Monday, October 25, 2010

Social Networking for the Business Writer: Profiles

Social media is the child prodigy of the online world--only a few years old and accounting for 20-25% of the average person's Web time. And already the "social" part seems an anachronism as more and more businesses give major marketing roles to these networks.

The next few Good Writing Is Good Business posts will focus on social media as a business writing venue. Let's begin at the beginning, with the front-and-center section: the profile.

LinkedIn has anticipated me here in its FAQ article "Ten Tips on Building a Strong Profile." Here's a summary of important points, adaptable to the social network of your choice:

Remember whom you're writing for. The vast majority of social network users focus on very human needs: keeping up with contacts; locating practical information; finding jobs; or exploring the what-kind-of-person-is-this question before choosing whom to interview for an opening. Yet many social networking profiles read like cut-and-pasted resumes or like advertorials. Focus instead on things you might bring up in a face-to-face business networking conversation.

Remember also what venue you're writing for. The key to good Web writing of any type is short paragraphs and pages, preferably with links and visuals. (Side note: never substitute a cartoon image or blank square for your photo. Show your real face!) And do as the journalists do; put the most important information in the first sentence where readers will be sure to see it.

Be economical with your words as well. Instead of adjectives/adverbs paired with nouns/verbs, look for a descriptive noun/verb that carries the meaning of both words. Don't waste space on redundancies such as "future plans," or on near-meaningless adverbs such as "mostly" and "very."

Sound like yourself--and like your business. Don't write like a college professor if you rent party props, nor like a stand-up comedian if you're a funeral director. LinkedIn puts it best: "Picture yourself at a conference or client meeting. How do you introduce yourself? That's your authentic voice, so use it."

Write your tagline with special care; it may determine whether anyone bothers to read the rest of your profile. Incorporate the #1 key point of your business's mission statement.

Think "elevator speech" when drafting the first full paragraph of your profile. What two or three things do you most want every contact to know? Incorporate them into a memorable statement that can be read out loud in 20-30 seconds.

In the larger profile, include plenty of action keywords related to your specialty industries and your personal performance record. And be clear on what you (and/or your business) actually do. (But don't digress into long technical explanations; think about what will interest readers.)

Do include links to your main Web site(s), also to organizations where you hold professional memberships or certifications. Include also links to past employers. And do list professional awards or honors you have received.

Do complete your entire profile.

You'll probably have some say in your profile's official URL address. Make sure it says something short, memorable, and relevant about you.

Don't forget to update your profile when you get a new award, certification, or client.


Once your social media profile is complete, writing will continue to play an important role in your use of the account. I'll talk more about that in upcoming posts.

Other posts in this series:
Social Networking for the Business Writer: Network Updates
Social Networking for the Business Writer: "Cold Call" E-Messages
Social Networking for the Business Writer: The E-Article Connection
Social Networking for the Business Writer: LinkedIn Discussions
Social Networking for the Business Writer: LinkedIn Q & A
Social Networking for the Business Writer: Top-Ten List

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