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In today’s marketplace, where members of the merchant-acquiring community are using every resource available to improve their professional standing and to find new business, many are turning to such social-networking websites as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to get in front of their respective audiences.

Seeking such connections might help to advance one’s career or to link with customers. But using social networks with little forethought or follow-through could be more hazardous to one’s online success than choosing not to participate, observers say.

Indeed, crafting one’s online persona requires meticulous attention, diligence and an ability to accurately portray oneself.

Though each site offers something different, the common thread is to engage and be courteous, says Mary Winingham, owner of Mirror Consulting. Winingham recently led a session in October on social networking at the Western States Acquirers Conference in La Jolla, Calif.

“People are online, people are digital and people are looking” at these sites for information, Winingham says. “LinkedIn is the strongest social-media outlet for professional growth and development,” she says.

That also means that hiring managers turn to LinkedIn as a way to find candidates.

Failing To Listen

Human-resources professionals are continuously trolling LinkedIn for prospective employees, Jan Carroza, marketing manager at CSRSI, a Jensen Beach, Fla.-based company that operates PCI Toolkit, an online service that helps merchants in their PCI data-security standards compliance efforts.

“Your profile should be in the first person, telling your story about how you feel about the work you do and the difference you make,” Carroza says.

As someone with almost 1,200 LinkedIn connections, Kevin Gallagher, e-commerce general manager at Merchant e-Solutions, a Redwood City, Calif.-based payment-technology company, has embraced the online social world since he started using the service in 2003. An avid believer in the site’s ability to stay in touch with industry colleagues, Gallagher has found LinkedIn can do more by helping him recruit employees.

“My friends are the best source of new employees,” Gallagher says. “You’re not going to refer someone to your friend who is not good, right?”

Three years ago, after leaving payment processor Chase Paymentech Solutions LLC, Gallagher used LinkedIn to build his list of references and to search for his next position at Merchant e-Solutions. “When I met with the Merchant e-Solutions CEO, I handed him a packet of 26 references,” many of whom the CEO also knew, Gallagher says.

“If you’re looking for a job, this is the best resource,” he says. “The larger the network, the easier it is to get in.”

It has become almost mandatory for sales and business-
development professionals to have a LinkedIn profile, Gallagher says. “It’s definitely much harder not to have a profile and still be successful, depending on the type of position you’re in,” he says.

That is especially so in the payments industry, which tends to be a close-knit group, Gallagher says.

LinkedIn users should include at a minimum their employment history and a brief overview of their current position, Gallagher suggests. “A lot of people search and find you based on companies,” he says.

Join The Discussion

Participating in discussions on LinkedIn and posting links to noteworthy items are other effective tools to building one’s online persona.

Establishing a LinkedIn profile and failing to engage the online community is akin to attending a cocktail party, meeting one person at a time but failing to listen to anything they have to say or to ask questions, she says.

“You would have wasted your time and not been perceived as someone who cares about anyone but yourself,” Winingham says. “That exact same thing is true in social media.”

Carroza also recommends joining LinkedIn groups because participating will earn participants credibility, potentially aiding their online reputation.

Those groups, many of which early on were filled with self-promoters, are migrating to true information venues, Carroza says. “That activity is being discouraged in lieu of being helpful and informative.” To separate the promotional messages from ones more focused on a subject, the groups now have tabs where you are allowed to put up shameless self-promotion separate from the conversations, Carroza says. 


 

Look for a longer version of this article in the November/December issue of ISO&Agent magazine arriving shortly.

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