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Gross Mendelsohn’s Staff Gets Social

By: Susan Gorham

Our firm has had a strong presence on social media for years, but when our staff asked for tips for using social media tools like LinkedIn to supplement their own networking efforts, we got right to work pulling together an internal training program.

We turned to four social-savvy Baltimore area business people for help, and invited them to participate in a panel discussion called “How to Use Social Media to Supercharge Your Networking Efforts.” Our staff was invited to submit questions to the panel in advance of the discussion. Here are just some of the takeaways, which can be used by anyone in any line of work.

Let’s first meet our panelists:

Avonette Blanding, CPA
Chief Financial Officer and Vice President, Maritime Applied Physics Corporation

Tracey Brown
Owner, Papercamera

Marjorie Cota
VP Strategic Partnerships & Market Development, Harbor Designs and Manufacturing

Alexandria Montanio, Esq.
Attorney, Gordon Feinblatt


social media panelists

Avonette Blanding, Alex Montanio, Marjie Cota and Tracey Brown made up our panel

We kicked off the session with each panelist describing how she came to use social media for business. All of them agreed that social media is helpful for “connecting the dots” with business connections, and for keeping in touch with clients and contacts.

The Boundaries Have Blurred

However, they responded quite differently when asked whether they keep personal and business content separate on social media.

While most of the panelists opt to keep a clear line between their personal and business lives on social media, Alex Montanio offered a different take.

Alex, an attorney at Gordon Feinblatt, said there is much less distinction between personal and business on social media for members of her generation. “The boundaries have blurred,” explained Alex.

As a young professional, she said her friends and business peers are on social media all the time. She often makes weekday lunch plans with coworkers via Facebook Messenger. Alex, who leads and participates in many community service events with Gordon Feinblatt, posts about those experiences on both LinkedIn (traditionally used more for business) and Facebook (traditionally used more for personal) because they are very much a part of who she is. Community service is meaningful to Alex both professionally and personally, so it only makes sense that she shares about it across various social platforms. However, Alex noted that the way she communicates on topics might vary between those platforms.

Go Where Your Audience Is

Our staff asked the panelists which social channels they use for business. Marjorie Cota of Harbor Designs and Manufacturing, said the simple answer is to “go where your audience is.” She’s done a lot of international work, most notably in Africa, and said her business contacts there weren’t on LinkedIn, which is what she would have expected. Instead, they were on Facebook. It’s always important to find out where your different audiences are active.

Lisa Johnson moderates social media panel at Gross Mendelsohn

Our own Lisa Johnson moderated the panel discussion

Maryland photographer Tracey Brown, owner of Papercamera, said the obvious choice for her business is Instagram, which acts as a secondary portfolio for her, aside from her website. But Tracey is also quite active on LinkedIn, which she finds useful for keeping up on what her clients are up to.

Social Interactions Aren’t Transactional

Panelists were asked to reflect on the business opportunities and results they’ve gotten from being active on social media.

Avonette Blanding, chief financial officer of Maritime Applied Physics Corporation, has made meaningful business connections through LinkedIn. She’s successfully transitioned those “virtual” connections over to real life, in-person relationships.

Alex — and this is a good example of the lines being blurred between personal and business for her — said her law school classmates, who are also her personal friends, post on Facebook about needing a referral for certain legal matters. She and her legal peers are using Facebook, traditionally a personal social platform, to share business opportunities.

social media panel discusses LinkedIn

Each panelist had a unique take on how to best use social media for their networking efforts

Tracey summed it up best: Social media is “really about keeping in touch.” She “doesn’t want every interaction on social media to be transactional.”

All panelists agreed that when the focus is on being helpful — whether it’s sharing relevant articles, introducing mutual connections, or answering someone’s question — the opportunities and results will naturally come.

Connect, Show Up and Tag

Our staff was curious to know the best way to get noticed and connected on social media. The panelists gave us all sorts of good ideas, including these:

  • “Just show up,” said Tracey. “Be consistent on social media or people will forget about you. Nurture your connections like you would nurture your friendships.”
  • Use the @ symbol to tag connections in your LinkedIn posts. “Give someone else the limelight,” suggested Marjie.
  • “Posts with photos and videos get noticed more,” shared Alex, who likes to include visual elements with her social posts.
  • Avonette said that posting about her volunteer work has gotten her noticed on social media.

Avonette tossed out a real pro-tip when she said she often uses LinkedIn’s QR code feature to easily connect with new people. Our staff was pretty excited to learn about this feature.

Our staff was surprised to hear that the panelists only spend between 5-30 minutes a day on social media. The panelists usually share at least one item each day on LinkedIn in order to stay top of mind with their connections (and, of course, to be helpful). Tracey often finds that she can accomplish quite a bit even while waiting in a line at the store! The point they all made is that having a strong presence on social media doesn’t have to take a tremendous about of time.

Social Does Not Replace Real Life

Perhaps the best tip of the day came from Alex: “Social media does not replace real life connections.”

Our staff left the panel discussion feeling inspired to use social media more consistently and effectively. We saw many of our team members going to the LinkedIn app on their phones to get started before the session ended.

Gross Mendelsohn staff attends social media panel discussion

Our staff immediately put the panelists’ tips to work on LinkedIn

This event was sponsored by RISE, Gross Mendelsohn’s Women’s Initiative. RISE has also hosted a panel discussion on overcoming obstacles, golf lessons for female staff members and a “women, wine and networking” event. Learn more about RISE here.

Special thank you to our wonderful social-savvy panelists, and to our own Lisa Johnson for moderating the panel discussion. We are pretty sure she has a future as a talk show host!

Published December 9, 2019

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