Last winter my colleague Annie wrote about the importance of online self-branding for information professionals. I couldn’t agree more that personal branding is important for both budding and seasoned professionals. Not only does it demonstrate a level of competency with social media technologies, but it also demonstrates that you’re connected with the profession and other professionals. Plus, deciding to count your few free hours blogging and Twittering as professional development is totally awesome.
Despite all this, I find branding myself to be challenging. First, I read a lot of library blogs and I find myself getting lost in the “echo chamber” of blogs—the phenomena of one article being posted dozens of times among different blogs. I spend hours a day reading library blogs, sometimes to read no more than a handful of different articles. Secondly, there is a fine line between using social media to stay connected professionally and using social media to stay connected.
The other day my brother asked me if I got a new position as a social media outreach person for the library. After I told him no, I asked him why he thought that and he replied because all my tweets are about the library. In fact, a few other friends I’ve stayed connected to on Twitter express confusion over why all my tweets seem to be about libraries. The simple answer is because I love libraries and want to talk about them a lot. But it goes deeper than that: I tweet primarily about libraries because I’ve come to think of social media sites as primarily e-portfolios for potential employers and not as tools to express myself and stay connected with friends, family, and other professionals. How much do I want my online presence to be exclusively professional? If a potential employer stumbled upon my personal blog, which, for all intents and purposes is a style blog, would they think I’m a ditz? What kind of image am I portraying if say, half of all my tweets were about cooking or gardening or my political leanings? Is it wise to keep some social media connections strictly professional and some strictly personal? Self-promotion is a critical component to professional development, but I don’t want to alienate my loved ones who want to keep in touch via social networks.
All of this is to ask, what do you guys do to keep the balance? Do youth librarians only update their Good Read accounts with YA? Do archivists feel the need to stay connected to other archivists? Those with experiencing hiring, what do you look for? What kinds of expectations exist for you (either explicitly or self-imposed)?