In real life I have 14 Facebook friends and 56 people who now follow me on Twitter, yet I am a social media expert.

Most of the connections I have are acquaintances I have met over the years due to my investment banking career, or my Chief Executive Officer or Chief Operating Officer roles. For the vast majority of you, I’d say we don’t have a strong connection other than a digital one.

Furthermore, in real life and in group settings where I don’t know people, I somewhat retreat into the crowd. I am friendly, but have very few friends. For example, when I travel and once I board a plane, I immediately put in headphones so that I am not disturbed with small talk from a nearby passenger.

Perhaps I have a fear of being rejected as a friend or possibly because as a leader, I am more concerned about the well-being of family and my colleagues than I am for my own need or desire for friendship. I rarely post anything on-line about my personal life as I’m keenly aware of digital security and my own desire for privacy. In real life one could say I’m “anti-social media.”

You see, I can count on both hands the number of friends that if I had the gumption to call, I’d say “Let’s grab a beer or go to a Twin’s game.” But honestly, after a long day in the office, I’d rather spend my time at home smoking food on one of my smokers.

So if I have such few social media followers in real life, how does this make me a social media expert?

Well, let me tell you a story.

A Social Media Expert Is Born

Five years ago I created an anonymous on-line persona or pen-name, The Product Poet, which allows me to explore my creative passion of writing and poetry. As I write this post, I have approximately 140,000 Twitter followers and across a wide-variety of social networking sites I over 200,000 social media connections. However, it’s not the size of my follower base that is important, it was how I engage with my followers that creates a following, in poetry.

Outside of Twitter, I started to publish articles here on Medium in April of 2013, where I was invited as a writer while the site was still private and in beta mode. The writers that were selected by Medium were able to help provide feedback to what is is this flourishing writing platform.

Nowadays, if you want to be a writer, you can publish on platforms such as LinkedIn or Medium, without the need to purchase your own website. Medium is a powerful writing platform for those that love the ease of Medium, without having to spend time with building your own website. I think that is dynamite. I recently became a Medium member and so should you.

While I now occasionally post here on Medium, I primarily began writing and publishing more articles on my personal website. Today my personal website is approximately the 170,000th most trafficked website in the United States and approximately the 800,000th most trafficked in the World. To put this in perspective, there are a little over 1.2 billion active websites in the World according to Internet Live Stats.

The vast majority of my website traffic has been over the past two years, which to me shows that if one can consistently write content and distribute through social networking sites, one can effectively build themselves a nice tribe of followers that will follow you around the digital world. I’ve changed the theme of my website five times and have had to learn a fair amount about WordPress.

Through trial and error, slowly I was becoming an expert in the digital world of social media. I know which platforms work well for me and my followers, which can certainly vary for each individual or company.

But it’s not me who says I am a social media expert, it is my followers as well websites that track on-line engagement and conversations across a wide variety of social networking sites.

In 2016, one such site, Klout.com, says that out of approximately 7.6 million experts they tracked in Twitter, I was in the top 99.9% or 7,600 of their measured experts. Same goes for Social Media, where I was in the top 250 Social Media experts. Yet, you’d never know it. I’m also not naïve to know that these on-line influencer rankings can be manipulated.

Despite all of this, the “expert” tag I was proudest of is in Creative Writing. According to Klout, I was in the top 40 Creative Writing experts utilizing social media. But do I feel like an expert in Creative Writing? Somedays I do and somedays I don’t, but at the heart of what drives any of my social media strategies are conversations and engaging people with a certain writing style that is rather effective for the short-attention span we all have in social media.

And the irony of ironies of my on-line, anonymous persona is I never include a non-doctored picture of myself or my family. I also make sure any picture I post on-line has the Exchangeable Image File, or EXIF, removed which is as simple as changing a setting on my iPhone. By doing so, this prevents the GPS coordinates from being imbedded in all photos taken with my iPhone camera app. Even in my social media life I am still concerned for my own digital security and desire for privacy.

Speaking of privacy, for nearly two years after creating my on-line persona and my pen-name, my followers couldn’t tell whether I was male or female. I was kind of like Pat from the Saturday Night Live skits. Even today many of my followers are often shocked when they find out that I am a man. This still makes me chuckle.

In my social media life, I have been thankful to be featured in magazines, newspapers, on the radio and articles on-line. I have been a guest speaker at conferences as well as for brands at their internal social media training sessions. I have helped individuals, small businesses and large brands grow their on-line communities on Twitter, all through the simple notion of having a positive, never negative, conversation. This is just one of ten rules of engagement I have developed over the past several years to facilitate positive, on-line interactions.

I been impersonated by others seeking to leverage my “name” and have seen and been a victim of “trolling” or hatred by people wanting to inflict psychological harm across the digital world. I have seen individuals so consumed with social media that they have become addicted to their phones, to substances and to being followed by celebrities. Many of these individuals ultimately decided to take a much needed digital detox.

Heck, I’ve taken several digital detoxes myself to recharge my creative writing juices as well as my aching thumbs from typing on an iPhone. And late last year, after my third failed attempt at being verified by Twitter, I nearly quit the platform all together, even though I have now tweeted over 101,000 times.

Furthermore, in my social media life, even though I have created this engaging, personable anonymous on-line persona, everything I have shared or posted is my everyday life. It is who I am. It is what I am.

In my real life, as a member of the executive suite, I was always concerned about my companies’ reputation both off-line and on-line. We constantly were searching for digital mentions of our companies, both the positive and the negatives. Our brand was just one of many assets that we own.

Then approximately a year ago, the company I was running was sold and I began my “temporary retirement.” While I have had more time on my hands to spend on social media or writing, the amazing thing is I lost my interest in writing or tweeting or posting food pictures to Instagram.

My “influence scores” began dropping from as I no longer was engaging with my followers. Yet somehow, I was happy. You see, my social media persona had become a “job” so to speak where it was almost an assumption I would be a part of Twitter chats or Instagram engagement groups.

I was worn out. I still am worn out. Yet in my temporary retirement, I’ve managed to do some fun things such as take accounting certifications and file a patent. And spend a lot of time smoking meats and great treats. And I’ve been told, my smoked nuts are great to eat.

But as I search for my next executive role, I am challenged with how to properly address how I built my personal brand and what I have learned as The Product Poet. I know my social media expertise would be a benefit to many companies, yet you will find it no where on my resume.

In fact, I’ve had many recruiters tell me to not talk about The Product Poet or my creative writing and to remove any references on my resume.

In real life perhaps the most important asset and of us could ever own is our personal brand.

Part of my personal brand just happens to be an on-line, anonymous creative writing and social media expert that proudly goes by the title of CEO: Chief Engagement Officer.

Yet unlike iconic line from the television series Cheers, my social media hangout is a place where nobody knows my name.


As originally published on Medium.