3 February 2014

Gain Reputation by Sharing

In the previous article I talked about the foundation of your personal brand, your reputation. Reputation means to be recognized for something, at least by your peers. But to be known for something you actually have to do something, e.g. create or share things of interest.

SharingSo Just Start Sharing
The easiest way to share is to re-share. Start using Twitter and follow some people related to your interests. These may be authors of books you consider important or well known members of the community or just people you know and want to listen to. If they share something you consider worth reading, then re-share (re-tweet) it. Also share links whenever you find an interesting article or useful tool. There exists a bookmark widget that makes sharing to Twitter very easy. If you do all that then I am already interested in your Twitter stream because you aggregate information about a certain topic and reduce noise.

Do Not Over-share
Start slowly and do not over-share. Be sensitive about what you share. For example political or religious topics might be controversial and will not help you - unless that is what you want to be known for. I especially like the rules given by Martin Nielsen: "Would your (hypothetical) grandchildren be proud of what you share? If not then probably you should not share it. And if you do not smile while writing it, you should not share it at all." I have violated these rules myself a few times as you can see in my blog rants, but exceptions prove the rule. ;-)

Promote Yourself
Many social media tools, like Twitter, Facebook or Google+ allow you to promote content by sharing links or snippets of text. Using these tools you can and should promote yourself and tell the world what you are doing to build your own brand. But if all your content is (self)-marketing it will not work. People will lose interest because there is no benefit in following you. While working for IBM I had the opportunity to listen to a presentation by Luis Suarez, the email-less man, about social media and he advised that eight out of ten messages should not be (self)-marketing, but interesting and useful information.

SharingEngage Others and Communicate
After some time, when you feel comfortable with sharing interesting things via social media tools, it is time to communicate directly with others. This can be a simple as answering tweets or commenting on blog posts you read. Saying thanks or asking questions is a great way to start a conversation. This is exactly how I got in touch with the great people organizing my most favourite conference. While preparing to visit GeeCON I shared some ideas for the community day on the GeeCON blog. It was not a big thing, just one or two sentences. Then during the conference, when I passed Adam of the GeeCON staff, he stopped and we had a nice chat. He had recognized the Code Cop logo on the sleeve of my T-shirt. (By the way, GeeCON 2014 is coming up and they have great speakers announced, so you might consider going there.)

Be Authentic (Again)
I already mentioned in the first part that you need to be authentic. If you have nothing to say then do not try to make up fake conversations. If you read a blog post and do not have anything to add or discuss, then just leave it alone. I rarely add comments to blog posts. If I have nothing to say, I just shut up.

Create Genuine Content
After sharing and commenting the next step is creating stuff on your own, which usually means maintaining a programmer blog. While this is true I recommend something easier to start: Stack Overflow. I am sure that you use Stack Overflow. So why not register an account and start contributing? Even if you are just reading answers, you should vote on questions and answers that are useful to you. Then you could make a habit of fixing badly formatted questions and (given some reputation) adding tags. Sooner or later you will have some reasonable question to ask or even know some answers to existing questions. Stack Overflow is an excellent training area for future writers because questions and answers should be correct, concise and properly formatted, just like your blog posts, only much shorter. See a recent presentation by Jeff Atwood about how to be a good Stack Overflow citizen for details on how to work best with Stack Overflow.

The next part will be on maintaining a technical blog. While I am busy writing about it, I expect a lot of interesting material to appear in your Twitter stream.

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