in Ideas

Making sense of personal branding

There’s a lot of chatter on the blogosphere these days about the merits and strategy behind personal branding or the idea of marketing yourself and your career as a “brand.”

While there are pretty positive takeaways from much of the advice out there, the fact remains that living your life as a brand just isn’t feasible for most people. And let’s be realistic and consider that if someone is really going to be conscious about their brand strategy and start plotting their live in ways that allow them to sell their experience to reach beyond their current jobs, life situations or whatever else; then it’s something they’ll have to commit to 24/7. Most people aren’t going to do this and even if they do, eventually other things change our path and we go in a completely different direction than we started.

Social media is an avalanche, once you get started…it’s hard to roll it back.

Once you put yourself out on the web, how do you decide the boundaries? Do you speak generically about “real life” things that anyone who knows you will can decipher? Or is it writing about ideas? If you’re blogging, do you pick something topical where the boundaries are easier to navigate? Or do you speak more broadly? I’ve noticed this in my own habits online over the past decade or so of personal sites, blogs and online identities.

The interest thing in the debate about Twitter v. Facebook these days, is the running account nature of Twitter. It’s a whole lot of out-of-context conversations (or for someone, just stream of consciousness thoughts) that you might not be particularly interested in having someone dredge up a year after you wrote them or even a month. You can delete them, but what they forget?

I think the trick is, realizing that even with the premise of “authenticity” that there has to be a comfort level embedded within it. You can be as open (or not) as you want to, but realize that only you have to be comfortable with what you’re saying, how you’re saying it and understanding why.

Where personal branding methods really hit home are with newly minted college grads and folks who are more actively involved in various forms of social networking. When you throw your name on a profile for some niche site and forget about it, all of that content affects what people find out about you when they google for you.

I’ve always been a pretty strong proponent of ensuring that the first thing someone sees online is something that comes from you. While you can’t control everything out there on the web that people find out, the least you can do is present them with the best information you’ve got and allow them to make their own decisions based on what you’re offering up via your personal brand.