Close-up of Albrecht Dürer engraved self-portrait

The line between sharing aspects of your life and making a business of the same information has always been a difficult one to draw. Social media has utterly erased the distinction: life and work has become one continuum, for better or worse. Your presence in social media is your business, whether you want it to be or not.

Many users regard social media as a casual activity. Most businesses see it solely as a marketing opportunity. They’re both wrong. Social media transforms the way in which we perceive individuals and businesses online: at its best, social media is a unique blend of intimacy, insight, frivolity and information.

I should emphasize that I do not regard myself as an expert in this: I have just a few hundred followers in each major social media sphere. I’m not going to talk about “conversion rates” or “analytics”. But from my perspective, it is fairly obvious that there are four different primary social media roles. Growing your presence online is aided greatly by determing out which role you play:

Boat on Thai beach

Jeremy Keith has the rare ability to communicate web technologies with refreshing clarity: reading his DOM Scripting a decade ago was a revelation to me. A recent interview on The Web Ahead was similarly insightful as he shared Robin Sloan’s concepts of “stock” and “flow”, which I find more helpful to relate as “land and ocean”.

“Land” is the relatively stable part of the Internet: web pages and other content that remain much the same from one week to the next. This content is not completely permanent: unless they are actively maintained and updated, pages will erode, just as geographical features do. Eventually destructive forces will remove your site entirely: domain names are leased, not owned, and will not be renewed forever unless you make plans for a digital afterlife.