Social Investments

by Jost Zetzsche

ome time back at a conference in London, a fellow translator shared with me and everyone else in earshot that she was done using Twitter as a professional tool. She claimed to have invested way too much effort and time with virtually no return. (I assume that I could have overheard a similar discussion about Facebook, LinkedIn, Xing, Google Plus, or any other social network.)

I've been thinking about this ever since, wondering how much I've benefitted from my investments into social media (which are pretty much limited to a very active presence on Twitter and much less active participation on LinkedIn). To make it short: I have benefitted and continue to benefit. A lot.

Look at some folks who are successfully using one or more of those media. See what they have to say, who is following them, and whom they follow.
Twitter in particular is the fastest place to gather current, relevant information that is important to me, because I can trust that one of the folks I follow will post it. Twitter is also a phenomenal way to get my message out. Most of the time I share tidbits that I find interesting or informative (think of it as a bona fide shared bulletin board of virtual sticky notes). At other--much less frequent--times I can even tweet something a little less altruistic. More often than not, my followers read my tweet and then retweet it on to their followers as well. Twitter is also a great place to forge relationships with colleagues and, just as important or maybe even more so, with potential clients and influencers who can open doors to interesting opportunities. For me it hasn't been a place to find regular translation jobs, but I have found plenty of opportunities that go far beyond the regular two- or three-day engagement.

There are many, many places where you can find information about what to do and what not to do on social networks, but I would suggest three considerations as an over-arching strategy for translation professionals.

First, pre-determine what you want to achieve on any or all of these networks. For instance, if you "just" want to build relationships with colleagues, you might want to engage yourself within certain Facebook or LinkedIn groups. If you also want to interact with the outside world, you might want to use Twitter and a slightly different strategy on LinkedIn, Google Plus, or Facebook.

Next, specify how much time you want to spend every day. For example, I have found deep involvement in some of the discussions on LinkedIn too time-consuming, but my Twitter activities easily fit within, say, 20 minutes a day.

Lastly, decide if and how you plan to separate your private from your professional life (yes, yes, many translators can only dream of a private life...). I tend to un-follow folks who make a regular habit of sharing their dinner plans or levels of fatigue (they're always tired and overworked anyway!), but others seem to like it. Essentially, you determine who will follow you by what you share and how you share it. Your very close translator-buddies are most likely going to follow you either way, but the idea of social networking as a professional is to make that circle larger by having others see what you have to say as well.

Where to start? Look at some folks who are successfully using one or more of those media. See what they have to say, who is following them, and whom they follow. And for Twitter, be sure to check out Jeromobot, the patron saint of the modern translator. ;-)