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Categorized | V52-N4--Summer 2015

Social Media as a Tool for the Information Professional

The Philosophy

Social media can be an amazing self-marketing tool for information professionals but it can be overwhelming to know where to start. What’s the difference between Twitter and Tumblr? Is Instagram the same as Facebook? I hope to demystify the process of constructing an online presence, using my own online ecosystem as a case study, so that you can craft your online image to suit your career goals.

I’m not talking about social media for personal use. I have many social media accounts under a pseudonym that are not connected to my real name or my professional ecosystem. I’m referring to using carefully chosen social media channels to create, enhance, and maintain a professional brand.

Some people are understandably leery of putting a lot of personal information on the internet. My view is that, as information professionals, we can responsibly control what we do put out there. If someone googles my name, I want the content that I choose to be the first result, not things that others are saying about me. As such, I’ve created an online version of Sarah Morrison, Information Professional. It’s not fabricated — it’s me – but it’s the me that I’ve crafted to put out to the world. Only you can decide the personal brand you want to create. I’ll walk you through how to do this online.

The Brand

The first step is to brainstorm what you want to portray to the world. This will help inform how your ecosystem develops and the social media channels you choose. Are you a fine art archivist who draws fan-art in your spare time? A sleek blog to showcase your work and a curated Instagram presence might be for you. Are you a systems librarian who loves to game, blog, and keep up with nerd culture? A WordPress blog and active Twitter account could definitely work. Choosing a lot of channels, throwing them at the wall, and hoping they stick, isn’t an effective way to create your online presence. Be clear about what you want to portray. Consider it an online version of your elevator speech.

Get creative! Are you a visual learner? Create a mind map of your interests, career goals, and reasons for creating an online presence. Do you learn best through text? Write a bio that encapsulates the Professional You that you’re aiming to introduce to the world. Having this resource, in whatever form it takes, is a great reference for when you’re building your online presence.

Not only will planning help you choose which channels to use, it will inform your tone and content when you start to populate your channels. A well-published academic librarian will use a different tone (and probably different channels) than a tech-savvy programmer and blogger. Going back to your core brand mission statement can help ensure you’re on-tone, and can help you know when it might be time to update your brand.

The Channels

Depending on how active you are online, a first step might be cleaning up your personal accounts and creating a separation between your professional and personal accounts. I have a separate email that I use to sign up my pseudonym (personal) accounts, and I’ve settled on one, standard pseudonym that I use consistently.

One decision I had to make was regarding Facebook. Mine is under my own name, but I didn’t start out treating it as a professional space. I determined that it would be too difficult to separate it out, so I’ve locked it down. I decided that Facebook wasn’t a key channel that I needed to use professionally, so I don’t feel the lack of an account attached to my blog.

I’ll discuss some of the major social media channels below, but one thing to set up early on is a standard professional email that you can use to communicate, and to set up your professional accounts. I use (which is hosted through Google Mail) as my main professional email and as my login for my professional social media accounts.

The Channel Types

Many people struggle with which social media channels to use. If you’re just starting an account for the sake of it, then it won’t work. You’ll forget to update it and the content won’t be relevant to your professional goals. My main piece of advice is to establish a use case for each channel. As long as you’ve identified why and how you’d use a certain channel to build your professional brand, you should have no problem using and populating the account successfully.

Don’t underestimate the importance of strategically cross posting. People have their own preferred ways of interacting online, so cross posting ensures that your content is easily accessible on various platforms. For example, SquareSpace (my blog hosting service), allows me to automatically publish my blog posts to Tumblr and Twitter. You can also use amazing tools like If This Then That (IFTTT), which allows you to connect and automate almost anything online. IFTTT is how I make sure my Instagram posts are pushed automatically to Twitter and Tumblr, and any posts tagged #bookoftheday are added to my book blog.

Based on your core brand statement, you can choose which channels to invest in:

  • One channel I highly recommend spending some time building is LinkedIn. A robust, up-to-date LinkedIn account can be a hugely helpful networking and job-hunting tool. I record a more detailed job history there then I include in my resumes. I also link to my most recent PDF resume on my website, as well as PDFs of the presentations I’ve given. LinkedIn also has great groups of like-minded professionals so you can keep up to date with relevant professional discussions. As information professionals, it is very dangerous to not maintain a robust LinkedIn presence.
  • Another major channel is Twitter. Twitter is great for following key professionals, blogs, and writers in your field. It’s also a good way to keep in touch with people on a more ad hoc basis. Many conventions and conferences will have an official hashtag, so you can keep track of what’s happening in real-time. Twitter can be used in very informal ways, but it is a great professional tool to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the world. I use mine as a sort of aggregator – I follow a lot of interesting people, and retweet things that catch my eye. I also use Buffer to post things that I’m reading from RSS feeds in Feedly.
  • Tumblr is a very different beast from Twitter, despite similar sounding names. Tumblr can be used as a blogging platform, though I didn’t choose to go that way myself. Fandom has thrived on Tumblr, and it supports image-heavy posts as well as longer form text than Twitter. I have a Tumblr account to follow some of my more ‘lighthearted’ favourites, such as Egyptolo(gif)s, Tattooed Librarians & Archivists, Librarian Problems, and the classic Librarian Hey Girl. There are some amazing and more serious blogs that I follow, such as Microagressions in Librarianship. Tumblr is not for everyone, so don’t feel pressured to use it if it doesn’t make sense for you, but it can be a great tool under the right circumstances.
  • Instagram is the major image-sharing platform. This is a great example of having to examine my use-cases to determine if a professional Instagram was right for me. Unlike my favourite tattoo artists, musicians, or drag queens, I don’t have pictures that have been created as part of my professional career. I didn’t want to have an account devoid of any visual content, so looking at my blog, I realized that I’ve posted a lot about e-reading (and my preference for it). However, I still have a lot of physical books. I decided that my Instagram account would showcase the physical books I do have – and it’s been great! I’d forgotten the variety that I own, and it’s been fun to get to know the platform and the app. That’s a major consideration when using Instagram – you need to update it using a smartphone or tablet, as desktop functionality is minimal.
  • Google+ is a channel that I’ve struggled with. I have an account, partially to place-hold the name, but I haven’t created a concrete presence yet. There are many organizations that do use it, and the integrated Google features, such as Hangouts, so it might be worth looking at (especially if you find circles and groups that you’re active in).
  • Facebook is a major channel that I don’t use professionally. I know of people that create an account simply to make sure someone else doesn’t get the name, but don’t populate it, and keep it locked down. It can be used to network and keep up to date with people, but many people set theirs up before they embarked on creating a professional brand (like me), making it hard to separate the professional and personal. One plus is that it does have options for filters and levels of access. It can be good if you’re in business for yourself, as you can create a page for your business as a complement to (or replacement for) a separate website.
  • Vine is a video-sharing platform. Unlike sharing a video on Facebook, Vine limits the length of your videos and they loop when played. Like Instagram, it’s meant to be used via a smartphone or tablet. I don’t have a use case for this platform myself, but it can be a great option if you’re more visually inclined.
  • Pinterest is a tool that lets you visually organize ideas and content into ‘boards’. This is one tool that, anecdotally, I find many people latch onto and then don’t know what to do with it. In my personal life, I use it to pin ideas for future tattoos, but since my professional brand isn’t terribly visually oriented, I don’t have a use case for it professionally.

This list is in no way complete, but it’s a place to start. I want to stress that you do not need accounts with all the platforms! If you have a strong sense of what your professional brand is, you’ll be able to determine which channels will work best to support this. I recommend building up your LinkedIn account first, and then choosing another to work with once you’ve determined the use case. It’s better to have a few well thought out and robustly populated channels then a lot of abandoned accounts.

The Ecosystem

I use the term ‘online ecosystem’ to describe the complete online presence I’ve crafted for myself. I like having a website of some kind at the centre as it’s a good hub to link together your channels. It can serve as a blog and a hosting repository for professional resources like a resume or presentations you’ve given. If you’re strapped for time, or business card space, you can provide your website URL, knowing that people can then reach your various channels.

When creating professional social media accounts, I advocate keeping your usernames as uniform as possible. I’ve been able to put variations of ‘sarahamorrison’ in the URLs, letting me use Lady Lazarus as the tagline or title of many of them. This keeps everything consistent with my email address and website URL, and helps to keep my brand coherent. Where I’ve had to modify the name using numbers, such as sarahmorrison1 for LinkedIn, I’ve avoided the common practice of using my birth year. No one needs to know how old you are! I’ve used the same profile picture for all my accounts, and very similar ‘About Me’ blurbs. I also make sure they all link back to the website URL.

Social Media as a tool graphic-Ecosystem

With my website and blog at the centre, I’ve created an ecosystem of social media – my accounts are linked in the footer of my website and are prominently in the contact section. Ideally, this means that if someone finds their way to the blog, they can interact with me through whatever channel they’d like.

The Message

Don’t be overwhelmed! Often people think they need to use every channel on the internet. You don’t. Work out in advance what you’d like to portray professionally to the world and how best to do it. The various social media channels bring different strengths that you can use to communicate your brand – make them work for you. By figuring out each use case, you can decide which channel is best for presenting your professional persona online.


—Sarah Morrison
Sarah Morrison is a recent MLIS graduate who’s embarking on her new career as an information professional, being a SharePoint content specialist for the rest of the year. She blogs at In addition to knowledge and content management, business research, and digital and systems librarianship, she enjoys the Marvel Cinematic Universe, non-narrative non-fiction, and industrial music.   

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One Response to “Social Media as a Tool for the Information Professional”


  1. […] to set the best impression for present and future colleagues and employers. Sarah Morrison‘s article further explains what you can do with various social media and why. Set up a LinkedIn profile and […]

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