Social media as a professional development tool

by Kirsten Hodgson

My recent interview with Rick Shera highlighted that social media is not just a profile raising/lead generation tool. It's also a great learning tool. 

When I first started using LinkedIn and Twitter it was a bit of an experiment. I wasn't sure how social media could help me, my business or my clients but I quickly realised people were sharing some hugely valuable content in the professional services space and that I could learn a lot.

I now do about 80% of my professional development via social media – be it reading articles others have shared via LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Facebook etc, attending webinars, downloading e-books/guides or asking questions of, and engaging with, others I've met via social media.

Like Rick, I now only subscribe to one or two email newsletters, getting the majority of content via my RSS feed (all in one place – hooray!) and I don't attend as many conferences/seminars as I used to because I can often keep up with them online and do my learning at times convenient to me.

This is one of the main reasons why I disagree with professional services firms blocking staff access to social media sites: They are such great sources of valuable content.

Provided you set clear guidelines, focus on what employees CAN do and how you want them to behave, I think you can give staff access. You can then deal with those who abuse this individually. If it's an endemic issue, perhaps you have a hiring issue or you haven't communicated clear guidelines (but I'm digressing – this is a post in itself).

How can you find those sharing quality information? 

- ask around. Who do others recommend you follow in your areas of interest? You can ask your colleagues, other members of groups on LinkedIn, your Twitter followers etc.

- set up hashtags for your areas of interest on Twitter (take a look at www.hashtags.org to find out which # people use)

- use the 'Who to follow' function within Twitter and type in your areas of interest. You can then take a look at the content those suggested are sharing and determine if you want to follow them

- join relevant groups within LinkedIn and Facebook and follow those sharing interesting information or making valuable comments

- look at who others are following (on Twitter)

- check out The Matte Pad's blog post: 5 ways to find clients on Twitter (you can also use these tools to determine who to follow from a professional development perspective).

What other ways can you find those who are sharing quality content? 

How, if at all, has social media helped you from a professional development perspective? 

Specialising in professional services and law firm marketing. I help firms to retain and grow existing clients and attract more of their ideal clients. My core services include social media for lead generation, voice of the client programmes and tender strategy and development. Outside of work I love to run. I’m a bit like Forest Gump in that I’m not that quick but can keep going for ages. I also enjoy coming up with new inventions. Unfortunately, most of them have already been invented! | * Professional services marketing consultant | * Legal marketing consultant | * Law firm marketing consultant