“Social media,” “online networking,” “connect,” “share,” “follow”— this type of language has become all too common in our daily vocabulary, but what does it mean for you and how does it fit into your environmental career? ECO Canada turns to qualified environmental professionals with a knack for social media to shed some light on how you can enhance your environmental career using the latest online networking tools.
As the manager of community leadership at KPMG, Tonya Lagrasta, Environmental Professional in Training (EPt), develops and implements her firm’s national sustainability strategy across Canada, supporting senior leadership and local offices as a subject matter expert in the area of the environment and sustainability.
Lagrasta has been an EP Ontario chapter leader since the initiative was launched in early 2010 and even helped to pioneer the online Environmental Professional (EP) Canada and EP Ontario Chapter LinkedIn groups. The chapter has now established a GTA (Greater Toronto Area) task force to build momentum in the densest area of the province, creating a Twitter account in an effort to use social media as a tool to reach its target audience.
“As we continue to build momentum in Ontario, this will be a great tool to reach our audiences and engage in two-way communication, which in my opinion, is one of the most valuable dimensions of social media,” says Lagrasta. “It is the most efficient way of receiving real-time feedback and engagement from the audiences we want to engage.” Lagrasta believes that when viewed as a tool and approached strategically, social media can keep you current with this rapidly evolving field.
As co-owner and principal consultant in the boutique consulting firm, Ventus Development Services Inc., Celesa Horvath is responsible for business development, client liaison, project management, and the delivery of services, comprising of strategic corporate responsibility, sustainability, and environmental regulatory affairs. A well-known influencer in the online environmental community, Horvath uses social media in many daily aspects of her career.
“Social media is an integral part of every aspect of our business. We use social media for networking, business development, relationship management, collaboration with other practitioners, exchange of information, and learning,” says Horvath. “Social media allows us to extend the reach and impact of our practice beyond what would be possible using only traditional methods of engagement.”
With so many different avenues available, it can be a challenge knowing what to integrate into your own professional approach. For professional purposes, Horvath uses mainly Twitter and LinkedIn, among many other platforms. Horvath says LinkedIn is great for networking, connecting her directly with other professionals who have similar interests, and allowing her to exchange information, identify expertise, find prospective clients, partners, and employees, and learn about emerging issues and trends. These online networks allow Horvath to build her own reputation and the reputation of the firm as a credible information provider, connector, collaborator, and practitioner.
But different tools serve different purposes. Horvath prefers using Twitter for current and continual engagement with individuals with shared interests and expertise, and uses it most frequently to share news and articles relevant to her practice, follow news from other practitioners, participate in dialogue around key issues, seek advice, and share her expertise, particularly through links to her blog.
“Twitter facilitates timely and direct engagement with others, allowing real-time conversation to take place among multiple participants. I particularly like Twitter for the sense of community that builds around certain topics of interest,” says Horvath.
At first, Horvath found herself faced with the limited number of online groups for Canadian professionals. Taking a proactive approach to social media, she established several groups in the practice areas of greatest interest to her. (Canadian CSR and SD Practitioners Network, Canadian Environmental Assessment Practitioners Network, CSR and Social Media, and Southwest Alberta Sustainable Community Initiative). With a slow start, membership was low and the groups were time-consuming, but as they began to grow, other members began to participate. As a creator, manager, and regular contributor, Horvath has been able to build her reputation as a credible information provider and connector, enhancing her professional career.
She offers this great advice to environmental professionals using social media on a professional basis:
Be a proactive and contributing participant. Share your knowledge and expertise generously.
Be humble. Do not overstate your expertise.
Focus on making quality connections. Connect with individuals who share similar interests, rather than emphasizing the number of “friends” you have.
Give help as often (or more) than you ask for it. Answer a question in Quora, connect two people with like interests, or provide a link to a useful article.
Complete your profile. Focus on the information most relevant to your professional priorities.
Do not over share personal information. Keep your content professional.
Be human and be yourself! Humour and personal insight add warmth and texture to your content.
Horvath also advises individuals who use social media on a professional basis to be aware of and to follow any relevant workplace policies related to its use and to discuss with their employer how social media might add value to their work—either as a research tool, to build brand awareness, or for other purposes.
Social networking sites provide ample opportunity to enhance your professional career, whether you want to build your corporate brand, your professional reputation, or connect with others in the industry. Determine your own professional priorities, develop a strategy that will help you reach your goals, and have fun making connections with the environmental community!
What advice do you have for using social media as a networking tool? Share your success stories!