Blog: Jessica Soulliere

In the competitive web world, virtual shut-out is all but certain if you don't have the right text message. Here to discuss optimizing your own type space is Jessica Soulliere, the social media communications manager for the University of Michigan Health System. Off-hours, Jessica can be found, live, dancing the salsa.

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, 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.


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