Recently I posed a question to several of my followers on Twitter: What FAQ's do you have for this blog?Diver2

I was pleased to receive two quick questions, one of which was

"How do you create a personal brand if you haven't settled into an industry - who do you follow on Twitter and connect w/ on LinkedIn?"

This is a big enough question to merit several blog postings. and how to incorporate LinkedIn into your job search strategy, today I suggest that the best course of action for newcomers to LinkedIn and Twitter, is to create a basic account--sit back and observe--before you actively participate.

There's a lot of talking about personal branding these days, but if the brand you present isn't aligned with what employers need--you may inadvertently miss out.

Creating an online presence on the fly is a little bit like trying on a bathing suit in a department store, then wearing it as you go out of the store: as soon as you've made your choice on what fits you, you've gone public! After all, people can see you. You want to show off your attributes, but you want to do so in a way that's going to help your career (just as with resumes, any mis-spellings or grammatical errors alone can work against you). You want to be "on message" and Twitter and LinkedIn are full of clues about what potential employers are looking for.

One trick for finding a great swimsuit and developing an online presence is to "do as the Romans do": watch how other people present themselves, before you dive in.

Getting LinkedIn:

You might find this past post on how to get started with LinkedIn to be helpful, keep in mind that you need to establish a personal connection with a user before you invite them to join your network: Invitations to connect to total strangers may be turned down--and too many "I don't know this user responses from LinkedIn" can result in a loss of "invitation privileges."

A great way to start with LinkedIn is to create a very brief profile for yourself first--then research how other people present similar interests before expanding your profile.
(The Search People feature is a handy tool here.)

Once you've created a general profile, you can begin the business of exploring potential connections. Strategies for getting started include:

1. Searching Question and Answer forums for advice in your field
(with an eye for identifying smart and helpful people you'd like to know),

2. Joining groups in your area of interest and local community (alumni groups are growing and can be helpful), and

3. Sending customized messages to anyone you invite to join your network (personal messages generally have a higher success rate--it's the virtual equivalent to writing a thank you note). When appropriate, use the Introductions feature instead of contacting someone you don't know--it will generate better results.

Twitter

On Twitter, people find and follow each other based on the appeal of their respective "tweets"--i.e. mini blog posts in 140 characters or less. It's easy to get started, and here are two short pieces you can use as a jump start: Marketing Research Whiz Chris Brogan has a Newbie's Guide to Twitter, you can also find a basic guide for getting started on CNET.

You can find people to follow through Twitter's search engine (search on keywords of interest), and through looking at list of followers on individual pages--there are also many "top Twitter user" lists (such as Twitterholic). To find a list of people in your field, try a Google search on "Top Twitter Users in ________."

In terms of establishing a personal brand on Twitter, it's a dance of sharing information that is "on topic" to your interests--and allows others to hear your personal voice.
It's a relatively unspoken--but sometimes noted--rule that "tweets" shouldn't be all about you and what your goal for using the application (i.e. if all you do is say "I want a job" you'll be "unfollowed" pretty fast). People who are new to Twitter and who don't use it correctly are referred to as Noob's.

Don't want to be a Noob?  Check out this list of how to "Lose Followers on Twitter" and consider starting a test account under a pseudonym before you get started in earnest. Once you have a good idea of how to proceed, a good Twitter bio (that includes your career goals and current status), and several "Tweets" under your account--you can start actively following others under your own name.  Voila: You're now on your way to creating a Twitter community of your own and to being known for what you write about.

This is how I recommend getting started, if you have comments or additional questions, tweet away or share below!

To Your Success,
Chandlee