Personal Brands, Secret Identities and Worlds Colliding…Oh, My!

by Kat French |

“Pay no attention to that (wo)man behind the curtain.”  – The Wizard, The Wizard of Oz

Sometimes it’s nice to not participate in the conversation.  Sometimes it’s nice to just sit back and listen.  I did a little eavesdropping on a really fascinating conversation yesterday among some of the top social media specialists about the hot topic of personal branding.  Geoff Livingston of Buzz Bin, Amber Naslund, Frank Martin, Mitch Joel and several other folks chimed in.  

Want the Reader’s Digest version? I’ll provide it courtesy the Barenaked Ladies: 

“I’m all about value.”

A “personal brand” means diddly squat if you don’t provide value.  

Or I supposed we could go with Bruce Springsteen:

“57 Channels (and Nothin’ On)”

If there’s nothing to back it up in terms of product or service, then all the communication in the world is just so much spin… and the world doesn’t need more of that.  

Speaking of what the world needs, who knew Brian Clark was a closet (or maybe that’s phone booth, in this case) Clark Kent?  

Yesterday’s post about changing the world with social media?  Brilliant.  As Brian’s gotten increasingly busy running Teaching Sells, Lateral Action, and possibly the government of some small Caribbean island he’s no doubt now got the money to buy, he’s done a great job of having uber-talented guest authors fill in on Copyblogger, but posts like this remind me of why I started reading it in the first place. 

Read it.  Do it now.  If you’ve been wondering what the heck all these crazy social media folks are so excited about, this is it.  This is why I want to do this stuff.  It’s what keeps me going when I hear folks getting all excited because HOLY COW WE’VE FOUND A WAY TO SPAM FOLKS FOR CASH ON TWITTER!  

(To be fair, don’t think I didn’t consider it.  According to Magpie’s calculations, my Twitter ramblings could earn enough to support my rather alarming chai latte habit.  Of course, it would also completely alienate me from the 600 or so folks I’ve been working my hiney off to get the privilege of communicating with, but hey… chai lattes, people.  Gotta keep them coming.)

But back to the idea of Brian Clark in tights… Two other brief, rambling thoughts connected to the idea of building a personal brand.  

“I’m so much cooler online.”  – Brad Paisley, Online

In social media, your personal brand can be a sort of secret identity.  (I’m not saying that’s all it is, I’m just saying that from the inside of it, it can function that way.)  As social media strategists and consultants, we’re being asked to be our clients’ and/or our company’s trusty guide through scary and unfamiliar territory.  

I very much took to heart the comments some very smart folks made last week refuting the idea that there can even BE social media experts.  But the folks who are relying on us need to know that we have some level of expertise.  Mistakes are to be expected–this is still mostly uncharted territory.  But confidence is key.  

Ironically, a lot of folks in social media are introverts, who have discovered a new level of comfort relating to and communicating with people on the social web.  I’m speaking from personal experience, (clearly, Jason has never been an introvert).  

For a while it seemed like there were two of me: the smart, confident, talky person I was online, and the “real” me I’d always been offline.  If I hadn’t learned to integrate the social skills and confidence I gained online into my “real world” identity, I might have been able to provide some valuable advice to clients, but fear that they’d discover “the real me” would have crippled my effectiveness.  

I would warn anybody new to all this, who is having a similar experience, to be very wary of mentally siloing your life into “my social media self” and “my real self.”  Social media is a set of tools, not a magical, super-power imbuing costume.  The tools don’t replace the need to relate to folks in real life.  They can and should help you gain confidence in your ability to do so.

“My worlds are colliding, Jerry!”  George Costanza, Seinfeld 

Which brings me to my last tangent: I’m going to be getting the opportunity to do some of that real world socializing next week.  I’ll be attending my first Pubcon in Las Vegas on behalf of Doe-Anderson and Social Media Explorer.  In addition to getting to meet and talk with some of the folks I’ve so far only met online, I’m completely excited about getting to pick the brains of internet marketing geniuses in the sessions. (And I think that the “Is Social Media & Search a Love Story or a War Story” may cover similar ground as a previous post of mine.) 

If I’m not an “expert” I’m at least committed to always learning more about this work I love.  

So there you have it.  In addition to leaving you with the daunting mental image of Brian Clark in tights and Jason Alexander in tight jeans, I’ve managed to leave you with a lot of interesting links to follow, conversations to chime in on, and (if you’re going to Pubcon) an open invitation to Tweet me and meet up.  

Have a great Friday, and a great weekend everybody.


About the Author

Kat French

Kat French is the Client Services and Content Manager at SME Digital. An exceptional writer, Kat combines creativity with an agile, get-it-done attitude across a broad range of experience in content strategy, copywriting, community management and social media marketing. She has worked with national brands like Maker's Mark, Daytona Beach Tourism, CafePress and more.