My manager @adamrmor and I were recently discussing the difference between his use of Twitter and my own. He’s a professional user and I’m a sharing professional.
I was recently reading an article in the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, of all places, in which a “personal digital brand” was defined “as a strategic self-marketing effort, crafted via social media platforms, which seeks to exhibit an individual's professional persona” (Kleppinger & Cain, 2015).
So let us firstly look at Adam's digital brand. From my perspective Adam is a horizon scanner. He likes and retweets professional content. He tweets about projects that directly relate to his job or at conferences but he rarely uses it in a personal capacity.
To use a military analogy, as I am want to do, he is the guy in the gun emplacement, strongly positioned to see what is approaching but pretty static in range. Adam follows more institutional than individual accounts, which in effect provides him with a constant feed of current thinking relating to the GLAM and Tech sectors. He is a medium-long term type of guy. But in his feed you wouldn't know his love for electricity apps or purchasing tents. That's not part of his online presence.
Me on the other hand is more of a right now sort of wahine. I talk to myself out loud - I talk to myself online. Same / same.
To continue the military analogy, I can be, and this is dependent on my mood, the telegraphist in the trenches, the parachuting pigeon, the staunch mascot (bulldog obviously) or just a regular foot soldier.
I utilise the tool in a professional and personal capacity, which is sometimes bordering on TMI. I use it to engage with my colleagues and friends from around the motu and further afield. I follow more people than I do institutions and this has enabled me to create personal connections in ways I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise. This includes having informal banter with our Museum Director Roy (@Swatchway) - the Instagram Emoji King, and acknowledging the work of colleagues through retweets and likes. I especially like seeing the quirky nature of some of my library crew; it helps to make me feel normal. It also helps me to feel connected and providing and receiving virtual tautoko is a major part of why I enjoy using the microblogging platform. It is direct and instantaneous but also has a level of ephemerality that feels much safer than Facebook or a blog site. Is it safer? I’m not sure, but that’s what it feels like to me. I also don’t think I am particularly funny in long form writing - 140 characters of pith is my sweet spot.
I think I would be much less informed on the current issues of the day, both within our profession and more broadly, if I didn’t use Twitter. I don’t subscribe to a newspaper and I rarely watch terrestrial television. I do listen to the radio (mostly in podcast form) but only since @RNZ received a facelift and @johncampbell popped back up. Twitter, and to a lesser degree YouTube, is how I receive the core of my news / professional reading or at least pointers to newsworthy items. I trust that the smart people I follow will give me the good oil. I follow a diverse range of people and I enjoy it when my position of privilege is tripped or challenged, and I am able to learn about contentious issues in what has been a pretty safe environment, at least for me. I think it is safe as I don’t tend to engage in the more political side of Twitter as to be honest I don’t know enough to comment. But I am there learning all along the way.
I am pretty transparent. That is the VP brand. You know what I’m thinking, you know where I have been, my likes, dislikes etc. I might be wrong but it makes me much more approachable than if I didn’t have an account because I think you can tell from the honesty of my style, that what you see is what you get. But I have a persona and there is a line. To misquote Nora Ephron “Everything is [not] copy”.
You may be surprised to hear that I censor myself. I will never talk smack about my organisation or disrespectfully about our visitors. I may joke and or express my frustrations at a scenario but to embarrass or shame people, an institution is not my style. Although if you follow me, some personal time exclusions may apply…My parents and dog are fair game and they are pretty, pretty entertaining.
Auckland War Memorial Museum recent Social Media Usage Policy informs my usage. Its overall principle is that the Museum encourages participation and seeks to share and champion the experiences of our Museum whānau through social media. It’s not to stifle my freedom of expression but to make sure I don’t speak on behalf of the Museum like announcing new exhibitions before official channels. Just basic common sense.
Now moving on to what is appropriate professional content and what is not, the one thing I know for sure is that War in itself isn’t funny. But there are micro-moments of humour that do rate a mention especially when trawling through 1,000s of military personnel files and Online Cenotaph contributions. And they can be shared to break the sometimes bleak tension of the subject matter. And it can be very bleak and without those Twitter micro-pauses you could go stir crazy. Not many people do what I do for a living and so being able to share what’s happening with people who understand that context, but are not necessarily in my institution, city or even country is a positive thing.
So it acts as a place to both commiserate and celebrate with colleagues. Twitter for me is not a distraction in a pejorative sense but a pressure release valve. When Vernon is having a bad day or your Excel SUM Function is being something that rhymes with Excel SUM Function, then you can share your screenshots or a baring teeth / grimacing emoji and people understand and you can get on with your day.
Twitter is a place to learn and an outlet to express pain, frustration and assuage madness through humour and mutual understanding. I just ask people to understand. If one person understands my propositions then all is right with the world. And don’t worry that one person can just be me.
Bernstein, J. (Director). (2015). Everything Is Copy [Motion picture]. USA: HBO Documentary Films.
Kleppinger, Courtney A., and Jeff Cain. "Personal digital branding as a professional asset in the digital age." American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education 79.6 (2015). Academic OneFile. Web. 12 Oct. 2016.