By Dorie Clark
Adapted from Stand Out: How to Find Your Breakthrough Idea and Build a Following Around It (Portfolio/Penguin 2015), this article discusses how networking and business development and professional development can all be efficiently done online.
Building your brand online is one of the best investments you can make because, in a global economy, many people – including potential clients and employers – will research and judge you based on the information they find online, without ever having met you. It’s essential to ensure that you’re accurately represented, and that your strengths shine through. But many professionals hesitate to become active on social media because they imagine they’ll need to devote endless hours to “brand building activities” that compete with the work they’re actually paid to do.
Instead, however, you can employ a strategy I describe in my recent book Stand Out, which combines networking, professional development, and brand building into one activity, maximising your efficiency.
Mark Fidelman, a San Diego-based entrepreneur and consultant, has mastered the process. He’s an avid blogger for sites like Forbes and Business Insider. But he’s not doing it for the pay (little) or even the vague promise of “exposure.” Instead, he writes his heavily researched posts for two reasons: “Either I have a new client and I need to get up to speed on their business, and writing forces me to be intelligent about it,” he says, “or I’ll use it for lead generation, in hopes that people connect with me and want to hire my company or join my network.” In other words, he blogs – which builds his brand and visibility – in order to learn about new fields (professional development) or attract new clients (networking and business development).
When Fidelman takes on a client, he doesn’t write about them directly. Instead, he interviews leaders who work in his client’s industry and uses the interview process as a form of networking. One of his strategies is to create elaborately researched posts that identify the top twenty-five leaders in a given field or industry (“The 25 Highest Rated CEOs That Are Hiring Now”, or “Meet the Top 20 Most Social CMOs of the Fortune 100”, or “The World’s Top 20 Social Brands”). Creating each list, he says, takes at least one hundred hours. That may seem like a mammoth undertaking, but he’s convinced of the value: it gives him the opportunity to build relationships with influential people who might be useful connections for him and his clients in the future. Plus, he’s developed a precise system to leverage his time.