I recently took an online psychometric questionnaire to find out what kind of person I am, because for the better part of 27 years I suppose I’ve been stumbling along, unaware. Joke. The results were less than shocking (and no I will not tell you what they were precisely) because they essentially revealed exactly what I already knew about myself. The core findings were that I tend to be more reserved, quiet and analytical which is a personality composite that clashes with my professional career.
I sometimes wonder if prospective clients look at my own Twitter and Google + accounts and think “there’s no way I’m letting her handle my social media strategy – she doesn’t even have a community of her own!” but one of my resolutions for 2013 is to stop caring, because a large social accumulation of online contacts is not within my specific content calendar. As a brand (freelancers get to be a brand, right?) I am less concerned with promoting myself, but rather focus on promoting my clients and writing to further their brand.
Recently (up until last week) I would view the Twitter feed of other strategists or friends about my age / experience level, and feel a pang of guilt that I didn’t have a larger social network. I wasn’t “an influencer” and nobody would ever try to connect with me to gain any kind of ranking or further their prominence in the online social sphere. And as much as I hate to admit it, it honestly made me feel sort of bad. I felt lazy, like I wasn’t trying hard enough to promote myself as a freelancer or as a writer. I was at work one day, cherrypicking ”influencers” to follow based solely on the number of their followers, not the value of their content. I felt like a bum because a guy with 300 tweets (mostly retweets of other writers’ articles) had 11,000 followers and I had 80. And later that night, as I lay in bed at 2 A.M., catching up with the insane amounts of content from my Twitter feed, Google Reader, Facebook feed, work email, freelance email, etc., the guilt turned to annoyance. I had become a person that an online human interest blog could cite as a statistic. An airline magazine could use me for a source in a sidebar article. They would probably use the word “milennial.” “Fear of Missing Out” had caught up with me.
I actually have a personal calendar of online content that I curate for myself. I cross-post links that I think my small community of friends and acquaintances would find useful. I write the occasional post about my feelings regarding social media. I will tweet at a friend to reply to a comment they posted. But afterward, I put on my hiking boots and go outside to a park. I keep my feelings about politics to myself. I don’t pick fights or respond to feed into aggressive comments online. I typically wait to comment on celebrities or movies over drinks with my friends. I shouldn’t have to feel bad about that. I also shouldn’t feel like a bad strategist because I didn’t take photos to post and geotag on Instagram to then link back to my blog immediately after a hike to promote the fact that I was there. It REALLY HAPPENED. Follow me to find out what I do and say and eat next!*
Though I recognize the professional implications of a fully rounded social network, it is not something I wish to create for myself, either as the 9-5 content strategist self, or the self that sits around in pajama pants in my down time. It is simply not true to my nature, and I think that the essence of a quality content strategy is identifying your core concept, creating messaging that rings true, and broadcasting it through as many relevant channels as possible.
It’s a good thing that my background in rhetorical composition and my strong drive of empathy exists, because while I largely eschew social media, it is still a space in which I can navigate and command with ease. I can choose to keep my personal business personal, yet strategize campaigns and respond to social media crises when needed. While I elect to keep my personal activities hosted and maintained within my own blog, I know how to utilize the overwhelming majority of social applications and analytics to my client’s benefit.
The fact is that we live in an age where social communication is the norm – people shout and complain over Twitter or have hangouts with their sister where they do yoga in the living room 800 miles apart. I am guilty of both. Just as the expectation of being available to work 24/7 has crept into our professional lives, an irritating sense that we need to be constantly connected to our peers on a personal level to influence them, inform them, help them, socialize with them, whatever else with them has dominated our free time.
So while I’ll post this on Twitter because it’s professionally relevant, my resolution for 2013 is to not look up the ending of a movie on Wikipedia while I’m still watching it and then tweet about it. I’m going to stop “checking in” at restaurants and I’m not going to piggyback on the coattails of an established social persona in hopes of a repost or mention. If it keeps me from having a focused discussion with a friend over dinner or spending quality time with my dog or nature, it’s not happening. I’ll certainly do it for you if you pay me, but it’s just not who my personality test said I am.
*Um, I sort of do have a blog at www.thebluetrail.com where I do just that. You should follow me and feed my ego.