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Use Social To Tout Expertise: Tips For IT Pros

Want to brand yourself a tech subject matter expert, inside and outside your company? Here's expert advice.

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Are you the go-to person for all things technology? If so, you're likely a subject matter expert. You know it. Your end users know it. But does anyone else?

In this day and age, when competition for getting (and sometimes holding onto) jobs is fierce, hiding your light under a basket is just not a good idea. In fact, there's a great deal of value to be derived from establishing yourself as an expert in the technology products, platforms, and processes that are driving businesses today. Fortunately, the tools for establishing your expertise are free, readily available and relatively easy to navigate: social networks.

Ed Brill, IBM's director of messaging and collaboration, said it's important for IT professionals to promote their expertise both internally and externally. "Today, personal branding is two-fold-- you need to establish yourself internally at your organization and externally to your organization's ecosystem of customers, partners and more," said Brill.

[ Companies also can use social media to reward employees. Read Kudos Offers Simple Social Employee Recognition. ]

Establishing yourself as a subject matter expert using social networking means using the platforms to create and share content, to promote content, and for discussion.

"The traditional social media platforms we've become so familiar with today--Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Blogger, etc.--provide endless opportunities for IT professionals to brand themselves and establish their digital reputation and credibility to the public," said Brill. "For example, I contribute to many IBM-related social media and virtual communities. I author a blog at www.edbrill.com, which is focused on collaboration, technology, Chicago, and more. I'm active on a variety of social media platforms. Thanks to my engagement over these platforms I'm able to connect with, educate and influence customers, prospects, business partners and more."

With that said, IT professionals should focus their area of expertise. In other words, don't try to be an expert in everything. Pick one area--say, mobile device security--and marshal your efforts around it: Blog about your experience with mobile device security; engage in online discussions about mobile device security; share articles you have found valuable about mobile device security; participate in Webinars on mobile device security; produce mobile device security how-to videos; comment on new products and news around mobile device security. Before you know it, your name will become associated with mobile device security.

However, before generating any content, especially anything that mentions your organization by name, it's a good idea to get the OK from your own manager, and be sure you are following any guidelines laid out in your company's social media policy. Your company's communications/marketing/PR departments will likely need to be pulled in, as well, in order to integrate your efforts into any existing social media strategy.

Of course, all of this is not to say that you can't blog, post, Tweet, +1, etc. on your own and without company permission, but it's better to be safe than sorry.

IBM's Brill says that companies should not only give permission, they should be actively encouraging their employees to push themselves as experts.

"I think it's important for an organization to cultivate and educate IT professionals so that they can become subject matter experts, and I think it's important that every professional has their own, individual voice," he says. "IT is still as much an art as a science, and as such, artists may distinguish themselves through their application of their expertise more than their knowledge itself. Or, if they are still learning, it is a way to establish sharing and mentor-like relationships that contribute to brainstorming, creative solutions and breakthrough thinking. With social business today, we can all discuss things, professionally and openly. Whether you're a subject matter expert or on your way to becoming one, you have a voice. This is why social business matters today; it's about making business and technology much more than a monologue."

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