Quoth the Lion King: Remember Who You Are: “Social Media Identity and the Real You”

Padlock and chain locked together on white background, close-upI fully expect this post will stir up heated emotions. Let the venom spewing begin because I’m going on a ledge here. I’m asking a question, looking for feedback and pointing out my own experience. Feel free to sound off.

Here’s the thought: Beware the identity “lockdown” in your social media identity.

In my undergrad I was subjected to lecture after lecture about the social media “lockdown” I must partake in or risk being ostracized from the job market for a pic of me with a beer, or *gasp* the fact that I have opinions.  I, like many of my young impressionable counterparts, cowered and said – okay  – immediately playing damage control. 

By no means am I condoning the escapades of college freshpeople (being politically correct the way my lib arts school taught me, they’d be proud) but I am saying slow the purge a bit.

Here’s my thoughts based on experiences in nonprofit, broadcast (on-air and off), enterprise and small business ownership. Social media today is a reflection of your personal brand. Your personal brand should be a reflection of you. Not a canned, expected duplicate of the same folks going for the same jobs, interviews, and clients as you.


If I was on-air right nowI’d hit a button to start playing Malvina Reynolds in an attempt to drive home my point.

This will have to suffice… go check it out on  YouTube… search “Malvina Reynolds Little Boxes”…I’m particularly interested in verse 2 . . . go on. .  .Control “new tab”… I’ll wait.


Okay, point?

Social media is changing the game. We can’t be put in boxes and expected to participate in the many-to-many communication revolution.

Whether you are a doctor, a lawyer or a business executive (if you actually listened to the song, the repetition was intended) no one wants to do business with a wall, if you lockdown your identity, thats what you become.

I’ve found on-air that when I allow my personality to duplicate across social media, I have a better reaction and more opportunities for brand interactivity. I have also found that people buy into the brand of me in entrepeneurship, not my business brand, additionally in a public relations function, it’s all about building a relationship. I don’t know ANYONE who counts a “wall” as part of their following or as the person to give a tip to, a great story to, a sales lead, well you get the idea, this applies across industries.

Of course, I’m leaving a huge gap in my theory. There must exist a balance in your identity between what your colleagues see of you and what your grandma sees of you. Find that and you’ve found the sweet spot. Three quick thoughts:

1.) Don’t avoid polarizing discussions, everyone has opinions and we aren’t mindless creatures. I’m reminded of a quote from George Burton Adams

“There is no such thing as a “self-made” man. We are made up of thousands of others. Everyone who has ever done a kind deed for us, or spoken one word of encouragement to us, has entered into the make-up of our character and of our thoughts, as well as our success.”

We are as diverse in our views as we are in our friendships and acquaintances. When I lecture to college students, I remind them that employers aren’t just buying into them, if they’re in the mass communications or marketing field, employers are buying into their “stock” and the many pieces that make up their identity.

2.) Candid photos are great. They show your human-side, but use common sense. The pic from your pledge days at delta delta whatever should probably be on the purge list.

3.) Be prepared to justify your likes and interests (especially to an employer). You don’t have to hide it all, just be ready to answer to it if you need to. I do encourage journalism students to avoid political and religious affiliations for obvious reasons, but don’t feel like you have to hide your love for Drew Barrymore movies.

My closing thoughts? Just in person-to-person networking, your personal stock is what will sell you across social media. Take the words of Oscar Wilde and run free friends.

“Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”

-Oscar Wilde

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  • Great post, Ryan! I agree – it’s important to show personality in the social space. Too many are afraid of professional perceptions and they try to hide their personality. At the end of the day, you have to be yourself.

  • Thanks for the comment Kion!

  • Nice post, Ryan. Expressing your personality is so important in the business world because hopefully it is used to accentuate your talents.

    These networks are about expressing ourselves as humans…not brands. Brands are inanimate. Behind each brand are humans representing it. Brands are created by humans, and given personality because of humans.

    The best way to go about this is to not think in terms of personal brands. Think in terms of who you are—your personality, your character, your work ethic, your opinions, your motivation, your goals. This doesn’t mean you have to post every instance (crazy or not) of yourself and claim, “That’s who I am!” (If you do this, then all the power to you—let your freak flag fly!) Be aware of yourself and the effects that can occur from your behaviors.

    Think in terms of your personal qualities, instead of some marketable buzz term, and think how these personal qualities can be used to help those around you in aspects of your life.

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  • here here Rich!! well said.

  • Bethvonbehren

    Ryan: Great post. I completely agree, and just so you know, I’m 52. Using social media to develop and communicate our personal brand is crucial to our careers. It’s also fun. I think many PR folks are great writers, which is why SM is such a godsend for us. We get to write!! And we should use these outlets to showcase ourselves as writers and thinkers and planners. I agree that we need to stay away from extremely volatile political situations – healthcare reform, immigration, etc. However, a witty (but tasteful) comment about a promiment politician’s snafu can showcase insight and thoughtfulness. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Also, while you might want to post a real portrait (photo) on LinkedIn, a playful photograph (again, tasteful) for Twitter is just fine. It is a more casual environment. I would also recommend changing out your profile pic on Facebook on a somewhat regular basis, to “profile” yourself in different ways. Keeps it fresh.

    Here’s something to think about too: If you have connected your Twitter account to your LinkedIn account, you might want to do your best to be creative and thoughtful in your Tweets. Potential future employers can scroll back through your Twitter postings very easily on LinkedIn. So, again, a great way to maintain your brand.

    Nice post.

  • Kathleengarolsky

    Great post.I totally agree with your point.Cant wait to see your next article..Thanks..