11 Crappy Personal Branding Tips

Personal Branding - The Anti-Social MediaPersonal branding is a bunch of meaningless crap people want you to buy into.

Instead of doing good work and letting it stand for itself, the personal branding mafia wants you to sell yourself on some vague online presence that may very well have nothing to do with the job you want or the skills you have. They forget there’s this thing called the real world (not the TV show) where things happen, and people’s actions matter more than their ability to set up a WordPress blog.

So, here are 11 crappy tips you’ll see from personal branding “professionals” who want you to pay more attention to them and their “brand” than actually taking care of yourself.

  1. Buy your name as a domain - Because without a domain, you’re just homepage-less.
  2. Buy every variation of that domain - You don’t want others creeping into your personal brand. Take away all the property before they get their dirty little hands on it.
  3. Claim your name on every available social network - Sure, you’ve already got a Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Quora, Bebo, Google Buzz, Tumblr, Posterous, Vimeo, Plurk, Orkut, Path, Instagram, flickr, Second Life, Friendster, MySpace, Foursquare, Gowalla, Yelp, and LiveJournal, but what if those aren’t popular tomorrow? You need to be on the lookout for the next 22 hot social networks.
  4. Use the same photo of yourself all those networks - You want people to recognize you, so use one photo as an avatar. It doesn’t matter that it’s from 5 years ago, that it was the best photo of you ever taken, and that you look nothing like that in real life. Online recognition is more important.
  5. Brand your e-mail address - I don’t care that you already have firstname.lastname on Gmail, Yahoo, and Hotmail. You need to have it on all those domains you just bought because otherwise you’re unprofessional and technologically inept.
  6. Have an elevator speech - Remember, you’re branding yourself, so you’re no longer human. Be able to sell yourself in 15 seconds or less to complete strangers with no interest into humans.
  7. Have a business card - Because nothing says “I’m a branded professional!” better to people than a poorly printed business card with some vague, meaningless title and some clip art you found on your parent’s computer.
  8. Have your niche - In today’s modern world, you can’t just be good at a skill or two. You’ve got to corner yourself in a niche that may be meaningless in two weeks.
  9. Write a blog - I don’t care that you’re a bad writer, and that you don’t need to write long articles to be a successful waitress. Write a blog, but make sure it’s in your niche and update it every day no matter the cost. Your personal brand is that important.
  10. Interview People - Demonstrating skills is useless, so these interviews aren’t designed to show your ability to question others. They’re designed solely for self-promotion. So find chumps in your niche you can interview before you trample them with your brand.
  11. Don’t be yourself - Some may encourage you to be your normal, boring self, but they’re wrong. This is the internet and we all have the attention span of a hyperventilating chipmunk. Be much more interesting than you actually are.

Now go! Make yourself into the half-assed virtual identity you always wanted to be.


42 Responses to “11 Crappy Personal Branding Tips”

  1. John Morrow February 9, 2011 at 8:27 am #

    Brilliant as always.

    I always find the “get your name website(s)” and “get your personal branded email” to be largely useless and counterproductive advice.

    Is it really easier for me to remember http://www.jaydolan.com than www,theantisocialmedia.com? I think not. The second is original and reminds me what I’m looking at/for, whereas the first is just some wanker’s name.

    As for your email address, I don’t care what it is because 10 seconds after I meet you it’s either in my address book, where I’ll never think about it again as long as I live, or I’ve already decided that you’re a wanker with a name-based website and I’ve forgotten you.

    Seriously, who wanders around thinking to themselves, “Oh, I really must remember to email Jay Dolan at jay.dolan@jaydolan.wanker.net?”

    I do think business cards are worthwhile if you’re actually going to be meeting people in person, but again, I doubt anyone is judging you based on your Bateman-like fixation with the embossing on your business card.

    • Pat Kent February 9, 2011 at 9:30 am #

      l agree with John. I always have hated personal name blogs but it seems like everyone has them. After the top 5 names, such as the Chris Brogan’s etc, are you really going to remember that many more? Having a unique name and theme is much more memorable.

      • Jay February 10, 2011 at 8:44 am #

        It’s hard to have a name blog and stick to one topic. My old Jay Dolan blog had about as much focus as an unshaded lamp.

    • Jay February 10, 2011 at 8:43 am #

      I get having a nice e-mail address for applying for jobs, but my parents have had one address since 1996 and I wouldn’t dare take that away from them for some crazy attempt at branding.

      And I agree business cards are good, but you’ve got to make it memorable. I throw out so many business cards it’s not even funny.

  2. Vincent Eaton February 9, 2011 at 9:49 am #

    Many — much — all of these marketing and branding people are applying 20th corporate advertising mantras to the internet, and showing much stupidity concerning this new media. They forces traditional, narrowing business practices on the human level conversations that the internet is. I usually ditch reading those who use terms such as “monotize”, “brand”, “identity”, and so on. Isn’t this just about putting some quality stuff out there, let people know about it, repeat? You sink or swim on that. The rest is hustle.

  3. Ms_Krista February 9, 2011 at 10:42 am #

    I must respectfully disagree on the ‘name url’ point, Jay. You could get me there for general principle maybe, but if you’ve been unemployed for a long period of time before, it is invaluable.
    I say this for 2 reasons: 1. It gives you more control over your search results. It goes without saying your prospective employers will google you, so its important to control what they see, or better yet steer them to it. 2. It sets you apart from other candidates; just the fact that you have such a site shows inititiative and creativity. If you are in the social media/web marketing game, its almost expected.

    Still, a good post as always!

    • John Morrow February 9, 2011 at 10:46 am #

      One thing worth noting is that unless your name is Penelope McMunsterhaus IV, the chances of actually getting your name domain are fairly slim these days.

      And I must disagree with your second point - you might think that it sets you apart from other candidates, but to me as an executive it just tells me you spent $10 on a domain. It’s a common and cheap trick, one that proves nothing to me about you as a candidate. Plus, everyone is doing it. Everyone named McMunstersterhaus anyway.

      • Jay February 10, 2011 at 9:01 am #

        Those damn McMunstersterhaus’.

    • Jay February 10, 2011 at 9:00 am #

      There’s nothing wrong with having yourname.com, it’s just every, single personal branding tip ever starts off with that. It’s overused and overstated. It doesn’t show me what you stand for and what you’re about.

      And of course, if you work on the internet, it is expected. But if you’re a fork lift driver in Farmville, having that yourname.com is probably not worth the expense.

      • Terreece M Clarke February 10, 2011 at 2:17 pm #

        What if the forklift driver has a cool name like Fred Franken the Farmville Forklift driver? Then I think FredFrankenFarmvilleForklift.com would be really cool. You know, if you’re into forklifting or Farmville…

        Of course he’d have to shoot a ‘viral’ video on people trying to say his website name. Which if the brand experts have their say, he’d call it viral before anyone has ever seen it.

  4. Dino Dogan February 9, 2011 at 2:23 pm #

    That reminds me, I would like to interview you :-p

    • Jay February 9, 2011 at 11:11 pm #

      I’m a young adult with a blog and a cat. What more do you want to know?

      • Adam Mordo February 11, 2011 at 2:29 am #

        Has your ever been part of a meme? No? Perhaps your cat needs a domain name of its own. You could point it to your cat’s blog. Your cat does have a blog doesn’t it? No? How about Facebook? What? Your cat isn’t on Facebook? Then where does it upload all its adorable cat photos? Wow. You really do put the anti in antisocialmedia.

        Don’t ever change. :)

  5. Morgan February 9, 2011 at 2:28 pm #

    I must disagree with buying your name as a domain name as well. It works for me as a voice over artist, but I don’t use it as a blog or any some-such. It would also work if you were a freelance writer.

    I also must disagree with the niche thing. I have a lot of hobbies and interests, but I’m not going to promote my brand of dog food (for example) on a motorcycle website - it just doesn’t make sense.

    If those motorcyclists wants to find dog food, they’ll find me through their research because I’ve made myself available and noticeable within that niche.

    I agree with everything else, though.

    Although, just a side-note, and this doesn’t pertain to most normal people, but I’ve worked for someone once where we had to claim their name on every domain and every social media platform simply so the haters couldn’t do it and pose as said client. So for that aspect, I would do it, but for straight up marketing purposes, I wouldn’t. We didn’t even use those websites or social media platforms, but we at least made it harder for others to use his name in a negative light.

    I kind of like interviews, though…where would late-night television be without interviewing people?

    • Jay February 10, 2011 at 9:05 am #

      Interviews by David Letterman are great. Interviews by Jay Dolan who doesn’t know how to talk to people are just awkward.

      Niches are ok, just when they aren’t too narrow. For example, a blog Twitter versus a blog on just retweets. What the hell would you write about everyday?

    • Terreece M Clarke February 10, 2011 at 2:20 pm #

      Morgan the only thing is people are pretty clever at coming up with ways to pose as other people. Like the whole Kenneth Cole vs KennethColePR on Twitter. I do see your point though, I wonder how many different domains Oprah owns?

      • Jay February 11, 2011 at 8:06 am #

        My guess is she OWNs more than we could imagine. (Sorry about the bad pun)

  6. Jordan Drake February 9, 2011 at 5:47 pm #

    I completely agree with the overarching principle of what you’re saying. Making a name for yourself/obtaining work isn’t about how many times you plaster your name around the web, or how creatively you tweak a wordpress template, it’s about the quality of your actual work.

    However, with some exceptions - like not doing interviews for the sake of branding - or not being yourself - I think most of what you have on your list is just basic… “why not?” tips.

    Why not own your name on a domain?

    Why not have a business card?

    How do these things hurt you? As long as you have examples of good work on your website… or you actually followup on the contact that you swapped business cards with… these are all useful foundations to growing your network.

    No. Having a blog will not guarantee work

    Yes. Having a well written blog in which you write thoughtful and interesting content may help you obtain employment or work (my podcasting work got me a job in PR)

    No. Having a 15-second elevator pitch won’t rocket you to personal branding stardom.

    Yes. Knowing how to articulate what you do to someone who has very little time may come in handy (it did for me when I pitched VPs of major radio companies in my broadcast days).

    tl;dr Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water, focus on content and quality first, but there’s no reason to avoid some basic branding techniques that may aid… but will rarely harm… your career.

    • Jay February 10, 2011 at 9:13 am #

      None of these tips are bad, they’re just over used. I used many of them myself when I was looking for a job. It’s just boring to read the same thing weekly by people on a quest to stop people from being Jane Doe, person, to Jane Doe, internet brand.

  7. Rand February 10, 2011 at 7:35 am #

    Just discovered your site Jay. Love the personality in it and your irreverence. We need more intelligent, fun critiques like these. Kudos.

    My input? There are those out there trying to make their living telling us what we should be doing in social media. They base their expertise on their use of overused keywords, buzzwords and a supposed understanding of ‘trends’ (not hard and fast rules) and we all know these change from moment to moment. The key? Take their advice and balance it with all the other advice out there. But above all, be true to yourself because ultimately no matter what you own, post or say online, people will only really find real value in you based on what you do in real life.

    • Jay February 10, 2011 at 8:51 am #

      So true. As everyone at Ignite Durham learned last night, I am as much of a snarky and cynical asshole in real life as I am on the internet, and we all laugh because of it.

  8. Jorgen Sundberg February 10, 2011 at 7:46 am #

    Love this!! Great to see a contrarian approach for once!!

    Btw, should it be “Now Go” at the end?

    • Jay February 10, 2011 at 8:00 am #

      Yes. Thanks! Sometimes I miss those damn typos.

  9. RJR February 10, 2011 at 4:21 pm #

    I am so sick of those elevator speeches. At least when they’re writing their blogs, you’re not forced to listen to it.

    • Jay February 14, 2011 at 9:46 pm #

      Skimming is wonderful.

  10. Patricia@lavenderoils February 10, 2011 at 8:35 pm #

    Hi Jay

    I will have to send you over some of my lovely lavenders to get you relaxing lol I have a marketing friend who sounds as cynical as you ;-) He is successful so I guess he can laugh at himself occasionally.

    Really glad I found your blog cos you do expose a lot of the ridiculous teachings that go round on the net that newbies take as “expert guru” methods that must be adhered to!!!

    You may be snarky but you have me smiling with your posts. Way to go Jay. And I don’t think you will be kept wondering what my small niche blog is about either lol It definietly isn’t about me ;-)

    Patricia Perth Australia

    • Jay February 14, 2011 at 10:00 pm #

      It’s funny to me that people think these expert guru ninjas have built their entire reputations online through some magic branding and not through real, dedicated work. I hope these tips make that clearer.

  11. Rick LaPoint February 10, 2011 at 9:00 pm #

    I was sent here by Patricia because she said she found someone as cynical as me.

    But I see she told you that.

    I almost didn’t leave a comment because I arrived so late to the party, I figured that my Brand will be pretty watered down this low on the totem pole.

    But then I thought, what the heck, my niece is an anarchist, so she may send all her friends over here, and then you would owe me a favour.

    That’s what this Social Networking thing is all about, right?

    Gotta run; I think there was a domain I missed somewhere along the way…

    Anyway, fun read, Jay :-)


    • Jay February 14, 2011 at 10:01 pm #

      I’m just trying to make the internet more fun, but without the double rainbows.

  12. Natalie February 10, 2011 at 9:30 pm #

    Hysterical! Love this! I wish the people who say these things, and actually mean it, listened to how ridiculous they sound.

    • Jay February 11, 2011 at 8:01 am #

      That means they might need to focus on something other than their personal brand, which might be hard for them.

  13. Amber February 11, 2011 at 6:02 pm #

    This is refreshing! It’s so easy to get caught up in the hype (I even purchased a book on personal branding recently), and some of it is very beneficial, but just don’t get crazy. Hilarious!

    • Jay February 14, 2011 at 10:02 pm #

      Is the book any good? Does it come with a business card and a blog? ;)

  14. David Lawyer February 12, 2011 at 12:42 pm #

    You took the words right out of my mouth Jay with one of your comments above - “None of these tips are bad, they’re just over used.”

    Exactly right. I think the examples you stated above are taking the whole personal branding/digital persona thing to the uber-extreme. Depending on what you are trying to accomplish, much of this or none of this would make any sense to use or pursue - however I do feel that some consideration should be given to figuring out how to stand out. No matter “what your cup of tea”, the field is always crowded and competitive and will continue to be so - whether your a business trying to compete or an individual struggling to find work - you have to figure out a way to stand out. Personal branding, brand image, whatever we choose to refer to it as, has been around and will continue to be relevant in one form or another.

    • Jay February 14, 2011 at 10:03 pm #

      Exactly. It’s better to come up with new tips and ideas, rather than just rehashing the same 11 tips over and over.

  15. Shandra February 14, 2011 at 12:28 am #

    Oh I so enjoyed that laugh - thank you Jay for being “snarky and cynical” just loved it. That’s what i call going the zero filter…

    • Jay February 14, 2011 at 10:04 pm #

      Filters are for normal people who don’t have 24/7 internet access.

  16. Jane Chin February 14, 2011 at 12:07 pm #

    Interesting article! I have stopped using business cards 5+ years ago because if people REALLY wanted to find me, they can look up my name (which isn’t even that long considering my first and last name combined may be shorter than some first names). I also did this when I saw people throwing biz cards in the trash after networking events and I thought, “what a waste of a resource”. And yes, I admit, I throw them away too. The ones I really connected with, I didn’t need their cards. I remember their names and we connect afterward immediately via phone or email, rendering cards an impotent reminder of the meet.

    That said, I do think getting your “name domain” and “usernames” across key social networking sites is critical, as is keeping certain pictures similar (such as profile pictures). I do this to be consistent and more out of consideration for the other person (“Is this the same person? She looks a bit different here… maybe it’s her but you know how it goes… they can all look alike, pardon the political incorrectness…”). I don’t do it thinking “this is for my personal branding “.

    We’re at a time where we have to prevent confusion or dilution or misinformation if someone else takes that name and starts posting things that you may be in complete disagreement, if the name is common - or - there may be cases of mischief or “brand-jacking” that can happen to people too.

    Working from your core platform and identifiable values is key, but these “peripheral” items can be important as well.

    • Jay February 14, 2011 at 10:09 pm #

      I need a crazier, hand drawn version of my avatar to use across all of my networks.

  17. Kathleen Bobrowski February 14, 2011 at 7:40 pm #

    I’m working on my master’s degree; my focus is personal reputation management. I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately from the “experts” and a lot of what I read is the same stuff you mention ad nauseam. Most of the books, articles, and videos out there want to “brand” people like they are products, using the 11 tips you mention.

    Thanks for giving me a chuckle by turning the “do” list into “don’ts.”

    BTW, I’m sure there are people like me who have to get vanity URLs because, despite their unique names, other people (Angela, for me) show up on the first page of their search results who seem determined never to be employable in this lifetime. Arrrghh.

    • Jay February 14, 2011 at 10:10 pm #

      This just proves I am an expert. You should interview me for your thesis so then we can both be experts.


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