Why I changed from @leahjones to @chicagoleah
A couple years ago, the economy tanked and my friends started losing their jobs. Instead of sympathy for them, I felt envy. I told them "The world is your oyster, the sky is the limit, now you can do anything!"
When you are envious of people losing their jobs in a terrible recession, it is time to think about what you are doing with your own life. So I did and that was part of how I found the courage to resign from my full-time gig and start Natiiv Arts & Media.
Lately, I've felt another envy creeping into my life. Envy of people that are using tools like Twitter and Facebook for purely personal reasons. People with a circle of 40 to 200 followers. People like my sister and my mom. I was also envious of Spike Jones who deleted his account and started fresh.*
-- this quote was brought to you by quoteurl
*apparently Spike's reset wasn't 100% intentional, but I thought it was and was still inspired to make the leap.
That's silly, right, envy that someone else did exactly what I could do. What was stopping me? Plenty, until this morning when I jumped and deleted my account.
My original twitter account, @leahjones, had 7,500 followers and was on 415 lists. I'd been using it for over three years, so I had street cred with it. I had a hundred or so photos on the associated TwitPic and used it as a log-in for commenting on blogs.
Walking through the list of 1500 people that I followed was like excavating my life online. It started with former Edelman colleagues, then a walk through Toronto when I went to Mesh in 2008, a stop in Michigan when I spoke at the CMPRSA, lots of Israelis from summer 2008 and 2009, Chicago people in groups by events when we met in person and newer clients.
I liked that about the people I followed, knowing why I followed each person and when I followed them. Remembering the event that put those five people together in a follow bunch.
Followers were a different story. In the summer of 2008 (I think) when Twitter was still fairly new, I was added to the recommendation engine Mr. Tweet and my followers skyrocketed from 1200 to 3000 in two months. I'd like to say, "I don't pay attention to follower numbers," but I do. Because of that Mr. Tweet, I found my name placed on Top Chicago Twitter lists and other sites that gathered more followers.
You use the technology, it doesn't use you.
Phil Gomes was my first supervisor when I moved into digital at Edelman and he always said, "You use the technology, it doesn't use you." I say it to my clients all the time, but do I believe it for myself? The answer has been no. I've set few boundaries for my own use of technology and I wanted to fix it. This was a place to start.
I began to believe my hype
Him: How many followers do you have? Me: 7,500 Him: Wow! That's a lot! How do you leverage it?
Was I special because I had 7,500 followers? No. I just got here first. I'm not good at my job because I have followers. I'm good at teaching social media, because I've lived it as a normal user. I'm good in the field, because I've worked with all sorts of clients to educate, brainstorm and create and execute strategy.
Yes, I want to be famous, but not for this.
Sunday night I was the event chair and MC for an event with Jeff Garlin, Fred Armisen and Jeff Tweedy. I used to do stand-up comedy and I've never found something to replace the feeling from a room of people laughing at your jokes. As the MC/event chair, nobody expected me to be funny or even comfortable on stage, but I was both.
That feeling is where I get the adrenaline rush. Not from getting a particularly pithy tweet retweeted. That is the feeling that I want to have on a more regular basis. Being a public speaker, comedian, presenter - I love that rush.
Quality vs Quantity
I've told my clients over the past few years that it isn't about gathering the largest following, but finding the right people and creating great content. Easy to say when you're walking around with a 7500 people following you.
I needed to experience building an account from the ground up again. I need to know what it feels like not to have all those easy connections and click-throughs.
Now, I'm not saying I wasn't following quality people or that quality people weren't following me. I'm saying that I needed to start from scratch to understand what my clients are going through when they start from scratch.
My client's brand is more important than my brand
My clients hire me for my ability to teach, my ability to brainstorm, my ability to project manage and my ability to research. They know that my Rolodex is deep and I can make introductions, but they also need to know that I think their brand is more important than my own.
By killing off "At Leah Jones," I'm putting my clients back in the front seat.
My reputation is not equal to my Twitter following
My reputation is built on being a good person, a good public speaker, a good professional, and a good friend. I've learned that I can organize a rocking event and make my volunteers feel at ease. I know that I recommend an angle to take with building a fan base that works.
I am not the number that follows my twitter name. I am not the number of subscribers to my blog. I am not the number of hits I get or the number of clips in my press folder.
What I lose
I lose my Q/A base. I used to be able to throw out a question about anything and get an answer within seconds. I'll probably have to use Google a bit more now.
I lose the non-stop action that was my twitter stream. I'm only following 70 people right now, down from 1500. That means I'll have to go back to reading books if I want constant text amusement.
I lose my easily quantifiable "influence" score. Potential sponsors will now look at my Twitter account and say "She's only been tweeting for a month, I'm not going to sponsor her." But I think I'll get over that.
There you have it
I quit my Twitter account. I started a new one. It is an experiment and I'm already enjoying the results.
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