the wrong impression. All too often, it takes less than five minutes to scroll through the feed on your medium of choice and bear witness to anything from a self-inflicted character assassination to all-out brand suicide.

Do not be mistaken – Social media can hurt just as quickly as it can help. I wonder when we’ll begin to see a surgeon general’s warning and roadside billboards with the phrase “Social Media Kills.”

Playing Defense

As important as it is to promoteyour brand, it’s arguably more important and harder work to protectyour brand. You often hear statistics thrown around like, “Experts suggest it takes ten to 15 five-star reviews to balance and eventually negate a single harsh complaint or criticism against a business or product.” While I can’t seem to find a source on quantifiable numbers and data such as this, I can’t say I’d be surprised if it were entirely accurate. Think about the process of picking a restaurant to grab a bite to eat. You browse between Google, Yelp, your friends and relatives, advertisements or even appearances before finally deciding what to eat. You hear a bad review and almost immediately you take that option “off the table.” Why would this be any different when considering your own appearance and “self-brand?” A farmer’s crops die without constant care and attention to detail, and without the same approach and attitude, your brand will too. 

I am not recommending that you remove yourself from an online presence – not at all. You can’t defend yourself in a fight if you don’t show up. No, don’t bury your head in the sand while the nuclear fallout surrounds you. I can’t imagine it would be good for one’s health.

Instead, I would say it is imperative to keep a prudent watch on the events in both the physical and cyber networks around you. Make it a point to check, double check and repeat before you press “send,” “post,” “share,” or whatever the command may be. It could mean the difference between whether or not you get the event invitation, receive that recommendation or referral, are offered, or worse yet, are dismissedfrom your dream job. If not now, it could catch up with you down the road. Have you ever scrolled back a few years on your social media or done a quick 10-minute Google search with your name to see what’s held in the strong clutches of the interwebs?

Birds of a Feather Flock Together

In addition to monitoring what you post, it’s equally as important to monitor your audience. Growing up, our parents and mentors reminded us with dogmatic declaration,  “You are only as good as the company you keep.” Different cultures have their own iterations for that cliché all of which reinforce the basic idea. In Spanish, for example, “Dime con quién andas, y te diré quién eres,”translates to, “Tell me who you hang out with and I’ll tell you who you are.If we are judged by the company we keep, then why are we so quick to open our circles without a conscientious vetting first?

Within our own small aviation industry, it is entirely probable and often commonplace to fly across the United States and hear three or four familiar voices on the frequency that you “know.” Let’s not forget about all of the acquaintances you may run into at either airport on each end of your journeys. If you don’t know the person standing in front of you, chances are even better that you have some sort of mutual connection. Part of protecting your brand is knowing how you project your own image and how it will be perceived. One’s perception is their own reality. It will be a lot tougher to change someone’s mind after they’ve made it up. You don’t want to find yourself inadvertently endorsing someone or something that makes headlines in all the forums and crew rooms tomorrow. Discretion is your friend and yours alone to hold. Use it wisely. 

Risk Versus Reward

Now that we’re all paranoid about our online personas, let’s take a minute to remember and appreciate why we subject ourselves to this seemingly ridiculous stress and anxiety.  The power on an effective social presence and personal brand can go hand-in-hand with the power of the cyber-universe. The ability to promote positive, professional networking is game changing. Introducing yourself online and making that initial connection is sometimes the beginning of a fruitful professional period. We make connections both virtually and eventually personally which open doors to an abundance of opportunity. Word of mouth is often the strongest letter of recommendation.

Use the force wisely, young Jedi.

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