I didn’t grow up with connections in any industry. Neither one of my parents went to college or made an exorbitant amount of money. My mom was a superhero/childcare provider and my dad spent his 50+ hours a week driving freight while I slept (he still does). I did, however, grow up with the only thing that mattered: parents who believed in me, supported me, and loved me intensely. They poured everything they had into making sure their children had the opportunities they never got. Their greatest piece of advice? “Be tougher than everyone who’s bigger than you. Be so good they can’t ignore you.”
My name is Allie Eby, and I manage social media at SolarWinds. Yes, I am one of the brains behind the tweets. Social media remains one of the business world’s most mysterious phenomenons. Executives don’t know exactly how it works. It can be seen as a fluffy part of marketing; a nice-to-have rather than a necessity. So how do you convince execs to buy into a program they don’t know a lot about? How do you present them the full power of social media when all they read about it are headlines or fragments? You have to be so good they can’t ignore you.
I took my parents’ advice and ran with it. I never considered myself naturally smarter, faster, or stronger than anyone else. So I made sure I worked harder than anyone I knew, and then I worked even harder just to be sure. If I had reviewed my notes the day before a test three times in a row (one time too many), I told myself to go through it once more. I wanted to ensure I didn’t fail, and to me, getting less than an A was failing. “You’re only as good as the last test you took,” I’d tell myself.
Something happens when you pour so much time and energy into accomplishing a goal. Sometimes you fail. And when you do, it feels like the only thing in the world that matters. All of your previous achievements feel so far away, because you’re focusing so hard on that misstep. That fragment. Despite the hours and weeks poured into planning, studying data, and developing a social marketing plan that will best meet our audience’s interests, I am well aware that’s often what you see of it. Fragments. Sometimes it’s our less attractive fragments. The ones we’re less proud of. The ones where we’ve spent a bit too much time thinking about ourselves instead of thinking about our audience.
When I was young, I was a chronic perfectionist. I stressed out a lot. My grandma was, in many ways, my opposite. She was more about living in the moment instead of constantly looking ahead. She used to encourage me to start enjoying the present instead of stressing so much about my future goals. When I was tempted to look ahead because standing still made me bored, she encouraged me to look around. She taught me how to find and cherish the worth in those in-between moments of time.
What I love about social marketing is that even when the marketing isn’t live (or just isn’t working), there’s the social component. The in-between moments. I like to spend time with our social feedback as I review sentiment, look for trends, and collect data. As a former community manager responsible for actually responding to this feedback, I learned to love the process (yes, even the negative comments). When someone comes to talk to a brand on social, it’s an opportunity. Sometimes, you’re their biggest cheerleader. Their sounding board. The geek in their cube next door. Other times, you’re the place they come to have their complaints heard, and I’ve grown to appreciate that. Once someone tells us the problem they’re having, we find ourselves with the unique opportunity to fix it.
“Tell me your biggest problem. I’ll tell you how I’ll help you solve it.” I had exactly zero experience in the job I was interviewing for right out of college, but I had the one thing that can’t be taught – hustle. I still use that line in interviews today, and I still mean it sincerely. Feedback over the years has varied. I’ve been called everything from “intriguing” and “whip-smart” to “too hungry.” I’ve had “ambitious” used both as a compliment and a criticism. But you know what has happened the majority of the time? I’ve gotten the job.
Do you know what’s better than working with the smartest person in the room? Working with the person who cares the most. The ones who bring fragments of their life experience into work each day. There have been so many times in my life and my career where I’ve wished I could show someone my entire body of work. To explain why I behave the way I do, or make the decisions I make, or show up so darn early to the office. But in most areas of life, all you get to show is a fragment. A small piece of a greater story. If you could choose, which fragments would you want to share? Which parts of your story paint the best picture of who you are today?
One thing I love about social media is that no matter where you are in the world, you get to see the fragments that others have shared. You can bond, you can connect, or you can silently feel a sense of warmth knowing you’re not alone. I enjoy seeing, reading, and hearing people’s fragments.
I hope you’ve enjoyed mine.