An article in Fast Company magazine this week with the irresistible title “U R What U Tweet: 5 Steps to a Better Personal Brand” grabbed my attention. I’ve blogged before here about what I like to call the Brand of You – that is, what happens when you Google your own name. The standard new-media trope: your personal brand is the first 10 links Google tosses up. Google closely guards the arcane dynamics of its search engine, so controlling the Brand of You can be a troublesome thing.
As usual, I speak from experience. For years my Google top 10 was dominated by a Washington Post article that appeared in 1999, when USIA merged into the State Department. To simplify a long tale, I found myself the leader of a small band of ex-USIA employees who were outraged to discover that as State Department employees we would now be subject to random drug testing – a ludicrous waste of money and time, not to mention what we saw as an egregious violation of our Fourth Amendment rights against searches without probable cause. (Don’t get me started.)
So I talked to the Post reporter and laid out our point of view and even submitted to a photo in full State Department pinstripe regalia, and for years afterward this article dominated my Google top 5. Certain drug-oriented Web sites like cannabisnews.com reprinted the article, and these too began to appear in my Google top 10. Fortunately for me, in time the Post placed all its online articles before 2005 in a paid archive, my Google notoriety on this score faded and Google now presents me as fairly LinkedIn-respectable.
Naturally, then, I was most curious to see what the Fast Company author, Amber Mac, has to say about personal branding. Ms. Mac, by the way, describes herself as “a bestselling author, TV host [of a tech show], speaker, and strategist,” and she’s written the astonishingly titled book Power Friending. The Miami Herald calls her “a virtual Swiss Army Knife of networking: she displays an endless amount of enthusiasm and energy that nearly crackles off the page.” Clearly, this is a person who knows something about the Brand of You.
Amber begins with a jaw-dropping example of a precocious kid working the personal-brand game:
Just over a year ago, a local 16-year-old high school student emailed me out of the blue, proposing that he join me as a guest on a TV show I host. Winston Sih didn’t send along a resume, but instead included links to his Web site, Twitter account, Facebook page, and three relevant YouTube clips. While there are plenty of examples of teens jeopardizing their digital reputation, with bullying and threats on friends’ walls or late-night “I hate my job” tweets, Sih is a perfect example of someone who has learned how to use the web to his advantage….
She goes on to present her five tips on personal branding, indisputable basics like #1 “Have a home base online,” or #4 “Never stop networking.” I especially like #3 “Avoid mobile mistakes,” in which she cites the sad case of the once-King of Twitter, Ashton Kutcher, who tarnished his rep last fall when he jumped in early to defend Joe Paterno before the Penn State sex-abuse scandal was revealed in its full dimensions.
In any case Amber got me to thinking about what my five tips would be. So here’s my advice for a few simple rules on how to dress up your Facebook, Twitter, blog, and YouTube personae:
- Be reliable – In short, don’t make stuff up, even to be funny. Put-ons only work in person.
- Eschew profanity – The Web world is full of knuckleheads who favor routine, gratuitous, unimaginative use of the F Word and other epithets. If this is your crowd, fine. If you aspire to something more, watch your language.
- Ask questions – Social media is about conversation. There’s no better way to start one.
- Cross-fertilize – My teaching and my consulting and my reading feed my blogging and vice versa.
- Get some decent visuals – In the Great Buzzosphere, pictures attract more attention than words. And I speak as a longtime Word Man.
Anything else you’d include?