Let’s discuss “social relevance” – the idea that what matters in the social sphere of the Web is not your connections but your credibility. It may well be the key to your success, whether you’re in transition or looking to advance in your career.
Until recently, if you talked to anyone about LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, one question would eventually but inevitably get asked: how many connections, followers or friends do you have? I call this the “fingers and toes approach” to measuring social standing. Basically, we defined our stature in cyberspace as a function of our digital contacts.
Part of the allure, I suspect, was that connections, followers and friends were easy metrics to compute, and the sites helpfully did the math for us. Unfortunately, however, these measures said more about a person’s diligence in knocking on cyberdoors than about the perceived value of what they said or did once the door was opened.
Indeed, from an employer’s perspective, they emphasize means rather than ends. They describe how a person uses social media, not what kind of contribution they can make or expertise they can demonstrate with it. They indicate the quantity of a person’s social interactions, not their relevance or quality. And, in a highly competitive global marketplace, social quality – a high credibility score – is the most accurate predictor of the only end that matters to employers: superior on-the-job performance.
So, having a high credibility score is not only important, it’s essential to job search and career success. How do you develop such relevance? There are any number of ways, of course, but the following are a good place to start:
1. Share your expertise with others. And, do so regularly. As I explain in The Career Fitness Workbook, that’s the real meaning of “networking.” It’s netWORK – an integral activity of your business day – not net-get-around-to-it-whenever-it’s-convenient. Find a blog, a LinkedIn group or a discussion forum that focuses on your profession, craft or trade and contribute to the conversation.
Isn’t that what you’re doing here? Yes and no. The Career Activism Group discusses the principles and practices of effective career self-management. When you contribute to our dialogue, therefore, you’re sharing your expertise on that subject. But, to maximize your social relevance, you have to be equally as generous with your knowledge in your occupational field. If you’re an accountant, for example, find a blog about accounting and participate regularly in that discussion, as well.
2. Take advantage of LinkedIn’s new Endorsements feature. Yes, it’s a bit artificial, but still, it provides a way for others to recognize your expertise with specific skills. You simply list your principal occupational capabilities on your LinkedIn profile and then invite others to endorse you in one or more of them.
Be careful, however, not to fall into the means-end trap again. The idea is not to collect as many endorsements as possible, but to collect them from others who themselves have high credibility scores. Being endorsed by one or two people who are perceived to be an expert in your field is much more relevant to your credibility than being endorsed by two or three hundred also-rans.
Admittedly, those two activities take time and effort. So, here’s a question for you: is it worth it? Or, is all the brouhaha about online networking and the social Web simply a lot of sturm und drang?