“Sisters You Should Know” is a networking group, created by two amazing women, Juliana Stratton, Executive Director of the Cook County Justice Advisory Council, and Felicia Davis, Mayoral Deputy Chief of Staff. Juliana told me that she and Felicia started the group “because we were meeting so many fabulous women in our respective roles and membership organizations that we wanted to connect them in an informal and fun way.” Recently, I joined them to talk about social media, personal branding and the importance of authenticity in our online communication.
The event was held at the Little Black Pearl Workshop, 1060 East 47th Street. In addition to enjoying great food and conversation, the women in attendance all had professional portraits done by Steve Capers.
My presentation was a quick crash course in how to build an authentic online presence that enhances both personal brand and professional credibility. As I spoke, I realized I had no idea whether I’ve actually achieved this rather lofty goal myself, but, in a room full of women this smart and energetic, it hardly mattered. I just love events like this one, where everyone in the room is totally rooting for everyone else. I was full of confidence, having over-compensated for being slightly hungover from a surprise 40th birthday party the night before by wearing an extra-cute (if I do say so myself) dress. Also, everyone was full of ideas, questions and challenges—a really high energy group of women. We came up with some great tips for each other. I turned on several people to the life-changing service that is HootSuite and, in turn, was regaled with some excellent tips on marketing via Facebook. And everyone agreed that having a well-done headshot is key.
Truly, though, one of the most common themes in our discussion was the struggle that women have with the traditional concept of “branding.” Marketers tell us that simpler is better: that we should be known by one image, for one thing. (My favorite example of this was the dude I found on Craigslist to make a slipcover for an old chair. He was “Steve - the slipcover guy.” That’s what it said on his business card, his email address, and it’s even what popped up on my caller ID when he phoned me. If he had an actual last name, I never knew it. And, while he did make a mighty fine slipcover, I always wondered if maybe he wasn’t limiting his market just a little too much. Like, maybe he could have also made drapes or something.)
As women, though, we live complicated lives. Many of the women at Little Black Pearl had professional jobs, as well as entrepreneurial pursuits (like the caterers, who were also lawyers), political/charitable causes and personal interests, like running, cooking, gardening, writing, painting, raising well-mannered children and watching reality TV. So, which of these was to be the focus of their online identities? Is it OK to tweet about Real Housewives when many of your followers know you as an advocate for disability rights?
I’ve laid out my own social media presence with a single Linked In page that includes all of my many pursuits, as an entrepreneur, writer and community member. It includes the addresses of my two websites—this one, which is focused on my writing and personal pursuits, and the one for my business, Page 2 Communications. I have two twitter profiles, one that’s identified with my photo (props to Julia Thiel for the awesome headshot I use everywhere) and one that’s identified with the Page 2 logo. The Page 2 twitter feed is all business. My goal for it is merely to communicate with a small community of clients and followers, passing along relevant info. My personal twitter feed is way more eclectic and is linked to other personal/writerly outlets, like my Facebook page, Tumblr and Instagram. Still, I’m always aware that Page 2 clients might happen across it, so I do try to keep things relatively clean and non-controversial.
Clearly, there’s no one right or wrong way to do this, but, in this age of transparency, it does seem like a topic that’s ripe for more discussion. How many online identities do YOU have?