Blog: Jessica Soulliere

Jessica Soulliere is the social media communications coordinator and a senior public relations representative for the University of Michigan Health System. As social media communications coordinator, Jessica has been primarily responsible for developing the University of Michigan Health System's social media presence since 2006, and consulting with internal clients on best practices for meeting their communications goals. In addition, Jessica serves as a media relations coordinator and is co-lead of the University of Michigan Social Media Trends and Technology Team that informs communicators university-wide on developments in social media tools and trends.

She is also the founder of the Social Media Club Ann Arbor, a local chapter of the national Social Media Club, whose core mission is to expand media literacy, share lessons learned among practitioners, encourage adoption of industry standards, and promote ethical practices through discussion and actions. This task she undertook for the sole purpose of learning and sharing knowledge with others, given the relative lack of free resources and the overwhelming pace at which social media continues to evolve.

When she's not Tweeting, Facebooking, or blogging for the myriad online presences she manages, Jessica can be seen - in person - dancing or teaching salsa at area clubs and socials, and volunteering her time promoting and managing YA Salsa. When spring is in the air, her life revolves around organic gardening.

Jessica grew up in Ann Arbor and currently lives in Livonia with Shane, the apathetic one, Lucy, the aspiring chef, Lilly, the disdainful Himalayan, and Minze, the belly-rub addicted Yorkie.

Jessica Soulliere - Most Recent Posts:

Post 3: Getting on the Tour Bus

If you think just sitting back and recording music and selling albums is good enough, you might be right. But, that robs your fans of the opportunity to see you in real life.

A lot of people sit at their desks and tweet and Facebook and blog, or whatever. They do it for personal reasons, and some of them do it for business. And those people may very well be carrying on meaningful conversations and are racking up followers and fans and comments. But, the magic doesn't always happen until you've met those friends or fans in person; the ones you've really connected with in some way.

First stop: Authenticity.

There are a few issues at play for ensuring your road show is successful, whether your goal is personal or professional.  First, it's authenticity. If you are going to put yourself out there online, then you had better do it honestly and authentically. If you claim to be something you are not, or act completely differently online because you are hiding behind an avatar or fake persona, then you probably never intend to meet others with whom you've connected online. Or at least you shouldn't plan on it. That goes the same for a business.

The point is to make meaningful connections online, so what people perceive you to be online is something they may very well likely tap you for in the future. If Zingerman's is entertaining online, they better have that same feel and personality when I walk in the door or I may very well be disappointed.

Personality

The second issue is acknowledging and embracing your personality. I like to say I have multiple personalities online because I am passionate about several things. But I can tell you that what you see of me online is what you get in person.

I love salsa dancing and the people who are a part of that scene, so I am frequently promoting or chatting with others about that and I guarantee all the friends or followers I have in my "salsa peeps" friends category I've met at least once in person.

I've hooked strangers up with instructors and gotten others interested in salsa dancing because they see all the stuff I post, including photos, videos and events. They love it.

I love gardening and post albums of my gardens each year so that I can keep track of what I've done and share with others. Not only have I learned tips and tricks from others who have engaged me online about my garden, I've also shared my food with people who have asked and gotten others interested in gardening too.

And then there's my professional passion, which is writing and how social media can help me meet my work goals and my professional goals. That happens to be why I'm writing this series in the first place.

Be sure people can tell who you are.

This is definitely related to authenticity and personality. And it's a great exercise in evaluating yourself in terms of how others out there might perceive you.

If you want to be active in social media, for business especially, it's critical you have accurate and robust online profiles and use real photos of yourself or something you are closely associated with for your avatars.

If you do nothing else, be sure to fill out a profile on LinkedIn and Google (you can do this if you have a gmail account. If you don't have one, I suggest you get one).  

Observe.

I sometimes chuckle at the term "social networking" because it seems crazy to me that people need online tools to learn how to connect with people. But, it’s really the modern version of the old fashioned, old school term called "networking" and the tools make it insanely easy to do so.  

In this vein, who you know is very important. This does not mean that you conduct yourself with the goal of friending everyone you think is important or that you plow through the online party drinking a cup of burned coffee to be polite and handing out business cards to everyone who says hello to you. It also doesn't mean schmoozing up to the big wig just because you think it will get you somewhere. There is an art to it. People may be annoyed that you've tried to connect with them or ask them to do something for you and they don't know who the heck you are or why they could possibly want to connect with you, a stranger (this is where online profiles come in handy. If they look at it, they may be able to tell if you are worth friending).

In the beginning, you really need to sit back and observe. Pay attention to who is following you and who you are following. Look at what people are saying and how they're saying it. Learn the geeky lingo, acclimate yourself to the tools. Look at who your friends' friends are and slowly make connections based on a common interest. Then engage in discussions. Ask questions. Learn and teach.

The value isn't in the number of friends or fans you accumulate necessarily. It's in how meaningful those connections are. You need to prove to others you have value as much as they need to show that to you. This brings me to my final point, which is to get out and meet people!

Move and shake.

Now is the time you are ready to go on tour. You've made connections online, so start meeting those connections offline. Use these tools to host promotional events or parties. Host a Tweetup for your business. Go to events. One awesome and affordable event coming up is Future Midwest in April where you'll find some of the area's most interesting social media-minded folk who are actively engaged and who you can learn from.

Whatever you can think of, the tools are great for getting people to come together for whatever the reason; community pillow fights, auditions for our burgeoning film industry, health screenings, '80s roller skating parties, electing the first black president, all of it.

If your friends or followers care about and believe in you, because you are authentic and true to your personality, you understand the value of creating meaningful connections and mastered the art of it, they'll come.


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Post 2: Connecting With the Rockstar in You, and Your Community

If you are a beginner and read my first post and think you are ready to test your skills in social media, or have begun but are just treading water, think about what you care about most. There are ways to get past the competition and carve a space for yourself, but you should know what your goal is first.

Is it maintaining contact with family?

Do you want to promote your business/industry/product/self?

Do you want to unite members of the community around a common cause?

Most of all, whatever it is, it needs to move you. It should be something you are passionate about that will keep you coming back as much as you’ll want your friends, followers, family or customers to.

As I mentioned before, there are a number of social media rock stars and cool ways to use social media that you should take a look at, join and watch or interact with. Regardless of your situation, I want you to observe the following examples and find others like them, before moving any further:

Zingerman's Deli on Facebook:

I chose Zingerman's Facebook page as a good example for how to use Facebook because I think they do a good job of varying their content and allowing the maximum amount of interactions on their page with their customers, from comments to uploading images. They also maintain an interesting and consistent personality. They do a great job of sharing photos of events and also sharing stories that may be of interest to visitors, while not always being strictly promotional in nature. There is a balance that should be struck between images, video and text and I think they do a good job of it.

The personal takeaway:  I specifically appreciated their "edible landscape" photos because I too am an avid gardener and enjoyed learning about what they planted, the soil they used, and watched it grow, comparing my seedlings to the size of theirs.

Biggby Bob (founder of BIGGBY COFFEE) on Twitter:

Biggby Bob, CEO and co-founder of BIGGBY COFFEE (original shop opened in Lansing) is a fantastic personality online, and in person. He’s full to bursting with personality while promoting the chain of franchises, from free drinks of the day, to his various locations during business travel and responding to customer service-related inquiries.

The personal takeaway: I once tweeted that I wondered if BIGGBY COFFEE had Wi-Fi and he tweeted back the response himself!


Phil Dokas' photostream on Flickr: 

While there are many ways you can use Flickr, from sharing your art portfolio for professional purposes to housing your family photo albums, it's also a great way to promote yourself personally and to be discovered randomly. I searched "Ann Arbor" on Flickr and came across this guy's photostream and was captured by his sense of humor and the random assortment of Ann Arbor images he has taken.

The personal takeaway: He's very intriguing and likely an amateur photographer I'll follow for some time to see if his work warrants further pursuit.


ArborWiki:

ArborWiki, as all wikis are, is a publicly editable Web site,
specifically about Ann Arbor-related information, as it states on its
Welcome page. Basically, anyone can visit any page within ArborWiki and
add information to it or create a topic, write about it and share
information or their personal stories about it. Where the most popular
wiki is Wikipedia, ArborWiki is unique in that it’s specific to Ann
Arbor and has the personality more of a family scrapbook and trip down
memory lane than a typical encyclopedia, depending on the pages you
visit. Best of all, it was actually created by a group of students from
Community High School. Rock on alternative brothers and sisters! At any
rate, it’s an opportunity for you to post a page about an Ann
Arbor-specific topic, your business, and your project, whatever you
like.


Personal takeaway: See the University of Michigan Health System wiki page here. I have some work to do. Looks like someone created a UMHS page, but there’s nothing interesting on it! And here's Date Night. I'll be adding "Take a late-night walk through the Arboretum and watch the stars on a clear and warm summer night."


Kitchen Gardeners on Ning:

Ning.com is actually a platform upon which anyone can create a
social network for or about anything. For free. My personal favorite,
which I would have started on my own had I been born a few years earlier
or had been involved in gardening, is kitchengardeners.org. It's
a wealth of information for gardeners, has the ability for its members
to create their own sub-groups to share regional and state-specific
gardening tips, events, interfaces with personal Flickr accounts and the
like. And, it just so happened that the founder of this network and its
members can claim responsibility for the movement that resulted in the
Obamas installing a kitchen garden on the White House lawn. Talk
about activism at a grass roots level.

Personal takeaway: Ning.com is in my back pocket for when the moment is
ripe to launch a social network for one of my clients. It's terribly
easy and cost effective. You just have to have the time and manpower to
manage it.

Vince Chmielewski on LinkedIn:

I’ve known and worked with Vince on and off over the last year or so. He's solid, intelligent and clearly talented. Just look at his LinkedIn profile. If there's one way to promote yourself professionally, it's through LinkedIn. Vince's profile is a perfect example of how to manage a profile well, from referrals, clear explanations of his experience, well managed list of events, and more.

Personal takeaway: I have even more work to do! Managing online profiles can be a bit of a bear if you aren’t doing it well.

For all its buzz and glory, your social media presence – whether personal or professional – should never be taken for granted. It’s important to pick only what’s necessary and useful to you and not just do it for the sake of doing it. To build strong connections and be able to harness the power of social networking and build communities online and off, you’ll need to go about it methodically and with purpose. You’ll be overwhelmed quickly trying to keep up with it all if you do not. Again, it comes back to knowing what you are trying to do and what tools work best for that goal.


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Next topic: Getting on the Tour Bus

Post 1: Rising Stars vs. Rock Stars

The event was scheduled; the room reserved. The Facebook page was created and the invitations were out. The live stream was rolling.

I introduced the speaker to faces from my past, my present and my future: An old high school classmate who was a realtor now in Ann Arbor, a close friend and colleague who is a marketing ace at the University of Michigan, the community manager from AnnArbor.com, a current team co-lead whom I hadn't met yet, and a handful of others.

As the presentation unfolded I looked around the room for signs of comprehension. Confusion, excitement, curiosity and boredom replied.  

It was the moment when I took the plunge and launched the first official speaking event for the Social Media Club Ann Arbor. Without knowing what success lay ahead, I felt totally vulnerable professionally, yet confident that it was something that needed to be done.

I chose the Ann Arbor area because I felt that while it had forward thinking, tech savvy and intellectual citizens, there are numerous small business owners and individuals in the city and surrounding areas who could benefit from free education on harnessing the power of social media. It's the kind of experience many folks likely feel as they begin to wade out into the wide world of social media, new media, Web 2.0, social networking, social media marketing and a long list of related terms around communications and marketing on the social Web.

How the heck do I do this?

What am I supposed to say?

How do I know it is going to work? What if I make a mistake or nobody cares?

Exposed and unsure; that's how it feels.

Now there is a new concept emerging called personal branding which posits that individuals who embrace their personalities, talents and strengths can use social media to bring value to the social Web, and to their company/work, even their community. You can become an extension of your company's brand. You can be the customer's experience. Say what?

I spoke to my realtor friend, Nick Lacy, the one who I hadn't seen since high school about this. He has a history degree and is a former high school history teacher, but works at his father's Ann Arbor realty firm, Edward Surovell, as the residential sales manager and I was curious about what made him show up at the first SMCA2 meeting.  

He explained to me that as a realtor, one of the best things to do is stay in touch with people, but not be in their face about it all the time.

Yes, I agreed, not being in my face all the time seems like a great idea. But somehow, there are a few personalities that always seem to be; always one-upping the next guy, waxing philosophical about some trend or other, those personal branding rock stars. People who you know by name, who are always out there sharing information and building their reputations online.

As Nick and I chatted, it occurred to me that social media seems like the perfect fit for realtors, because you can maintain contact with past clients in a friendly sort of way, and get referrals, and get as many contacts as possible. You can be who you are and still further your business goals.

But when he began the transition from dabbling on Facebook with friends and family to using it for business, lending his face and name to his company's brand, there is an enormous amount of pressure to craft that perfect post or message because you can see just how careful, "quippy" and particular some people are with them.

As if for the beginner, the concept of personal branding isn't already difficult enough to comprehend, it seems as though who you are on the social Web has taken on an air of competitiveness where none had existed before.

I’ve observed this and find myself thinking, That's so high school. I feel like this is some kind of popularity contest. But is it?

What I know is that there is a core of extraordinarily passionate souls who believe in the power of social media and that meaningful connections can be made in new and exciting ways using these new tools. It's not necessarily in the perfect post, or the craftiest message, but in sharing who you are as an individual, supporting your values, and connecting with others like you.

I've found this to be true both professionally and personally. I've connected a domestic violence program, Sisters Acquiring Financial Empowerment in Detroit, with the Ginsberg Center at U-M through Facebook, hoping a long-term internship program will ensue.

I've rekindled my former love affair with Zingerman's Deli by keeping tabs on their Facebook page (extra points for planting the organic garden last spring) which reminds me I need to make occasional stops in there when I am out and about for lunch and I'll be back to follow their 2010 garden as well!

It allows me to promote local businesses which I like through hosting SMCA2 events around town, such as Conor O'Neill's, Dominick's, Ann Arbor SPARK, Jolly Pumpkin, Sweetwaters, and more.  

In a community such as Ann Arbor, where the person behind the business is the brand, and where communities are built on relationships with individuals and problems are solved by engaged, creative and innovative citizens, embracing who you are, and sharing it by making those connections can only help strengthen community ties.

Don't be afraid. Jump in and become a well-connected rock star too.

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Next Post: Connecting With the Rockstar in You, and Your Community
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