I had a little conversation on Twitter with @SonnyGill last night. Sonny and I don’t chat that often, but we do float around in and out of each others’ radar sometimes. Last night we got to talking about our names. You see, Sonny confessed on his blog that “Sonny” is not his real name. I then confessed to him that “Suze” is not my real name either – it’s a nickname that my Dad gave me when I was a kid. Sonny then joked with me that it was my “personal brand”. And that got me thinking…

When I first got inspired to create my blog (after my trip to Podcamp Toronto in 2007), I raced home to Ottawa, hopped on WordPress, and the first thing it asked me for was a name. I was stumped. I thought, “Well I guess I should make it something sensible”. I tried Sue Murphy, Susan Murphy, smurphy, to no avail, of course, because my name is pretty common. So I thought for a minute, then just typed “SuzeMuse”. Suze, because of the nickname, and “muse” because I figured, well, my blog is going to be (mostly) written, so guess I’d better find my muse, and quick! I then realized that if I was going to be known on my blog as “SuzeMuse”, then I’d better be consistent. I went to a bunch of social network sites and got the username, and also bought the domain. Thus, and quite unintentionally, I might add, the “brand” of SuzeMuse was born.

There are a lot of people out here making social media, personal branding and online marketing much more complicated than it needs to be; to the point where it can be quite intimidating. Making social media work for you isn’t some mysterious secret. It doesn’t require you to be a technical wizard, a brilliant designer, or even a great writer. In fact, the only requirement to be successful in social media is to be…are you ready for it?

A human being.

Stop trying so darn hard. As my friend Kneale Mann says, “This ain’t rocket surgery!”…and I totally agree with him. That’s not to discount all the really smart people that are out here talking in easy to understand ways about social media and how it’s changing the game and making businesses think differently. Social media has fundamentally changed the way we connect with one another. But that doesn’t mean it’s complicated. I think it’s sometimes made out to be way more complicated than it needs to be. Ultimately, there’s really only one way to make all this social media stuff work for you. It doesn’t matter if you are a giant corporation or an individual doing your own thing. All you need to do to succeed in this space is to be yourself. It’s really that simple.

Make time to make it happen. People often ask me how I have the time to run a business, have a healthy marriage, spend time with my family and friends offline, AND work this whole social media thing into the mix. Well the truth is, I don’t actually consider it “working it in”. It’s part of what I do. It’s integrated into my day. I have basically two ways that I work it. I have chunks of time that are totally focused – like hanging out with my nephews or having dinner with my husband. I also have to be entirely focused for tasks like writing a big proposal or strategy. Those times, I am most definitely off-line. But other times, I take an integrated approach, like when I’m checking email or doing a tedious task like rendering video. At these times I tend to flip back and forth – chatting on Skype, popping into Twitter, or commenting on Facebook. I work both things together, and somehow, everything gets done. Does it make me less productive? Actually, I think it has the opposite effect. If I’m sharing what I’m up to, maybe I’m able to help someone else. If I’m checking in on what others are doing, maybe I can pick up something new. It’s all part of how I am just being myself out here.

Make no apologies. Ok, can we do something for once and for all? Can we STOP making such a big deal about making money? How many times a week do I have to listen to people defend themselves online for wanting to actually make a living? I remember Chris Brogan said once “I can’t eat a hug”. (I’m not actually sure where he said that, because dude’s everywhere).

Look – I love social media. I think it’s just great. It’s literally changed my life. Some of the best friends I’ve had in my life I know because I got involved in this stuff. But I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t doing at least some of this because of the opportunities it provides me to make a living. And I make NO apologies for that. Making money should never be your raison d’être for being here – people will find out pretty quick if you are are trying to gain their trust just so you can make a buck off them. But…there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be always looking for opportunities.

Connect with people because you see something in them that appeals to you. Some people will become good friends. Others may lead you to your next big opportunity. Some people may be both friends and opportunities. And that’s okay. If your intentions are good and you do that one simple thing (be a real person), then you’ll be richer in both your relationships and your pocketbook.

If you aren’t reading, you’re not learning. One final tip. If there’s one thing you can do right now to get ahead in social media, it’s to read. I am a voracious reader. I read almost continuously. Sometimes it’s 140 characters at a time, sometimes it’s 500 words in a blog post, sometimes it’s a whole book. But I have learned so much from so many smart people by reading. If I don’t understand something, I’ll first try to figure it out for myself. I’ll draw my own conclusions. Often, I’ll write about it on this blog – that always helps me to sort out my thoughts. I am infinitely curious about new media. I love to think about this stuff. And if I’m still lost? I have conversations. That almost always sorts it out. Read a LOT. Don’t just read what everyone else is reading. Read the stuff that you like to read. Read what you can relate to. That’s how you get ahead.

But most of all, don’t forget, it’s no more complicated than this….

The secret to success in social media is – be human.