“How can you work in social media when you don’t post on your own Facebook account?”

Before reading Quiet, a study on the power of introverts by Susan Cain, I’d immediately become defensive whenever anyone asked me some version of this question. That's because I’ve worked in social media since before it was considered a respectable career (or even a career at all)—but despite my experience, most people don’t understand how someone who barely has her own social media presence can make a living off of developing one for entire companies.

Turns out, those doubters may have a point—introversion can affect your digital life. But the good news is, if you have your eye on a social media gig, you don’t have to let it affect it negatively. In fact, introversion can be an advantage to you and your career.

Here’s a brief rundown on digital introversion and what it can mean for your professional life—plus a few key steps you can take to make sure you’re on track for a successful social media career.

What is Digital Introversion?

In Quiet, Cain explains what it means to be an extrovert or introvert. Of course, there are varying forms of each personality type, but in general, extroverts thrive when they’re able to broadcast their opinions. Introverts, on the other hand, prefer to share their precious moments, thoughts, and experiences with only a close circle of friends.

And this tendency occurs within social media interaction, too. For example, my work in social media has taken me behind the scenes of fashion shows, to the sidelines of Knicks games, and to the London Olympics. As you’d expect, these were incredible events, and many people would burst at the seams to be able to share these experiences through their personal accounts.

I, on the other hand, was less concerned with broadcasting my experiences publicly to the social media world—instead, I preferred to share them with those close to me, in a more private manner.

After I read Quiet, this tendency made more sense: I realized that every “real life” introverted behavior also plays out online—and influences the way I and other introverts use social media. So, even though I’m constantly thinking about social media strategy and posting from my brand’s accounts, the introvert in me cringes at the thought of revealing my personal experiences online.

Social Media Isn’t Only for Extroverts

Because of that, some people will argue that introverts shouldn’t go into social media. However, this broad, sweeping statement isn’t true. In my case, my introverted tendencies didn’t stop me from completing my assignments successfully. Since I wasn’t concerned with updating my personal accounts, I could focus on my job—which was to share each story via the brand’s voice, instead of my own.

Think of it like this: Many introverts are drawn to acting because they enjoy wearing a mask and becoming someone they’re not. The same can be true for introverted social media marketers: They thrive on creating and maintaining a brand voice on social media because it’s not their own—instead, they’re able to take on the personality of the brand. So even though they may not plaster their personal lives on social media, they often jump at the chance to wear that digital “mask."

Taking Cain’s research even further, it’s clear that introverted social media marketers can bring other unique skills to the table, like analytics and reporting. As companies expand their social media teams, there’s a greater need to report on internal successes, ROIs, and emerging trends—ideal tasks for perceptive and detail-oriented introverts.

 

How to Take the Plunge and Get a Social Media Gig

OK, so digital introversion isn’t a bad thing. It can, however, have a big effect on your job hunt.

Why? Successful social media gurus are quick to tell job seekers that the best way to land a job in social media is to create your own digital footprint by building a personal audience. (If you can gain 10,000 Twitter followers on your own, you can probably do the same—and more—for a company.)

Unfortunately, social media introverts may be highly uncomfortable building their own audience—even if they’re brilliant when it comes to developing digital strategy for others. And if you don’t have that following to impress potential employers, you’re going to be at a big disadvantage.

If you’re struggling to build your online presence, here are a few easy ways I’ve found to overcome digital introversion.

  • Identify brands, public figures, and causes that you truly care about—and follow them on social media. By pinpointing people and companies you’re really interested in, building a network won’t feel so forced—à la “I’ll follow you if you follow me.” And this will help bring you out of your shell: When you get daily updates in your feed, you’ll be learning about information you care about—which will make you much more likely to naturally engage with them.
  • Set a goal for the number of posts you’ll make on each of your social media platforms. Once per day? Three times per week? Aiming for a concrete number of posts will help your growth seem much more attainable than “post—a lot.” Once you start posting content on a regular basis, your followers will come to look to you as a source of interesting, relevant information—and share it with their connections, too.
  • Remember: Quality over quantity. If you’re not comfortable putting everything about yourself out there (e.g., shameless selfies and rambling blog posts about your daily life)—then don’t. To take a cue from Susan Cain, introverts like to contribute when they feel they are truly offering value—so don’t feel pressured to share “fluff” just to meet your quota for the day. But on that same note, introverts may also need (and want) to push themselves past their comfort zones. Test out different kinds of content and decide if and when it’s worth taking the leap.
  • If you’re confident in your ability to excel in a social media career, don’t let your digital introversion scare you from going after the position you want. Introverted or not, if you have a passion for social media and digital strategy, it’ll show—and companies will be eager to snatch you up.

    Photo of woman online courtesy of Shutterstock.