I’m applying for a job this week. It’s one I would be good at. Heck, let’s be real: it’s one I’d kill for. It’s about cultivating communities using social networks here at Penn State, and the position is shared across three entities: the College of Liberal Arts, the Rock Ethics Institute, and Education Technology Services, where I currently work part time. I’m up against stiff competition: two very smart, very capable candidates who are also two very close friends. Not an enviable position, let me assure you. They both have strengths that are specific to their backgrounds, have a lot of experience presenting at conferences, and can probably spell pedagogy and use it correctly in a sentence. At first glance, you might well ask, why even try?
I’ve been wrestling with this question. A lot. Now the position is officially posted, and I have to step up to the plate. In the face of somewhat daunting rivals, I needed some inspiration. So I decided to ask my twittersphere (what I thought was) a simple question: Why do you follow @Robin2go?
I was incredibly unprepared for the answers that followed.
The first twenty were smart alecky retorts, and I was crushed. I sat there, watching the answers roll in. A couple of faithful friends tried valiantly to bolster my ego, but the responses came fast and furious.
“I’m afraid I might get my butt kicked if I don’t?”
“What @jdwcornell said!”
“Probably because it is your fault I am here. Masochist?”
“Not a day goes by that I don’t ask myself that same question. ;-)”
“The free beer.”
“Because I’m terrified to be in front of her.”
“The free beer.”
“because its part of the deal I cut with the government to get my ass out of Gitmo. #whydoifollowrobin2go”
“The free beer.”
“wait! There’s free beer for following @Robin2go? i didn’t know that”
“This is starting to sound like a bad ad campaign. “Why do I follow @Robin2go? Her strength, steadfastness, and full, rich flavor!”
“(flava?) That word didn’t play in Peoria; all the hep cats are already following @Robin2go, we’re trying to market to their parents. ;-)”
“Two words: Trouble Maker :-)”
Apparently the only reason people follow me is because I’m a joke. Not the best argument for a job interview, is it? I was quickly regretting this impulse question, but you can’t stop the signal, Mal. The Twitterstream kept flowing relentlessly.
“Cuz she just passed out at her desk from dedication!”
“‘Cause you’re fun. And funny.”
“As if that really needs an answer! Hellooo #jaynehat! :P”
“Because you say the stuff I wish I could say!”
“I follow @Robin2go because she rocks. She makes me laugh and I enjoy following her exploits.”
“because you are awesome and real, you say what you mean and you’re not afraid to say what others are thinking”
“humor throughout the day keeps @imconfused a happy boy…plus talk of wine and other alcoholic bevs are always ++s :-)”
“B/c your tweets are Awesomesauce!!”
“A shared Cusack obsession comes to mind…”
“because you make me laugh :-)”
“because i’m into usability and yarn!”
“to see how it’s done. And laugh. Make connections. And laugh. Did I mention laugh?”
“b/c I can use terms like ‘grok’ ‘SM’ and ‘shiny’ in the same tweet w/o you blinking an eye. also, you brings the lulz.”
“OK, srsly, it’s because of the wit, and the fun, and the pics of cute women who call themselves ‘MEGATRON’.”
“I follow you because you are like a twizzler. You make mouths happy. #srsly”
“I follow @Robin2go just because.”
“because I love to try and to figure out how u fit it all in”
I started to realize there was a bigger picture. The bigger picture was this: I am authentic.
Being authentic isn’t something you can fake. You have to take an honest interest in your community, and you have to be willing to show the flaws and the silliness. It creates connections to others and makes you relatable. When I sat back and thought about it in that light, some of the tweets took on a different significance.
“ur smart, funny, interesting. u share personal + professional. u ask questions that make ppl reflect about the tech they use + why”
“creative, enthusiastic, and generous, umm… more?”
“Because it makes me happy to know that souls like her exist in my world. Funny. Thoughtful. Irreverent!”
“Humor… lots of laughs, friendship, lots of great insight, and a peek into #yarnporn. And what @jdwcornell said. ;)”
“Helpful info, connections to like-minded folk, raucous fun, and hilarious hijinks. Better?”
“Cause you’re my friend. #whyifollowu”
“Cause you’re a dance floor diva and incredible friend.”
“I follow Robin2go b/c she’s da bomb.”
“I follow you bc you make me smile AND I learn soooo much from you”
And then you start to see connections; how 2nd and 3rd level connections can become 1st level connections just be reaching out and starting to communicate and engage others.
“Honestly, a lot of @bpmore and @shellykeith non sequitur seem to be directed at you…thot I was missing out :)”
“I met you at EduWeb 2009 in Chicago. That’s why *I* follow.”
“The questions, the insights, the clever avatar pictures. Why not follow? :)”
“i follow you because you’re awesome and funny, and make me see that working in heweb really can be fun”
“Started following after a webinar. Follow to hear about social media and web dev conferences I can’t go to. #grumble”
“For the humor and insight, and for the avatars!”
“I follow @Robin2go because she’s a super lady who makes me laugh and always has a good idea”
“cuz i learn stuff from u and i like your “voice” : )”
And occasionally, you see something that you’d like to retweet so the entire world could see it (x10), if it wasn’t so obviously self serving.
“Connected to my usual suspects at UP, so widens who I influence and who influences me, plus. . .I can’t look away from all that sarcasm, humor, and how much she can pack into 140 characters that’s LOL! And. . .she reminds me of how connected and truly supportive the PSU community can be”
“Okay, srsly: you have provided me with more insight to the power and potential of Twitter than anyone else I know.”
“I follow @Robin2go because she speaks the truth, from her heart; she is real and funny; she offers great insight into things social media.”
And here’s the thing: I’m not the instructional designer who has years of experience with pedagogical issues. I’m not the virtual worlds expert who has created and maintained a virtual community for years. I’m not an analytics wizard who does amazing things with numbers and deciphers what they mean for the rest of us. I’m not the marketing guru who has pinpoint accuracy when it comes to targeting audiences and getting the best return on your investment. Those people I admire because they have strengths I don’t have. But if there is one thing this afternoon’s grand experiment has shown me, my great strength is this: my voice is genuine, my interest, real. I talk to people, I engage them in discussions about higher ed, social media, and community. I help to open doors, create visibility, solve problems, build bridges, and gain trust and familiarity. I make the connections, and I share with my very active Twittersphere who knows a lot about me. And my exploits. They like my laughter. And my voice. They follow me because they want to hear my voice.
That is my strength. If I didn’t know it before, I know it now. My voice generates memes, and my voice generates laughter, my voice generates discussion, and my voice generates relationships. (Apparently my voice can also generate great interest in beer. Who knew?) I sit back, and I reread these reasons why you follow @Robin2go, and I thank each and every one of you who took the time to answer my question. I am grateful you follow me, because the value you give back to me is incalculable. You have written my cover letter, and given me an incredibly powerful argument of why I am a perfect fit for this position.
I am authentic @Robin2go.