Started Tweeting Less and Going Out More: the awkward, worthwhile process of diversifying my social media strategy

 Photo by  Antoine Smart

Photo by Antoine Smart

I love Twitter. More accurately, I love the positive impact that it's had on my life since I joined in 2009.

Twitter has gotten me jobs and freelance opportunities. Twitter has helped me find clients and customers. Twitter has allowed me to find community in like-minded individuals, after feeling like a misfit for the majority of my life. I still don’t feel like I fit in, but I’ve learned to embrace “standing out,” due in no small part to the many people who I see embracing their true selves on social media.

Twitter made me into an elite user of memes and gifs. Twitter has given me countless laughs and endless stories. Twitter has served as an organic, real time news source when news stations have failed to represent my people. My Twitter family’s financial, word of mouth, and moral support is what allowed me to expand my hustle last year and move into the world of real life events. The Twitter following I built over the years allowed me to sign with an influencer agency, giving me an entirely new career path in the process.

I really feel a strong sense of community with people on this platform. We’ve interacted for years. I’ve shared some of my most vulnerable moments with my followers, and many have been incredibly supportive.


I couldn't afford to let Twitter be my only social media platform.

From late 2012 until mid 2016, Twitter was the only social media network that I was consistently active on. I used Facebook to let my family, high school friends, and church people know that I was still alive, but who wants to make fun of Drake’s new R&B single is on a platform full of people who have never even heard of SoundCloud? Twitter felt more like a lunchroom table than a networking mixer or after-school special. Twitter was the first social media platform where I established new connections based more on my mentality than convenience or proximity.

I love Twitter, but as I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that I can’t rely on it, or expect it to last forever. It’s no secret that Twitter has been struggling to turn a profit since its existence. You can google it and find countless articles predicting the platform’s downfall, or integration of a paid subscription system. The more I viewed my social media platform as the opportunity to create a career, the more I became nervous about putting all of my eggs in one basket. What would happen if Twitter went the route of Vine and just ceased to exist; or it became obsolete like MySpace?

As I started to embrace the prospect of transitioning from a writer who used social media to share his blog posts to an influencer who harnessed the power of social media to build income streams, I realized that I had to diversify my stock by incorporating multiple social media platforms. Ultimately, I had to ensure that I minimized the risks that I was incurring by building an audience on platforms run by privately owned companies.

As I began to research the world of social media influencing, the age old notion that “a picture is worth a thousand words” was reinforced in my psyche. Using words is powerful, but using words coupled with imagery to drive home points is more impactful. I was a writer before I had any other creative endeavor in mind. I will always be a writer and a storyteller, but I realized that I needed a few more skills in my tool bag to maximize the impact of my stories, ideas, and thoughts. Instagram provided me with a framework to tell my stories with more context and personality.

 

The transition from writer to influencer was extremely awkward.

When I actually committed to using Instagram as a social influencer, a few important things happened. I found a whole new group of people to connect and interact with. I started to realize that only spending significantly time on one social media platform had given me an extremely skewed understanding of the social landscape within my fields of interest. Social media provides a very biased perception of reality, and limiting yourself to just one platform increases that bias.



In addition to encountering new people, I started to establish deeper connections with people I already knew. Some people who used twitter sparingly were more active on Instagram. In order to get my content up to par, I had to push myself past an awkward phase of getting comfortable being in front of a camera. Up until Summer 2016, all of my Instagram posts had been very happenstance- events with photographers, random iPhone pictures that I had taken, etc.

I knew that I had to curate some more powerful images if I really wanted to be impactful on this platform. Which meant that I had to start setting up photoshoots. Which meant that I had to figure out what the hell to do with my hands in pictures. I’ll never forget my first shoot with a D.C.-based photographer named Antoine in the summer of 2016. It must have been over 90 degrees. We did almost an hour of shooting outside in the sun. Half of the pictures couldn't be used, because I was sweating to the point that I looked like a glazed honeybun.  Antoine and I are friends now, but I remember thinking to myself, “if this guy doesn’t die of heat exhaustion before we finish, he’s definitely never speaking to me again.”

Thankfully, Antoine wasn’t easily deterred, and we forged a working partnership over the next few months that helped us both find our respective creative grooves. The awkward factor didn’t end with the shoots, though. I felt weird randomly posting these high quality pictures after having a very lowkey Instagram presence, up to this point.

I’m sure y’all have seen the stigma against “Instagram models.” I decided that in order to offset my nervousness about starting to share these pictures, I would make my captions so ridiculous that they oftentimes became the focal point of my posts in lieu of the pictures themselves. I told myself that no one could ever roast me better than I can. Up to this point, I would say that I’m correct. Writing Instagram captions is easily one of the most enjoyable parts of my social media enterprises. You can see a few prime examples below.


 Photo by  Antoine Smart

Photo by Antoine Smart

 Photo by  Antoine Smart

Photo by Antoine Smart

 Photo by  Diahann Williams

As I got more comfortable being in front of a camera, and sharing pictures on Instagram, I continued to put a lot of energy into making my captions worth talking about. It became my calling card. I eventually put “don’t read my captions” in my bio, as a means of encouraging people to do exactly the opposite.

I researched everything from posting strategy to non-intrusive forms of automation, and continued to experiment and do the work. A few months into my Instagram renaissance, I heard about an influencer agency called SHADE that was specifically designed to empower black and brown creatives. I wasn’t sure if I was ready, but having a team to help me with my strategy, provide resources, and negotiate deals for me sure sounded nice - especially for a newly minted full time entrepreneur. At this point, I was struggling to pay rent every month. Finding new ways to make money was the number one priority.

I was particularly drawn to SHADE because of their focus on US (black and brown creatives). I didn’t want to be signed to an agency that had no understanding of the culture that I’ve grown up in. I had already seen a lot of examples of how I did not want to function as an influencer, and I knew that I had to be very intentional about charting my course. No flat tummy tea on this side. A few days after applying for SHADE, I got one of the most pivotal emails of my life - my acceptance email from Jacques and Dahcia, the owners of the agency.

As I got oriented to SHADE, the other influencers within the brand, and the way that they pitch us to various companies, I realized how pivotal my recent focus on Instagram had been. Instagram is a driving force behind many social media deals. Twitter is not. If I hadn’t taken that leap of faith and forced myself to develop a visual presence to accompany my writing, I likely would have never been accepted to the agency. I felt a bit more validated in regards to the initial discomfort that I had worked through.

Instagram was the first platform that I intentionally pushed past discomfort to build. It wouldn’t be the last, though.

 

Transitioning into LinkedIn

I joined LinkedIn in 2013, when I graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia with a degree in Sociology. My goal: to find a job.

I never found a job on LinkedIn, but I left my profile up after I got a job, and updated it every six months. That’s what my parents told me to do. They were right, but I was missing out on a very important development: LinkedIn’s gradual transition from an awkward joke of a social media platform to a business minded content marketer’s dream come true.

I didn’t realize what I was missing out on, as both a writer and content marketer, until I had a conversation with a friend of mine named Julian Mitchell. I first heard about Julian on Twitter (go figure), and grew to admire the way he navigated his professional career - from writing about entrepreneurism for Forbes, to spearheading the creation of an entirely new arm of Complex Media Network - the Complex Hustle channel.

I’m a student of the game. Always have been, always will be. I will never get to a point where I feel like I know everything. Through numerous conversations with Julian, I realized how much of his career success had come from his platform on LinkedIn. While I was largely building social capital with my peers on Twitter and Instagram, Julian was developing a reputation within the business world through his articles, interactions, and messaging on LinkedIn.

While building a network of like minded peers is valuable, sharing your ideas in a forum of people outside of your typical network of friends and associates can open new doors. LinkedIn is the digital manifestation of that principle. Sharing business and marketing-related thoughts on a platform frequented by executives, job seekers, and corporate power players has helped me to authentically connect with people I would have never otherwise encountered. I decided that I needed both to accomplish my long term goals.



I'm still refining my approach to LinkedIn, but since deciding to integrate it into my daily social media strategy about four months ago, I've already gotten new clients, new freelance opportunities, and a new audience for my writing. LinkedIn was a key addition to my social strategy, but it definitely wasn’t the last. In fact, I’m pushing myself into another uncomfortable but necessary space very soon.



Transitioning into YouTube

Video is the most powerful medium of digital communication today. This is not up for debate. It bridges gaps between the digital world and real life people that pictures and images cannot conquer. Video maintains people's attention better than an article. Video allows you to convey powerful emotions - not just through your words, but through your body language and the inflection in your voice. Video is the closest that any digital form of communication can come to sitting down with someone for lunch in real life.

I’ve never felt entirely comfortable in front of a camera, but I had to come to terms with the fact that the career I chose specifically requires that I choose growth over comfort. Point blank, period.

Getting over this fear of being on camera is still an ongoing struggle. I am my own biggest critic. I don’t always like the way my voice sounds, or how my body moves when I talk, or how I convey my thoughts on the fly. I’m working on it, though. Consistently. A few months ago, I began the process of putting myself through my own informal version of media training, which consists of forcing myself to actively practice speaking into a camera, and pursue television and podcast interviews.

I’m happy with the way the interview that follows turned out, but I was still tapping my toes nervously before I went on camera and decided to act confident.

When I finished, I was happy that I put myself through the experience. I wasn't perfect, but I definitely felt prepared. This experience gave me more confidence for future on screen appearances.

*SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT*

I’m launching a YouTube channel very soon - you should follow me there! By following my channel, you will give me a dose of motivation, and pressure me to start putting out video content like I said I would. I’ve been investing some of my hard earned money to purchase the equipment that I need to get high quality video content moving consistently, and I’m excited to see where this new element of my brand will take me.

My journey continues. I’m sure I’ll continue to spread my proverbial wings and find new elements to incorporate into this strategy of mine, even if I’m initially afraid of them. After all, who needs a comfort zone when you have bags to secure?



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Who am I? I'm Michell. I help brands and entrepreneurs to position themselves for longterm success through thorough, value-focused social media planning.

Why should you work with me? Because I've learned enough from my failures to help people achieve success more quickly than I have thus far. Because I'm only teaching the things that I know will get you results. Because I'm not here to just tell you things you could have googled yourself - I'm focused on making a plan that you believe in enough to execute to the best of your ability. I've been building my online presence for 8+ years, and making a full time living off of it for over a year. I'm ready to help you achieve your goals on your own terms. Click here to learn how I can help.