Persona Non Grata

Before I came to SUCCESS, a highly visible previous job earned me a nice little Twitter following just shy of 20,000. For a person in the media, I’m told, this is a pretty good thing.

I’m hopeful—although not optimistic—that someone will eventually crack the code to monetizing Twitter followers. But for the time being, having a healthy audience is nothing more than a little ego boost for me. It’s nice to know I’m not simply talking to myself on social media, but I’m not exactly putting my followers to work for me—up until a couple of weeks ago, I had never even thought about it, actually.

Now that I’m not a beat reporter trying to break news via Twitter, I just use it to crack jokes and talk about my interests—sports, food and television, mostly. I’ve kept my account active just for fun.

If you’re running a business, Twitter is too important to treat as a lark. You can think of your tweets as free advertising. And to grow your business, it’s not a bad idea to work on establishing yourself as an expert in your field via social media. This was the key to a panel discussion I attended at the South by Southwest (SXSW) V2V conference in Las Vegas on Aug. 12.

Titled “Not Just a Pretty Profile: Building Online Persona,” the talk included a marketing and branding advisor, a couple of social entrepreneurs and an investor. Each continually hammered home the idea that social media posts, if they are deliberate, have the potential to produce incredible business and professional gains. As the talk wore on, I came to recognize my Twitter following as an untapped resource, because my tweets have been so rudderless. I share links to the stories I write for SUCCESS, but most of the time I merely engage in what the panelist called “spewing.”

“If you don’t think you already have an online persona, you probably already do in some sort of capacity. It’s just one of those things you’re going to have to jump into,” said one panelist, Pete Kazanjy, the founder of TalentBin, a professional talent search engine. “People are going to be trying to consume information about you after they see you on a panel, or meet you in the hall, or they’re looking to recruit you, or you’ve applied for a job. There’s already a trail that exists out there.”

In other words, if you aren’t proactive about cultivating your social media presence, people will make assumptions about you. “If you’re not a technical person, your product is basically what you say—no one really wants to look at a résumé these days,” said Brett Martin, the founder of Sonar, an app that works as a localized social network, identifying connections near you.

I came to realize that, as a media member, my personality and the things I tweet are truly all I have to sell. The same would be true for just about anyone in a creative field.

For me, Twitter can and should be much more than a place to crack jokes and post pictures of my latest sandwich. SUCCESS is a great day job, but I’m also committed to a side hustle as a freelance writer. So, it behooved me to update my profile to reflect this. I’ll admit it’s a work in progress. I changed my bio to include my freelance interests, and switched my wallpaper art to a stack of magazines. But so far, I can’t bring myself to stop randomly tweeting about baseball, Breaking Bad and tortas.

Of course, my ideal freelance gig would be writing about those three things anyway. Maybe I’m going about things the right way after all. Should my online persona really be something that doesn’t reflect my offline persona?

I admit I’m sort of confused about where to take my Twitter profile from here. Follow me, @josh_ellis11, and tell me what you think. You’re welcome in advance for the food pics.


Josh Ellis is the former editor in chief for SUCCESS magazine. Before joining SUCCESS in 2012, he was an accomplished digital and print sportswriter, working for the Dallas Cowboys Star magazine, the team’s gameday program, and Originally from Longview, Texas, he began writing for his hometown newspaper at 16.

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