Over the past 10 years, I have done this a lot:
“Hi, my name is Bryan Soltis.”
[…some interesting presentation…]
“So, there you have it! I hope you enjoyed the presentation and feel free to reach out to me in all these different ways.”
[List of various social media accounts]
No matter the audience or topic, the format is relatively the same. Introduce myself, tell them about some awesome technology or concept, and then let them know how they can get in touch later.
You see, I’m a technical evangelist, and I LOVE presenting. It’s my favorite part of the job, actually. Well, that and wearing shorts every day. It’s a very public role, and one that puts me (and my contact information) in front of a lot of people on a regular basis. To better connect with others, you have to be accessible, and social media is one of the go to routes.
But, what if you don’t love social media? Seems counter intuitive, right? To be honest, I can’t say I’m the biggest fan. I’m a very social person, and I love talking and interacting with people. I don’t, however, necessarily love to chronicle every aspect of my life for anyone to view.
The two most shocking things I tell people I meet is that I’m a grandfather and I don’t have Facebook.
Before I get too deep into it, I should let you know I have had several social media accounts over the years. It’s hard not to be a part of the 2 Billion on Facebook, and I was no different. I’ve also had Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace, and a few others. I used them all for years and regularly learned what Kevin was eating for dinner and how many deadlifts Mark did in CrossFit. (….so many CrossFit updates….). I found that, over time, I had less interest in the personal aspect of social media and exposure.
So, my career is about connecting with everyone. I want people to want to talk/listen to me and understand who I am as a person. My personal stance is to be a bit more reserved. So, how do I balance these conflicting ideologies?
Compartmentalizing and boundaries.
Dividing your focus
From the beginning, I separated my contacts and content between professional and personal. Specifically, I deemed LinkedIn as my main professional channel, and FaceBook for my friends and family. Twitter hovered somewhere in between, with a mixture of both types of contacts and posts, but leaning more towards professional. I guarded my contact lists closely, striving to keep the types segregated as much as possible. For the most part, I was successful for a few years.
As time went on, I found myself changing my outlook some. My career as an evangelist required a social media presence, so I knew that was never going away. I was comfortable with that and enjoyed using the platforms. On the personal side, though, things were changing. I found myself hesitant to give all my personal information freely to some platform, with nothing in return (unless you count an onslaught of “targeted” ads). Glaring security risks aside, I found that purely personal platforms didn’t interest or engage me, and decided to let that piece go.
The ability to separate the two channels from the beginning made this a much easier process than it could have been. Up to that date, I had reserved my personal social media only for the ones closest to me. I was able to remove that, without losing the connections. I had a large professional network established, and keeping those accounts helped me keep those contacts.
With so much of my role being on how effective I am at reaching a community, understanding the boundaries of social media was a critical component. I wanted people to know me and be open, without broadcasting my entire life. I wanted them to connect with me and understand my message, but I don’t need a ton of Happy Birthday posts every year.
Defining the limits of how I use social media meant deciding what information I was willing to post, and what I reserved for a chat with a friend on a bar stool. I wanted to show my personal side in my messages, but only to a certain point. It’s a hard chord to strike when you’re in a public role, but it’s possible to do and still be comfortable with your limits.
How did I decide between Professional and Personal? If we met at a conference, event, exchanged forum posts, worked together, or any other career-centric setting, the contact was Professional. Personal was pretty much everyone else: family, friends, that guy from that party that wore the same shirt as me. This meant I often didn’t accept friend invites from co-workers, as I wanted to try and keep a work/life balance as much as possible.
Making the distinction early on can help, as you will naturally use each channel for the intended purpose. This will help you decide where your limits are and fit the platforms to meet your needs.
Where to post
When it comes to my social media, I have classifications: Acceptable, On the fence, and No thanks. Now, these are just my opinions, and help me fit social media into the boundaries I defined. It’s in no way meant to be a knock on anyone else on those platforms, as I know I’m certainly in the minority with some of these.
These are platforms I use regularly and think they are essential to connecting with others on a professional (and sometimes personal) level. Mine are naturally technical-focused, but the overall theme is being reachable from my professional audience.
- Personal blog
- Stack Overflow
- Company directory(?)
- Work-related platforms
- Speaker directories
- Microsoft MVP directory
On the fence
These platforms I’m not sure about. In some ways, I think they’re OK. They may provide a good medium for certain people, however, may expose too much for others. It really depends on their use and what the person is trying to get out of them. I use them, but sparingly and to fill a gap in communication, where needed.
- Gaming platforms
- ICQ(Yes, I still remember my #!)
These platforms are almost purely personal (in my opinion). I see them as avenues people express themselves and their thoughts, to anyone who will listen. I certainly know that businesses do use them to reach people, however, I see that as companies trying to capitalize on an already established audience, rather than a platform built specifically for it. I don’t use any of these, as they don’t fit into my boundaries for what I want to share.
- Anything that chronicles / exposes your personal life beyond your boundaries
In the end
I’m at a point where I found a balance with social media. While I don’t want it to consume every aspect of my life, I’m comfortable (and enjoy) using it to connect with professionals and broadcast my message. That balance helps me share enough about myself with the world, while keeping the personal stuff closer to my chest.
This means that if you find me on a social media account, feel free to hit me up! I’m there for a reason and would love to connect.
When you are in a public role, you will always have this challenge. You’ll have to decide how much of yourself you want the world to know, and how much you reserve. It really boils down to how a person wants to be viewed by others, and the channels in which they broadcast that information. In the end, the decision will be unique for everyone.
Find your balance so you can achieve your goals, while getting the most out of each aspect.