Social Media and the Information Professional
Over the past week I've had a few conversations with friends about using social media for professional branding purposes.
I've been finding that a shocking (to me, at least) amount of colleagues don't actually use social media for professional outreach. With that in mind, I thought I'd talk about the strategy I have with setting up my own professional ecosystem (and there was a definite strategy with it).
First off, I need to clarify that I am not talking about social media for personal use (which I'll touch on below). I'm referring to using specifically chosen social media channels to create, enhance, and maintain a professional brand.
I know some people are leery of putting a lot of information out there about themselves. Trust me, I get it. That subject alone could fill an entire blog itself. My outlook, however, was that if someone googled my name, I wanted the content that I chose to be what comes up, not stuff that other people are saying about me.
So, I endeavoured to create an online, professional version of Sarah Morrison, Information Professional. It's not fabricated, obviously - it's me. But it's the me that I choose to put out there. Nothing I say on this blog is haphazard. My main user picture shows the first stages of my chest tattoo. That's a conscious choice. I'm out as bisexual. That's a conscious choice. Only you can decide the personal brand that you want to put out there. I want to aim for social media savvy, forward-thinking yet practical, feminist woman in the information sciences. We'll see how that goes for me. :)
This whole project started for me during a required course in my MLIS program, wherein we had to start a personal blog. Some people just made the blog for the course and abandoned it, but I wanted to take the opportunity to start my online professional presence.
The first thing I did was clean up my personal accounts and create a definite separation between my professional accounts and my personal ones. I have a separate email address that is used to login for anything that's my personal accounts, as well as a standard pseudonym that I use for all my personal stuff.
Once I'd made sure there was nothing left that pointed to me (using my named Gmail, registering as Sarah Morrison, that kind of thing), I systematically created my new online accounts. I started my blog on WordPress, and that let me create a mask email (firstname.lastname@example.org) that redirected to my personal, named Gmail. (Now that I've moved to Squarespace, email@example.com actually exists as a real email.) That was the email I used to create my accounts, which I tried to link to both my name and my professional tagline - Lady Lazarus.
I made a point to try to keep my usernames as consistent as I could - using either the Lady Lazarus name or a variation of Sarah A Morrison. For example, my twitter is @_sarahamorrison, my Tumblr is sarah-a-morrison, my instagram is _sarahamorrison, my Google + is SarahMorrisonLadyLazarus (not my favourite, but I was limited in what I could choose), and my LinkedIn is sarahamorrison1 (again, someone beat me to the un-numbered version). I then try to put both my name and my tagline in whatever profile or introduction is required, so that people can make the connection between my name and my blog name. Also note that I use the same picture in all my channels.
This does mean that I have two sets of some social media types - I have two Twitter accounts and two Tumblr accounts. For some people, this would drive them crazy. I like having everything completely separate, and I can subscribe to different things on the different accounts. On my phone, I use Hootsuite for my professional Twitter and TweetCaster for my personal one. I then use the Tumblr app for my professional Tumblr, and usually just check my personal one on my laptop. That way, there's no chance I am signed into the wrong account as I've used different apps to manage the different accounts. Is this the most efficient? No, but it cuts down on potential accidents.
With my blog as the centre, I then created what I call an ecosystem of social media - my accounts are linked in the footer of my blog, and are mentioned prominently in the contact section of the blog as well. That way, if someone just makes it to the blog, they can find me in whatever format they'd like.
One of the things I really put thought into, and I think where a lot of people stumble, is figuring out what to use. Honestly, if you're just starting an account for the sake of it, then it won't work. My big thing is having use cases for each channel. As long as you've identified why and how you'd use a certain channel to build your professional brand, you'll be fine.
That being said, I do cross post. Anything I post on my blog gets pushed to Tumblr, Twitter, and LinkedIn automatically. I've used IFTTT to automate my Instagram in two ways - push any pictures to Tumblr and Twitter, and push pictures tagged with #bookoftheday to a certain part of my blog.
The first channel is LinkedIn. If you do anything, set up a robust LinkedIn profile. I upload a version of my web resume to LinkedIn, and make sure any changes reflect resume changes. (When I do update my resume, it's a standard process - reupload to the blog, update the Experiences page if necessary, update my LinkedIn profile, and reupload to LinkedIn.) Keep your LinkedIn profile active! Join groups! Connect with people! The use case for this is general networking and career development. I'm going to go out there and actually say it's irresponsible to be an information professional and not have an active LinkedIn page.
Next up is Twitter. My use case for this is as a sort of aggregator. I retweet a lot from the RSS feeds that I follow, and retweet people that I follow who are relevant to the profession. I do interact a bit with people, but that's an area where I need to get a bit more outgoing.
I've envisioned my Tumblr as the more "lighthearted" side of my professional persona. It's worth it for the Librarian Problems Tumblr alone. I use it much more casually, but it is the home of my most exciting author interaction ever, when Shiri Eisner reblogged my post about Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution, and I almost fangirled myself to death. There are also a lot of interesting discussions that are happening on Tumblr that aren't happening elsewhere that I like to follow.
I set up a Google+ account to track my Code School progress. Now that I'm done Code School, I have to re-evaluate the use case for this channel. I don't want to close it, but I need to figure out the best way to make use of it. Any ideas are welcome!
The newest one I set up was Instagram. I struggled before about why to use this one - I didn't just want to have it sit empty, or post stuff that was all irrelevant to my professional life. I wanted to start one, though, as I wasn't super familiar with the platform. I actually figured it out once I reconfigured my blog to include a separate section for thoughts on reading. I have a lot of books that I own, but won't be doing an actual "review" for...so I thought the Instagram would be a great way to highlight some gems with little "mini-reviews". As I mentioned above, anything I tag with #bookoftheday gets sent to the book review part of my blog automatically, so I can make sure that content is surfaced on the blog too. I'm actually enjoying it, and I'm working on remembering to add it to my daily 'social media check'.
Some channels that I don't have use cases for are Pinterest, Vine, and SoundCloud. There's absolutely nothing wrong with them, but I just don't have a valid reason for adding them to the repertoire right now.
When you're deciding what to choose, really put some thought into exactly what you want to portray. I wanted the blog to be the hub. If someone wanted to connect in a really professional manner, they could go to my LinkedIn. If they wanted to see a quicker view of things I thought were important to my professional life, they could go to Twitter. Tumblr would be if they want a bit more of an informal interaction, and Instagram would be if they're interested in the reading aspect. They're all valid access points to learn about Sarah Morrison, Information Professional.
One notable omission is, of course, Facebook. My Facebook was set up with my real name, but is a pretty personal space, and I just couldn't untangle the two. I decided to just completely lock it down and not connect it at all. It's not under my pseudonym, but it's not connected to Lady Lazarus either. Even with my blog posts, I manually share the link - it's not pushed out automatically by Squarespace. I've set my Facebook up so it's extremely hard to find it, and I have three levels of filters for what I post.
Don't be overwhelmed! I think a lot of times people think they need to use every channel out there. You don't. Just put the thought in before you start about exactly what you want to portray to the world, and how you want to do it. The various social media channels all bring different strengths to the forefront. By figuring out the use case, you can decide which channel is best for you in presenting your professional persona to the world.