src=”https://buffer.com/resources/content/images/2022/08/jack-appleby.png” alt=”Social Proof: Jack Appleby on Loving your Craft”>
Social Proof’s first creator outside of Twitter is Jack Appleby. Jack Appleby is a social strategist with a long and impressive history. He has been a part of the Creative Strategy team at Twitch, as well as running campaigns for Beats By Dre and Microsoft. As a creator, he now writes Future Social for Morning Brew, a newsletter on social media strategy.
Jack developed his Twitter following by posting in-depth social media analysis posts. This got him noticed by his dream companies and NBA teams, as well as providing him with opportunities when he was most desperate. We talk about how to love your craft, career-proofing and how to deal with negative comments on social media.
This interview was edited and condensed to make it more concise.
Q: Jack, it’s great to see you at Social Proof! What are your thoughts on personal branding? It could even be called a personal brand.
My initial goal when I began building my social media presence was not to create a personal brand. I simply knew that I was living in a small world. After five years at the same company, I realized that I had not made enough connections in my industry. I wanted to learn from others . Twitter was the best way for me to make new friends.
I began tweeting my thoughts about advertising and social media in the hope of finding mentors and peers. For years, it was only 5,000 to 10,000 followers. It exploded when I began tweeting analysis threads. I went from 10,000 to 30,000 followers in a year and now have more than 50,000. After I realized how large my audience was, I had to treat it as a personal brand. It’s now part of my job! Morning Brew is one large ecosystem that includes my social media accounts and Future Social.
Personal brands are one of best ways to make your career more secure. Twitter DMs are where I found out about my three most recent jobs.
Q: What is the first step in building a personal brand? We noticed a common theme in the interviews: starting with what interests and then focusing on building community before building a following. How do you choose which platforms to concentrate on?
It all depends on your priorities. It’s natural to use Twitter to create a personal brand. If you are doing this to show your expertise and get job opportunities, Twitter is a great way to do it. However, LinkedIn gets amazing engagement and can be linked to your resume.
Brittany Krystle, a friend of mine used to work for GaryVee. Now she is a LinkedIn specialist. I was encouraged by her to repurpose tweets for LinkedIn. It’s an easy copy-paste strategy. Simply copy-paste my tweets to LinkedIn. I followed her advice and built an audience of 11,000 people using a minimal effort posting strategy.
Question: Do you prefer Twitter or LinkedIn?
Recently, I have been shifting more to LinkedIn than Twitter. It feels safer – LinkedIn is far less toxic than Twitter. There is a high likelihood of anonymous accounts on the bird app where users aren’t presenting themselves through avatars or other anonymity. LinkedIn is almost all about being who they are.
LinkedIn is also known for being very white and corny, which I believe are fair criticisms. However, I have found that people who use LinkedIn are more open to learning and more interested in growing conversations than those who use Twitter. However, this is just an observation – everyone has a different experience.
Q. Can you describe your personal brand in just three words/phrases/terms?
It might seem difficult to say three words, but I can make phrases. One: I want people to understand social strategy. This is my number one thesis.
Two, I want to be the Julia Child in social media . Although the second answer is a joke, it rings true to me. I believe social media can be broken down sufficiently that everyone can learn from it.
Q. Can you draw a picture of the actions that led to opportunities?
I began by writing social media analysis. It was a great way to demonstrate how my brain works. As a case study, I would often write Twitter threads to highlight the incredible work of brands in the [social media strategy] space.
People started following me and reaching out to me – I was building my reputation as a thinker. It was not easy to find people who could tweet deep social media strategies. As one of the few who wrote in-depth analysis and thought pieces about the future of social, I was able build a reputation. This was a great way to find new work!
In mid-2020, my job was terminated due to COVID. This was the first time I had ever been without a job. I tweeted my availability. People who had followed me and seen my expertise were more then happy to retweet and make recommendations. They also wanted to connect me with other people, because they knew I was valuable. This tweet was viewed over 280,000 times, which is very useful in job hunting.
So I tweeted it. True story: 12 minutes later, Twitch’s boss messaged me with the following question: “Would this ever interest you in working here?” I was wearing purple three months later.
It was the same when I decided to leave Twitch and start a new job. It was the first time I quit a job and didn’t have the next job lined-up. But it was something I had always wanted to do. I could openly present myself without the need to interview.
It worked. I received calls from many of my dream companies, as well as multiple offers for final jobs. Nearly all of these were made possible by conversations started via Twitter. The one I wanted all along was to work at Morning Brew.
My opportunities came from showing my value and helping others before anyone else. People were more inclined to help me when I had a need.
That was because I proved my worth and helped people before I needed it. People were more inclined to help me when I did need it, and they already knew that I was an expert in that area.
Q: I noticed that your content is very transparent. You share the highlights and downturns in your career. Is this intentional?
My content is mostly about advertising and social media. However, when I ask people how they found my content, most mention my mental health content. I posted a thread about a job I had with my favorite NBA player. I then completely forgot it.
Although it was my dream job, I was struggling with depression and the isolation caused by the pandemic. I couldn’t even emotionally write the email. That moment was filled with shame and confusion. One year later, it was a thread I posted that went viral in marketing circles and reached Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks. It has helped me to be vulnerable. I hope to normalize the discussion about the highs, and lows, of career-land.
Q: I believe you are a social strategist. This suggests that you have a strategy and system for creating content ideas. What percentage of your personal branding was a deliberate effort and how much was generated by the user?
Personal branding is based on the principle that you must love the brand you are building. Because I love social media, I have had great success building my personal brand around it. It doesn’t feel like work because I am curious about social media communities and the world they are creating. Building a personal brand around your profession has real benefits. If you aren’t interested in what you speak about, it will be difficult.
My greatest personal brand success was due to making my analysis as easy as possible. In 2020, Xbox suffered a major leak where their new console was revealed. They changed their entire social media strategy in 24 hours using memes. I spent many hours creating a timeline-based Twitter thread about their process.
It was clear to me that the thread could go viral if it was done well. This stuff is just great for me.
Q: It can be exhausting to have to engage in a topic or industry that you don’t care about. Do you believe everyone should have a personal brand?
My personal branding language has evolved as I have grown in my career. When I was in my twenties, I realized the huge opportunities that were coming to me because of my personal brand. I shouted out to everyone who would listen that they must create a personal branding. As I have built my brand, I’ve also experienced many of the negatives, including the toxic effects of strangers. I am more inclined to say that there are many amazing benefits to building your personal brand without using the ‘you have to do it’ language.
Q. What advice would your company give to someone who wants to distinguish their brand identity from that of the industry or company they work for?
If you want to build your personal brand around your professional expertise then talking about your work is a great way to do it. It’s also a better way to share your experience. It’s funny, it was the opposite. My career was a lot spent in agencies. While I have worked for many large brands, it’s not uncommon to worry that your clients may think you’re taking too much credit.
Because I was unsure how much I could talk about myself, I created my accounts by analysing other people’s work. Morning Brew now encourages me to share what I am up to. This can be a great way to build your brand if you are allowed.
Q. If you had to start over as someone who was just starting to build their personal brand, what advice would that give you?
Engage with others. Twitter has been primarily a platform for publishing my thoughts and sharing them. It’s almost like I made it harder on myself by focusing on content more than on community. It would have increased shareability, connections and support if I spent more time getting to know people on Twitter. It’s a good idea to meet as many people in your chosen community as you can.
Question: What question would you like me to ask but didn’t?
It’s important to point out the negative aspects of creating a personal brand. It’s not secret that the internet was the reason I first went to therapy. Although it wasn’t the sole reason for my decision, it was the last straw.
Negativity is a big downside. I have a zero tolerance blocking policy. I currently have 767 blocked accounts and I don’t apologize one bit.
Q. What do you see for the future of personal branding?
A deeper content strategy is essential for building a personal brand that is based on your expertise in a particular profession or business. Twitter is fantastic, but only 280 characters can go far.
You can transform yourself from someone who is just in the space into someone who provides value by creating in-depth content.
Consider this: How can you provide the largest chunks of value at once?
You will grow your audience through social media networks. However, you need to ask yourself: How can you provide the most value in a short amount of time?
These are my top picks from talking with Jack.
- Talk about what you love. If you are passionate about something, like the Marvel Cinematic Universe then you will love to consume content related to it. You want other people to read your thoughts about that topic. You can’t have many topics if you don’t have a community that is passionate about them. And just like you are passionate about something there are thousands of others. They want content. Jack is passionate about social strategy. What’s your passion?
- Take care of your mental health. While having an online presence can make it seem like you are constantly online, this can lead to insecurity and burnout. Jack is very conscious of his mental health, and he will take steps to protect it online. It doesn’t matter where you are on the content creation spectrum, whether you’re a creator, business owner, or social media manager, it is important to establish boundaries and take care your mental health.
- Ensure that your content provides value Jack asks the important question: “How can you provide value to your audience?” You need to do more than simply post a few tweets every other week to grow an engaged audience. Try different formats and see if you can make your message more memorable.
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