3 ways to avoid losing yourself while gaining a following on social

We build the analytics around here so it’s easy for us to get caught up in things from that end of the spectrum. With that in mind, we’re reaching out to some different perspectives on using social media, from Instagram influencers to podcasters and more.

This is a guest post from Mireya Garcia, an award-winning journalist currently working in Oklahoma City. She shares how expectations around journalists have changed with the increasing ubiquity of social media, and what she’s learned from trying to balance public and private life via social. These lessons are valuable for anyone struggling to find that same balance between representing their brand and also themselves on social.

And if you have an interesting perspective for a guest post, shoot us an email or find us on Twitter @UnionMetrics and tell us all about it.

Post a link, a pic, a snap, a tweet—it’s not just for fun, but a part of my job. Hi, my name is Mireya Garcia, and I have been a journalist for the last ten years. In that time, expectations attached to the job have drastically changed. When I first started, Facebook was mainly to interact with college friends, I still didn’t really understand Twitter, and I thought blogs were dumb. Now, young and experienced journalists spend a portion of their day figuring out how to strengthen their social media following, all while working on their actual assignment.

1. Try, fail, and try again

I can’t say that I have it all figured out, but I have learned what doesn’t work well for me. Sticking strictly to business doesn’t get me much follower engagement. If the follower wanted “just the facts, ma’am,” they might be following a news channel’s page. If they have chosen to follow an individual journalist, it’s likely they want to know something about you.

Other media professionals have noticed this too, and it’s why many newsrooms are asking their journalists to post a certain number of times a day, and to attempt a connection with viewers by showing more personality on online platforms. For every “why is this news” comment, I can expect several more likes or positive comments than I would on a work specific post.

2. Who do you want to be?

Don’t share everything about your life. Just don’t. When I first started combining my personal and professional social media worlds, I made some mistakes. The biggest one was allowing viewers access to my personal Facebook page. I was 23 and excited that strangers couldn’t help but want to connect with me beyond watching me read the news. The shine grew dull quickly—people I didn’t know started making comments about my personal appearance, and it wasn’t all nice. People I didn’t know wondered if my social media gripes about this or that were professional. I felt guilty about pictures of me laughing with friends and holding margaritas, even though they were taken years before, because I feared viewers might stop taking me seriously. So, I closed that door.

I used to feel I owed it to people to be totally accessible all the time, but I then realized that the only thing I owe viewers is to give them the right information to keep them safe, informed, and to hold the powerful accountable for the rest of my community.

There is value in sharing your personal life as an on air journalist, but I get to choose what that is.

Who do I want to be in a public setting? A woman, who is serious about her career, loves her family, is obsessed with her dogs, and tries really hard to cook things, but it doesn’t work out all the time. On Instagram I like to give people a behind the scenes look at my day—usually during the work week and sometimes on the weekend. All those things about me are true, and I’m ok with sharing that.

Finding a balance between the personal and professional on my social media accounts is a tightrope walk. Industry opinions aside, viewers and local newsroom managers, at the nationwide level, expect local journalists to keep their personal opinions to themselves on a variety of topics—while others are up for grabs. For instance, some journalists will avoid talking about their thoughts on political issues, but talking about one’s thoughts on an article regarding something like multilevel market or the latest diet craze might be fair game.

 3. Pick one thing

For me, developing my social media following looks different depending on the platform. My professional Facebook page gets minimal engagement. The same few people like the links to my web stories or updates on my daily assignment. Selfies or pictures of my day get more attention. However, then comes the serious question of how I want to come off to other professionals. Having only silly pictures of me on professional accounts is not the message I care to send, but mixing up these kinds of posts with posts about my actual stories shows both personality and professionalism.

I stick to a single Twitter and single Instagram account. Based on my use, I consider these two platforms less personal. Instagram is the platform where I feel most comfortable showing more of my personal life, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, get the most engagement—whether it’s a selfie, a picture of what’s I’m doing for work, or my lunch.

Sharing more than my work product was certainly difficult initially, and unsolicited aggressive compliments or rude comments are still unappreciated, but sharing a portion of your personal life, as a journalist, has helped grow my career. I have made local connections more quickly, developed story ideas, and helped establish myself as a part of the community I live and work in, in spite of being a relative newcomer.

There is value in sharing a piece of yourself as you grow in your career, and develop your personal brand. Before walking that personal/professional line on social media, media professionals need to put the care into their own brand as they do into developing their own stories. Carelessness in this aspect can cause you to overshare, and feel like you are losing a piece of yourself in the process. For the record—people will always say unsolicited and inappropriate things on the Internet, don’t hang on to that—decide what you want to share and do good as a journalist, that’s how you succeed.


A big thanks to Mireya for taking the time to write this for us!

Got another perspective for us on social? Don’t be afraid to shoot us an email or find us on Twitter @UnionMetrics and tell us all about it.

And check on your own Instagram account with our checkup to see the best time for you to post, and more.

Want more engagement on Instagram? Our checkup analyzes the last 30 days of posts, likes and comments on your account to quickly give you key insights into how to improve.

Free checkup

Featured image via Tim Mossholder on Unsplash