Tuesday, August 25, 2009

your infinite variety on social media

I got a private message on Twitter today that made me smile for a long time, because it's a mirror that shows me I've reached a personal goal, and a professional one. My Twitter pal--someone I have not met IRL (in real life for you non-texters)--normally engages me about public speaking, a topic we share, but this time asked about a note I'd posted about a work project.

I explained I'm working on communications for a cybersecurity project to secure the Internet's domain name system. And here's what came back in 140 characters or less:
You have a wide range of interests. Started following you for speaking; am surprised/pleased to see science, music/guitar, art, and food.
Right there, you have much of the science behind my Twitter content--and a summary of what I value on social networks. I share news and links about social media and communications, and public speaking, as those form the core of my business. Science has been part of my work for the past two decades, so my followers see medical, scientific (all disciplines) and environmental tweets from me. But they also know that I love to cook (and what I'm attempting), that I'm in the market for a guitar and lessons, whom I've seen in concert, that I love to travel, and that I make art (a most recent sculpture is pictured above left). So, while many of my followers are clients or contacts or referrers, they also share recipes and travel tips with me, steer me to good social media examples I can share, encourage my newbie guitar hopes and ask for photos of my sculptures. They share content I use on this blog and others, help me to hear their perspectives, and point me in directions I'd never find on my own. All together, they represent the type of infinite variety so rare in our workplaces and work--and now, so common in mine.
Many folks I meet are still struggling with how much of their personal selves to share on social networks, if they're encountering business colleagues and acquaintances there. Plenty of others have told me about their fences: I only post professional updates on Facebook, says one. Another: Facebook is reserved for my personal friends. A third: I don't like Twitter--anyone can follow you. My choice, made early on: I open my networks to clients, friends and family alike, and I've advised many an audience to be the same person you are online as you are in person (only perhaps with more care, if you are careless). But I always add a corollary for those who stick to the strictly professional: If you don't appear to have a personality on social media, get one.

Today, I learned that someone else on Twitter gets my personality, as well as my professional skills, and that's just priceless...and impossible if your posts are strictly business. That's not just a sentimental moment. I've been hired sight unseen by new clients I met on Twitter, referred by others to productive business leads, and been able to promote, share with and learn from others. I never run out of things to talk about when I meet these people IRL, and we always look forward to those chances to meet--it's a myth that those of us who network online are avoiding face-to-face contact. If anything, most of us can't get enough of the chance to meet, if only to see that infinite variety in person.

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