Curtis L. Midkiff Jr. is a leader in the social media world. These skills have opened other doors to a bright future for the young professional.
What is your title and job responsibility?
I am a senior advisor, social business with Southwest Airlines. My responsibility is to drive the evolution of our long-term strategy for leveraging social media to advance our business goals in the present and future.
Having graduated from Morehouse College and George Washington University, what experiences have helped you the most professionally?
I think my time at Morehouse was extremely life-changing because I was in a community of peers that shared a common set of challenges and had overcome them to arrive at the point where we’re ready to excel at the next level. The campus fostered a brotherhood and network of support that I still rely on today. The relationships forged during those four years and the camaraderie that exists among Morehouse alumni has been a great blessing personally and professionally throughout my career journey.
What has been your most difficult challenge to overcome?
My most difficult challenge to overcome professionally was returning to the corporate world in 2010 after five years as an entrepreneur. The challenging aspect of it was adjusting to the different cadence and structure of the corporate world which is quite different in most cases in terms of how decisions are made and how work gets done. That made it difficult at first but eventually I realized that my experience as an entrepreneur was very pivotal in my role as a social media leader. The people skills that I honed while pitching potential clients as an entrepreneur were helpful in the internal pitching I do in the corporate environment to solicit input and buy-in from key stakeholders. As an entrepreneur in many cases it was my job to present a vision to a client that would take them beyond their comfort zone or what they were familiar with and get them to believe in that vision. In many ways, that prepared me for roles in Social Media where I have been able to present similar visions to various department leaders in an effort to get them to subscribe and support the vision with resources. Overall, although I am no longer an entrepreneur, I have managed to maintain an entrepreneurial mindset which has served me well over the past five years.
Tell us about proper etiquette for social media.
A great rule of thumb is to approach networking on social media as you would approach networking at a social event or professional mixer. The idea is to evaluate the surroundings, join the conversation, and find a way to add value to that conversation or find common shared experiences to build upon. The other important piece of advice, particularly for young professionals, is to understand that what you post on social media plays a big role in how people perceive your personal brand. With that in mind, sometimes it’s best to take a moment to think before you post to your networks to ask yourself how will this impact my personal brand when I am looking for a job or looking to recruit clients. It’s definitely ok to have a personality on social media but it’s important to maintain a sense of balance at all times.
What advice do you have for someone interested in your profession?
I like to remind people that social media platforms and technology are tools that are designed to amplify your core skills when they are applied correctly. In that respect, social media is a like having a set of tools but those tools alone don’t make you a master builder. Its your ability to know how to use those tools in conjunction with a larger project that make the tools valuable. With that in mind, I encourage those interested in becoming social media professionals to make sure to cultivate evergreen skills such as marketing, communications, public relations, and/or analytics. When you combine these skills with a knowledge of how to leverage social media, you can being a great deal of value to an organization or to your own enterprise. In that same vein, its important to develop strong “people skills” as your ability to inspire your peers as well as collaborate with others will play a big role in your potential to excel in this field.
When asked to do public speaking, what areas do you prefer to focus on?
I focus on a range of areas depending on the audience. When speaking to professionals, I tend to provide insights on how to leverage social media to build a personal brand and to network effectively. When speaking to enterprise audiences of my peers, I tend to share my thoughts on how to leverage social tools to impact business outcomes.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
In the next five years how and where I see myself will be driven by an evolution in my definition of personal success. Certainly, I hope to continue to build on the success of the last five years and am excited about possibilities that exist here at Southwest Airlines to continue to grow professionally. I am also at a point in my life where my ability to impact the success of others is beginning to play a much larger role in how I define success. With that in mind, I am hoping to find more avenues to inspire and engage the next generation of innovators and leaders and play a role in their success.
Follow him on Twitter @CLMidkiff and on LinkedIn: Curtis Midkiff.