I recently participated in AIGA's Portfolio One-On-One, which personally was a great experience, but socially was a completely different event of it's own. The idea of the event was to put yourself out there and show your work to professionals, but it was much larger than that. All the attendee's of the event were marketing themselves. It was the purest, most honest, and best form of marketing I have experienced so far in my design career. No one could hide behind their work, they had to stand right next to it and sell it. No one could recreate or front their "personality" via blogs, tweets, and facebook, because we were all there, in person, standing next to people we wanted to impress. And the only way to impress them was to actually talk to them and be yourself! The point that I'm trying to make here, is that I think personal marketing should come natural. When it comes to personal marketing, my motto is "Don't tweet about it. Be about it!" Actually, one of the things that really upset me about the portfolio one-on-one event was that they encouraged people to tweet about what they were doing at the event. That seemed ridiculous to me! Here we are standing with hundreds of other designers, actually standing with our so-called "community of designers" from minneapolis and the surrounding area, and they want us to communicate to some other community of who cares who?!? Why not just go and talk to someone in the room about how cool your studio tour was, instead of freakin' tweeting about it. Tweeting in this case, almost comes to a point where it's more anti-social than social. We all paid good money to be here at this event, so why not acknowledge the fact that you're at this thing instead of being somewhere off in cyberspace. Connect face to face, not tweet to tweet is all i'm saying.
This is what makes personal marketing way better than social marketing. Personal marketing is getting yourself out there and having real conversations about things that you care about, whereas social marketing is a totally surfaced form of communication and interaction. So minus that little twitter thing, the portfolio one-on-one event was great. I actually wish there were more opportunities to personally market yourself. I think personal marketing gets down to stronger connections that you have with people, and ultimately is the best form of marketing because of those strong connections.
I understand that twitter and even facebook provide great advantages when it comes to becoming part of a social circle and keeping up on what's going on. But while there are big trends in design being spread all across the internet, most likely there are big trends in design happening elsewhere that will soon be the next biggest, most awesome thing to ever happen to design that everyone will be spreading over the internet! I still haven't bought into the whole twitter thing, and I don't think you need twitter to personally market yourself. I'm not saying twitter is bad, but for me, I spend enough time sitting at my computer, that I don't care to waste more time at my computer tweeting about what I had for breakfast (lox bagel with herb neufchatel! yes it was awesome. no, i'm not jewish). Of course, people don't always tweet about how good their lox bagel with herb neufchatel spread is, i know there is lots of inspiration to be found in connection to design. But personally, I think you would have a stronger connection finding that stuff in real life, than you would on the internet. For example: think if you saw Shepard Fairey's "Hope" poster on the web for the first time vs. seeing it at a rally or somewhere while walking around in the streets. I think you would have a much stronger connection and feel something more by seeing it first hand, rather than on someone's blog. The way that this relates to personal marketing is that by doing and seeing things that are more meaningful or more tangible will help your work. Personal marketing is doing things/ designing things that you care about and are interested in.
So when it comes to personal marketing, don't use twitter. I think twitter is fine for social marketing, but not personal. If you have another form of personal marketing, you will be better off. Personal marketing should be exactly what it sounds like, personal. Market yourself honestly and in a way that speaks to who you are. This will help you decide what type of place you want to work at as well. One common piece of advice that I've heard for getting an internship is: "be cool." Meaning, be someone that people want to hang out with. You're portfolio may kinda suck, but if you seem like you would be a good fit with the personnel at a firm, they're much more likely to give you an internship opportunity. And the way that you "be cool", is by personal marketing. Just let yourself stand out a bit and if you mesh with a design firm, then you'll have a good shot of getting an internship. Some firms will think you're cool and some will think you're too silly for them or not the right fit, but it's better for you to figure out what firms you'll be best with by being yourself.
Overall, I don't think you should have to try too hard with personal marketing. There is a place for personal marketing and a place for social marketing. To me, they should be treated separately, but don't have to be completely separate. A marketing teacher would probably lecture me for an hour about how marketing is marketing, and one type flows into the other. But I think personal and social marketing can be different. The more fun that you have with your personal marketing, the more likely it is that your social network will open up (so i guess the marketing teacher is kinda right).
Don't tweet about it. Be about it.
* the "being cool, be yourself" bit. Advice from every design person I know.