Note: the following is a guest post by Michele Hudnall. Michele and I worked together several years ago for a company that developed and popularized a concept for IT operations management, known as Business Service Management or BSM. Today, she runs the BSMHub, and contributes to a related corporate blog for NetIQ.
>>> Years ago, I would never have thought I was starting my social media journey and baby steps to a social media identity. After today, I am reflecting on how we mature through our social identity, just as we do in life and as with life, change is HARD!! To those who have scoffed the use of Twitter, blogs, Facebook, Google+, and others, I’m here to say the world is growing smaller due to social media connectivity and conversations. I have now closed a seven figure software deal that started with a tweet – a mere inquiry for information, a call with me to sort it out and in less than four months, the deal was closed. This may seem like a two year journey – from tweet to deal – but really it has evolved in maturity over a longer period of time.
I know my friend, who publishes this very blog, Frank Strong, reads this with a smile – he was an early adopter and mentor who pushed me hard to participate in the conversation in circa 2007. Moreover, what I have discovered this week is that my roots go back even further.
This is my journey to an identity and my learnings regarding consistency and thoughtfulness of an identity, much like my parents when they decided to call me by my middle name and spell it with one ‘l’. You would think I’ve already learned the lesson of absolute consistency since my life has revolved around it with my given name.
Genesis of a social identity
Six or seven years ago I set up a Gmail account, much like most of the world. I never really used the account, but the birth of “IndyShelly” started (Indy because I lived in Indianapolis, Shelly short for Michele). This taught me something important: never begin a social media identity based on where you live, a sports team, where you go to school or work or a product, if you plan to use it professionally and personally through life, find your core identity.
Foundation of a social media identity
Time rolled on and in the early 2000’s I worked for an market research and analyst firm (META Group) where we were all remote and began using Yahoo! IM, but now I decided IndyShelly wasn’t very professional and just used my name instead.
When the META Group was acquired by Gartner in 2005 and many of the analysts scattered to the four corners of the earth and someone introduces us all to this new thing called LinkedIn where we’d stay connected. At first I put in basic information and accepted invites from my past co-workers. I was not very dedicated. Meanwhile IndyShelly still lives out there in the Gmail ether. And now Frank has me blogging on a newly launched corporate blog, but it’s a struggle to write just as I found it a struggle as an analyst. I’m not in the deep end of the pool yet with Twitter, or other social sites, and so I haven’t reached my identity crisis yet.
Social media adolescence
After my next employer was also acquired in 2008, I decided my next job search meant it was time to get serious with this LinkedIn thing and beef it up as my online resume and links to my work. Several recruiters phoned and were complimentary on my listing for its completeness. I always respond, “I’m in marketing and I’m marketing my most important asset, ME!” Now I’d say I have reached an adolescent stage. I need a personal email address, but IndyShelly just isn’t it, so I set up a Pobox account to redirect email and gain a vanity URL with my name in it for both personal and professional email.
Fast forward 2010 and I’m marketing a mature product little funding. So now my next mentor arrives – another guy by the name of Frank: Frank Days. He sees me blogging on the company site and encourages me to go external and start a topical blog. Now I’m about to jump into the deep end of the social media pool. The blog needed an identity, BSMHub, and thus many interactive accounts to start participating in the conversation. I was regimented with consistence, just like my own given name. The Hub had a Facebook account before I did!
Old enough to vote
I’m learning now to stop being afraid of privacy, I’m getting a little experience under my belt, I’m maturing to a young adult at this stage. I’m ready to have my own personal identity to gain my own thought leadership when participating in the conversation, commenting on articles, doing bylines, interviews, and similar social activities. I’m brainstorming with a coworker and he just blurts out, your identity is so easy. Your last name makes it easy: HudnallsHuddle. It works whether you are talking about your product, technology, your current company, another future company, or your love for food and travel. I loved it!! I’m in the world of Twitter now and have my vanity URLs.
A College Graduate Emerges
Now we are full circle to my roots of that juvenile Gmail account. I purchase my first Smart Phone in 2010, a Droid, they ask for my Gmail account. Well I have one, but we’ll be lucky if I remember the password. I do and I’m off with my new phone. In this year of 2012 I stumble into this Google+ and think, I’ll set up a profile so I’m logging in as my old self, IndyShelly. First I notice, where did all those contacts come from, hey, that looks like my phone. Wow! How great is this, this is why the sales representative wanted the account when I purchased the phone. So now I’m really in the deep end, committing to this account, building it out, but I still hate the email address. Not a problem, I set up alias’ and redirects. All summer I’m great and think I’ve discovered the coolest thing!
An Adult with a Long Way to Go
Final lesson, those alias’ and redirects are just band aids on my skinned knees as I take my next step to post college social media maturity – I know there is a lot ahead of us still yet. I gained the opportunity to participate as a community member during a Huff Post Live segment in late August. Now IndyShelly surfaces again as they use Google Hangouts and have to interact directly. Now I start thinking about making the switch to a HudnallsHuddle account, but I don’t want to lose this valuable connection.
Last week, I had a second opportunity to again be a live community member on Huff Post Live, but the lead speakers were Vivek Kundra, first Federal CIO, and Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit. Now IndyShelly is really bugging me. Today I bit the bullet and made the change. It was very painful day, but an investment well made as I recall part of the conversation regarding our social identities going forward when participating in political debates, town hall meetings, topical conversations, interacting with our local, state and federal government, and other influential forums.
Still Growing Up Socially
The world is opening up and while we are consolidating phones to single numbers, we need to also consider our social identity too and do it with great regard. I’ve always said my mother cursed me twice with the middle name and unusual spelling. Once I embraced that is what made me unique and different, I ran with it with great regard and consistency. Now I’ve finally closed the chapter of the juvenile IndyShelly and have grown into a consistent @HudnallsHuddle, but I’m sure we’ll see further evolution of the social world.
Social Identity is relevant, avoid a crisis and consider yours with great thought and how you plan to participate in the conversation personally and professionally in this highly connected and very small world!
Photo credit: Flickr.
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Good post. I think you have to have some forethought when creating accounts. I have always like to separate my online identities so that I don't have crossover problems. That being said, there are somethings you can undo.
@RossQuintana Yes, things can be undone and reset and that was the process I was going through at the time I collected my thoughts for this piece. The biggest realization that prompted my clean-up and the post was the discussion I participated in on Huff Post Live with Vivek Kundra (First CIO of the US Federal Government) and Alexis Ohanian (Co-Founder of Reddit) in October. We discussed the growing use of social identities for services in both the public marketplace and government services. While I too was skeptical about my own openness, I had to agree that there is greater good to be achieved than there is potential for harm and decided to be more open, participate more openly and maintain a single identity regardless of interaction type.
I do have an identity for the products I market and I have an identity that is mine for personal, professional and service oriented interactions. I don't think we need or want to manage multiple identities based upon the type of interactions, it's just your identity in different forums building your own presence and participation in discussions of various types.
I know I have more to learn to grow my participation and interactions as the social world connects us more widely and makes the world seem like a smaller place.
Thanks for the thoughts!