Building a Reputation for Teenagers Online
Social media is often viewed as entertainment by teenagers and there is nothing wrong with that opinion. Unless of course, they only see social media as entertainment. It can be so much more! It can be the means to getting a better job. It also can be a way to help them determine their educational or career path. Either way, it all starts with using social media to build up a teen’s influence levels.
As people look to improve their online reputation, many people don’t know how to do it. Or at least, how to do it right. There is no silver bullet that will help you become the most impressive person on social media in a blink of an eye. You will still need to put forth the effort and it will take time. That’s why everyone needs to start immediately to build up their reputation and there is a difference between just doing work and doing it right. Next week, I’ll be giving a presentation to a local school on using social media responsibly and one of the things that I will recommend to them is to think how their actions now will impact them years from now. That may be a difficult thing for some people to consider, but it’s an important one.
The Willie Sutton Approach
When asked why he robbed banks, notorious outlaw Willie Sutton simply explained, “Because that’s where the money is.”
You can have the best information and be the best writer in the world, but if you aren’t where your target audience is, then you’re wasting your time. In the case of a bank robber, Sutton went to banks to get what he wanted.
For teenagers looking to build up their reputation, they need to be where it will get them what they want. I can’t tell you for sure which social media platforms are the best choices for you, but I can give you some pretty good recommendations.
Whichever platforms you chose, you need to be active. Simply having an account will not be enough. You will also most likely need to be active in online groups, especially for professional fields. Of course, being the founder of a group, once you have enough experience online is a good way to establish credibility and influence. I am the administrator of several groups and I can tell you that it takes a bit of effort. It gets easier as time goes by, but it still takes a lot to get the group going.
One of the biggest decisions you will need to make is if you will allow others to automatically create new discussions within the group or if you will need to approve them first. I was in a group where my postings must be approved by the group’s administrator. It can be very frustrating, because the admin was extremely slow to approve things, so posting anything that is time sensitive is usually worthless.
At one point, I had four postings pending in that group, most of which had been pending for weeks. It can become frustrating, not only for me, but probably for others in the group as well. I often wonder how much other good information was being held back for her approval by other members of the group. Others must have complained, because other admins changed the settings to the group so that all postings were automatically shared with the group.
As a group administrator, you will need to wear several hats, including social director, event planner, cheerleader and when needed, policeman. Fortunately, I haven’t had to wear that hat too often. One serious consideration is what kind of privacy settings you will set for the group. On LinkedIn, all groups are now “private”, meaning that people from outside the group cannot see what transpires in the group. For Facebook, they can be Open, Closed or Private. You will need to check the types offered by whichever site you chose to use.
For professionals and people looking for a career in a professional industry, LinkedIn is virtually a must! More than any other social media site, anyone using LinkedIn needs to be active in groups. Being perfectly frank about it, the time it can take to establish yourself as an influencer can take longer than you might expect. Years, even! For this reason, now that LinkedIn allows teenagers to use the site, I recommend that they get onto the site and start networking as soon as possible.
One of the reasons why the company lowered their minimum age was to allow younger teens to reach out to potential schools for help in determining the best choice for them. Teens can talk with alumni and get feedback and advice from people who were in the same field of study that they may be considering. This can be a tremendous advantage to teens who can find potential schools or maybe eliminate potential schools, which can be even more important. For parents, it can mean not having to take long distance trips only to find out after they spent a lot of money on travel and lodging that would be wasted.
For me personally, I ended up transferring out of my original college, partly because I was (extremely) dissatisfied with it. It was so bad that I ended up transferring to the local community college. Eventually, after being in the “real world” for a while, I decided that I needed to go back to a four year college to finish up my Bachelor’s degree and eventually, my Masters’ degree, but it all might have been avoided if I had the opportunity to do what today’s high school students have available to them and chosen a different school right away.
Twitter is a special kind of platform. Because of its limitation of no more than 140 characters per tweet, you will really need to use short, but enticing headlines/intros. Pictures will help a lot to convince people to follow you and/or read your content. Most likely, it will include a link to another site, such as a blog, YouTube video, etc.
I encourage everyone using Twitter to build influence by using content collectors and curate daily e-newspaper(s). While there are a variety of them available, I prefer paper.li. I start by creating a “list” on Twitter and then using paper.li to select content only from people on a given list. For example, I have an e-newspaper dedicated to cyberbullying and another dedicated to gifted education. The papers are automatically sent out on a specific schedule – I choose daily. The people that get selected are randomly tagged in the posting, encouraging them to share it, increasing my influence and credibility. I have also been at the other end of the situation, where people use my content for their newspapers, which also helps me build influence as it gets my content to people that would not normally see it.
I can pretty much guarantee that you will be approached by someone on Twitter who will try to “sell” you Twitter followers. You may see it on other sites, but I see it more often on Twitter. Do not give these people your money! Yes, your list of Twitter followers may increase, but it will be obvious to everyone that if you have very few actual tweets that you should not have hundreds or even thousands of Twitter followers. This will let them know how you acquired them and that will only work against your goal of building a good reputation and increasing your influence.
Let’s face it – Facebook is still the king of social media. Pretty much any B2C company that wants to interact directly with their customers and potential customers needs to be on Facebook. There is one feature on Facebook that many businesses and people do not use to their advantage. Once a Facebook page has been created, you can create “Notes” where people can post just about anything that they wish to post.
Until recently, the functionality of Facebook Notes was pretty limited. It could not use boldfacing, italics, etc. Most people that used the Notes probably used them as I did – including an introduction and a link to another site, including a blog. Now, the Notes section can be used to create a basic blog for people that don’t want to create an actual website/blog. I’m about to recommend that your teenagers begin a blog, but if they really resist the idea, using Facebook Notes is another option.
Speaking of blogs, I recommend them for anyone trying to build influence online. To do so requires three things:
Promotion of content from other sources
Keeping to a schedule (preferably, at least weekly)
The first point may seem like a given, but you have to consider it from the other person’s perspective. Of course you think what you’re posting is interesting and helpful, but will others feel the same way? Pushing your own content or making people jump through too many hoops to get it will only push people away from you. To show that you’re really interested in helping people (and thereby, making yourself a valuable resource to them), provide substantial benefits to your readers, even if it means directing them to another provider.
If your site allows people to subscribe to your updates, that’s a big help to them (and to you). If not, it is critical that you keep to a regular schedule of when you publish new content. Of course, posting daily is a great way to quickly providing content that can increase your influence with them. If not daily, maybe twice a week or even once a week, just so you keep to the schedule. People will see from your past postings how often they can expect to find new material from you and will return to the site if they can’t subscribe to it.
At first, it will be difficult to get enough source material. That’s to be expected. You can get additional content from within your own company by asking various departments to write articles. After all, you may be a genius at marketing or designing, but not so much when it comes to customer service or shipping. Eventually, once you build up enough credibility and influence, you can ask outsiders, such as key opinion leaders in your industry to write content for you. That also increases your influence because it shows that serious players in your field consider you a partner.
For students, that aren’t working in their chosen field yet, there are still places to find ideas. Using others as a starting point is fine, so long as you’re simply not rehashing the same words and calling it “new” material. For example, if you read an article on someone else’s blog about the top reasons to support a specific candidate, there’s nothing wrong with giving a similar article for your chosen candidate. If you have a different candidate, the reasons will most likely be different than what you read. If you both chose the same person, then pick different reasons, change the importance of the reasons, etc. to make your blog original and helpful to people.
There are plenty of sites that will provide blog space for free, including BlogSpot, WordPress, Tumblr, WIX and more. Some of them will upgrade your services for a minimal fee and it’s probably a wise investment when you can afford it.
I couldn’t do social media, especially Twitter, without Hootsuite. This site, which is also free to use, is outstanding at scheduling your social media feeds. It can manage your Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, WordPress and Instagram accounts by allowing you to schedule postings in advance. After all, nobody can sit at the computer all day and post to the various sites. I spend about an hour a week scheduling my social media updates. Of course, when I see something new that needs to be put into the cycle, I sign onto Hootsuite and put it in the rotation.
One of the nicer features of Hootsuite is that it includes a URL shortener so that you can take long URL addresses and shorten them for use on Twitter. That’s really important, as you only have 140 characters, so you need a good hook to get people to notice you. That makes visuals even more important. They also take up some of those 140 characters, so it takes some real practice to come up with a good combination of text and visuals to get noticed.
You do not need to have a Google (they own YouTube) account in order to use YouTube to help build your influence. What you need to do is share videos from other sources across your social media landscape. To help find valuable videos, go to the websites of companies that you know provide valuable information and see if they have a link directly to their YouTube channel. If they do, go to it and look through their videos and select those that make the most sense.
When sharing a video, you may be able to use the URL address itself and simply paste it onto another social media site, such as Facebook. For a blog, you will most likely need to embed onto the posting.
If you do have a Google account, you will be able to create your own videos and share them like any other. If you’re using one of the newer versions of Microsoft PowerPoint, you can actually export your slide presentations as a video and upload it onto YouTube. That can allow you to make highly professional videos that will help increase your reputation/influence.
Having great content is only part of the battle. The other part is getting people to realize that, especially as you’re just getting started online. Always remember to use hashtags in order to draw attention to yourself. My passion in social media has been to help keep kids safe when they are online and to help parents of kids that are in gifted education classes. I use hashtags to help draw attention to my content in two different ways.
First, I use generic hashtags that I expect people might come across online. For example, for the cyber safety content, I use hashtags such as #cyberbullying, #parenting and #suicide. For the gifted education content, I will use #parenting, #education, #gifted and #giftededucation. Others might also be used, but they are the primary generic hashtags that I use.
I also create custom hashtags that are specific, even unique, to my own content. For the content related to online safety, I use #PG2SM, which stands for Parents’ Guide to Social Media. For the gifted education, I use #ABCsofGE4P, which stands for the ABCs of Gifted Education for Parents. Bother are highly unlikely to be used by anyone else and when someone comes across any of my content, they can click on the hashtag to quickly find related content that I’ve provided. This helps me build influence with others and has led to me getting asked to participate in online forums, write guest blog articles and more.
Building a strong reputation and becoming a person of influence can take a long time. The sooner you get started on it, the sooner it will be that you reap the rewards of your hard work. If done well, it will eventually provide momentum that will begin to provide results with less effort on your part. This was explained in Jim Collins’s article, Good to Great, that was published by Fast Company.
Too many people and companies give up on social media because they don’t see instantaneous results. Social media doesn’t work that way. Nothing that is worth doing works that quickly. If it did, everyone would do it. To quote Tom Hanks in A League of their Own, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”
If you follow the steps that I’ve described here, you can become a person of influence via social media that will provide long term benefits to you.
PS. Please take a look at my new book, #DigitalParenting, available on Amazon.