Social media is dynamic in so many ways. At the core, it provides us with a platform to engage each other intellectually, challenge personal beliefs, ignite emotions, and in some cases, rock us to the core. If you don’t believe me, search Twitter for the #BlackinAmerica hashtag. I’m sure you’ll find more than a few spirited debates on the issue of race in the United States.
But social media also has the power to inspire and motivate us to explore who we are, be proud of who we are, and open to sharing that with the world.
In fact, I was inspired to write this blog after reading a Facebook post from my friend Steve. D. Mobley Jr., a PhD student at the University of Maryland-College Park.
I have worked hard to establish the 'Steve D. Mobley, Jr.' brand since day 1 of my PhD program & to know I am not alone in my value of presentation warmed my heart! “As a person of color, I feel that I must be 10 times more invested in how I present myself aesthetically to my students and colleagues.” #PhDGrind
After reading Steve’s post, I started to re-examine my use of social media and how I have crafted my online profiles and posts to speak to my own personal brand. As one of the few women of color in a management position at my institution, I take my image quite seriously and am always cognizant of how I represent myself. I realize, that whether I like it or not, there are unspoken expectations that I will do better than the stereotypes that exist for people of my race.
And as I drift from meeting to meeting and plan projects each week, there’s a lot about myself that I don’t have the opportunity to reveal. I now have strong desire to give my colleagues a more balanced view of who I am, much more than just the fact that I am a woman of color. And because I’m friends with many of my colleagues on Facebook and LinkedIn, I thought that social media would be the perfect avenue to show them that other side.
I’ve found that social media has really worked well for me because it allows me to express some of the less obvious parts of myself in a more dynamic and intentional way. Status updates allow me to “check in” with friends, family and the general public and share what and how I think on a daily basis; photo-sharing capabilities give people a glimpse into my world; and polls enable me to ask others what they think about issues are relevant to my interests. I literally have the tools at my fingertips to inform others of my ideas, hopes, and dreams. I can correct any misconceptions that others may have about me with just the click of a “Share” button.
I reached out to Steve to see if he felt as strongly as I did about the use of social media to promote personal brands.
C: How would you describe or characterize your brand?
S: First I would say that my brand is one of 'thought provoking intrigue.' I have sought to assert myself as a serious scholar who is not afraid to ask the hard questions. This is not always an easy task, especially when you are tackling subjects that may be deemed taboo or controversial within higher education and the broader societal context. My brand also has a strong social justice undercurrent. During my doctoral study I have been empowered to name injustice and "call out" those individuals and institutions who oppress and marginalize. It is not a brand of confrontation, but again one that questions the complexities that surround us all.
C: As someone aspiring to enter the realm of academia, how do you feel that social media has helped or will help you to promote your brand and your research?
S: Social media is of extreme importance to my branding and pursuit of the PhD. I post relevant articles regarding higher education & Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) that I come across on Twitter and Facebook every week. I feel that it is important for people to know how I feel about certain topics and the dialogue I am able to engage has been amazing. I always tell people that there is "power in social media." I also tweet and post on Facebook about my journey to the PhD all the time. The encouragement that I receive from my Facebook friends is invaluable. I have also been able to recruit research participants for my studies using Twitter and Facebook. I am connected to PhD students, scholars, and others in higher education worldwide due to social media. Recently I posted a pic on Instagram and Twitter of a presentation I was doing and people responded and came. Social media is a good thing in academia!
Ultimately, I decided to write this post because I wanted to show that, regardless of who you are, what your interests are, or what line of work you’re in, you are a human being with something to say and you have a persona that you want to project. The use of social media has not spread like wildfire because we just think it’s a cool fad. We use it because it has become an extension of who we are. It’s one of the first ways we introduce ourselves (our brand) to the world and we have the freedom to use digital media to be as colorful, provocative, and sincere as we dare to be. So have you shared your voice today?Christina Wood is the associate director of recruitment at Harrisburg Area Community College (‘02) in Harrisburg, PA. She holds degrees in English and journalism from Millersville University and a master’s degree in higher education management from the University of Pennsylvania. Christina is very passionate about education and has worked in higher education for over five years. She blogs about various issues in higher education, social media, and shares advice for new professionals on her blog CommunityCollege Voice. She also has written for other college, career, and education blogs such as TheLI$T, BrazenLife, and Evolllution. Follow her on Twitter at @ChristinaW82 or connect with her on LinkedIn.