We love Anna Cochrane! She is a living, breathing, tweeting example of how to build a brand online and stay cool doing it!
A senior account manager at fast growing accounting software company Xero, Anna has built a powerful tribe online (and offline!) using social media to stay connected to her clients. With almost 2000 followers on Twitter and some seriously active LinkedIn groups, Anna has turned herself into a thought leader in her industry. She makes talking about bookkeeping sexy!
We came across Anna when we were speaking with Catherine Walker, Community Manager at Xero for a case study, who told us: "If Anna ever leaves the company, god forbid, she has built such a strong personal brand she could go pretty much anywhere." Pretty awesome endorsement from your boss!
So what's her story?
Growing up on a farm in NZ, where her parents built a contracting business at the same time, Anna’s affiliation with small business started from a very young age. Studying Business Admin after school Anna worked in all kinds of jobs from office management to contracting. She re-located to Christchurch and in April 2009 started her own Bookkeeping and Systems company.
She built up her business and was at the point of employing staff when the tragic Christchurch earthquakes hit and she made the tough decision to sell and relocate to Melbourne, where she started with Xero in June 2011, in an Associate Account Management role....
Tell us how your career has evolved at Xero?
I joined in June 2011 and I still feel lucky to have been an early employee in Australia. I've stepped up from Associate Account Manager to Senior Account Manager in a couple of years. I have looked after four States in this time and there has been constant growth, stretching and evolving within the role over the last 3 years, along with relocation to Sydney in June 2012.
During this time I have worked with Accountants, Bookkeepers, Financial Advisors, Cloud Integrators, and have grown my knowledge of how business works here in Australia. Social media has played a big part in connecting me to all of these clients and business areas.
You have almost 2000 followers on Twitter and have built a powerful platform to communicate with your clients - how did you do this?
How is a really good question! I was lucky when I joined that my manager encouraged us all to get involved in connecting with our clients on LinkedIn and Twitter. Once I grasped the concept of how the Social world (especially Twitter) worked I realized that I just had to use it as an extension of who I was, find my voice and then it evolved from there.
Growing up to the almost 2000 followers has been done by using key search words, connecting with clients, influencers and communicating on Twitter just like you do in real life. And it definitely takes trial error, but you just have to start!
What is your advice to others who want to start using social media to advance their career - but don’t know where to start?
Take time to choose your platform. It can seem overwhelming at first but it’s about discovery. Figuring out what works for you and the message you want to get across.
My advice is to start with LinkedIn. From there you can look at other platforms - Twitter, Pinterest & Instagram (if you are in a visual industry) and maybe even Google+.
Getting into social means building credibility in your personal brand.
Follow lists and follow key influencers in the social space and their area or expertise, so that you can observe and learn.
Starting with a bit of a strategy is key. There is so much time that could get taken up if you aren’t careful - it can turn into a full time job!
However there are so many tools that you can use to monitor, post and even schedule posts for you. Also I recommend starting out as you meant to go forward, for example, create lists so that you can put your clients all in a list and be able to look over their tweets easily. Or even use a tool like Hootsuite to schedule posts for you.
What are your top three tips for using Twitter like a pro?
Connect and Interact. Treat Twitter as an extension of real life eg, if someone follows, follow back (although I don’t do this for all, sometimes I go over once a week, look at their tweets to check out how they interact with others). If they ‘Re-Tweet’, ‘Favourite’ or comment on your message say thanks, reply, start that dialogue, you never know whom you might connect with! Just look at myself talking to the Naked Ambition team as an example ☺
Also - to find things you may be interested in, themes and trending topics - search using hashtags #
Let your followers know that you are a real person.
Twitter is a very open arena so you still need to be careful, but people buy from people, we don’t buy from those we don’t connect with. Even if you don’t think you are in sales, you are representing the company you work for; therefore you are selling the company.
Have a professional profile. If you are tweeting about work ensure you have your work in the bio (Note from NA: Make sure check your company policy/social media manager on Tweeting on their behalf first)
What are your top three tips for using LinkedIn like a pro?
Connect – Join groups where you can learn and keep up to date with what is happening in your industry or interests, build out your influence by following and connecting.
Share – Get involved in the groups, start or join in on discussions, share your knowledge and who knows… you could pick up new clients or job opportunities this way.
Recommendations – Ensure you have recommendations from people that you value and trust, these are a great way for future clients or employers to see what you have been like in previous and current roles.
Any thoughts on Google+ ?
Um… Apparently we should all be on it, but I am still getting used to using another site. But… for business use, it is important for you to be on there to help Google search.
What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received?
“Don’t stop at the top, recover on the bike!” (cycling context)
“Adapt or Die” Greg from Rightway Ltd in NZ, put this up on a slide at Xerocon last year, and I found it very apt, not just for my role at work but in life in general, we are having to adapt faster in this modern age.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Wow 5 years!! Apart from hitting a big milestone in age, that has always been a question I have struggled to answer. And honestly, I couldn't say, that I will be doing X or Y. But, I would love to be continuing learning and developing who I am as a person, testing limits, finding new ways to do the role I am in and not settling for status quo.
Plus... having fun and loving enjoying life whilst I am at it!
What do you wish you knew 5 years ago?
To save money more in case the earth quakes and totally disrupts your life… Actually I would love to have started that about 15 years ago…
What is your Naked Ambition?
My biggest dream is to one day have a farm, in which I am rescuing horses and youth, this goes back to a book called Hope Rising (you should read) that is written about Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch in Colorado. I have always had a passion for horses and youth, and to combine them would be ideal.
Follow Anna on Twitter @anna_cochrane and connect with her on LinkedIn