Personal Branding 101: Privacy and Porn

One of my favorite things to do on Twitter is see who other people are following.  It gives this wonderful sense of spying, like you’re seeing something you’re not supposed to be seeing.  It’s also a great way to see who other people consider important and find new people to follow.  

Unfortunately, for every gem you’ll find, you can also find a turd.  And every now and then, you’ll find an atomic bomb like I did.

I was browsing who a Twitter user followed the other night.  Everything starts normally, and I see a bunch of people we have in common and some celebrities. Then, I start noticing a number of strange profiles.  Their avatars are grainy and have pictures of increasingly scantily clad bodies.  My curiosity led me to a couple of profiles, where I realize that this person followed a significant number of pornographers.

I wouldn’t have cared at first, but this person named his/her account “MyName_JobTitle.” Really.  Name, job, and face all right there following a barely covered behind. Not only do I know what they like to read and who they like to talk to, but I also know how they like to get down and do the nasty.

Unless you are involved in the adult industry, and face it, if you’re reading this blog, you probably are not, there is no reason you should use a public account with your name, face, and personal info to connect with naughty pictures and materials.  You don’t need a social account to find porn online.  If you really want to let out your inner social media slut, make a separate account.  Don’t use your real name and photo, and have fun.  Don’t ruin your image and name by attaching your identity and work life.  If you have to ruin your professional life, at least do so in a way that has a good story.

I don’t really care who you follow online. I do care that you make yourself look the best you can online.  You don’t want your clients and friends to find out everything about you from your Twitter account.  You’re an adult, you should know better.  Start acting like one.

[Flash 9 is required to listen to audio.]

Tuesday Tunes

Bad Reputation - Joan Jett and The Blackhearts

I dedicate this song to all of my friends and readers who spend all their time worrying about their personal brand.  Sometimes, you need be wild, let it all out, and step away from your brand.  Stop worrying about what’s online, and worry about having some fun away from your computer.

Why Facebook Will Never Win Online Identity, Part 1

There are many reasons why I believe Facebook will never win the war to control your online life and identity.  Today I present the strongest reason I believe Facebook will never fully control your online identity:


Yes, THAT LinkedIn.


Most adults can’t take Facebook seriously.  Sure, it’s great for keeping up with the Joneses, but beyond that what is there? Awkward wall posts? Pictures of you in college no one should ever revisit? Farmville? Give me a break.

LinkedIn provides everything it says it does, and does it very simply.  It lets you set up a profile of your professional life, and then connect with colleagues, classmates, and whoever you think can build your professional network. If you asked for more, you’d be crazy.

Also, LinkedIn doesn’t change.  The features of your profile stay the same.  The layout stays the same.  Even the most recent change, linking to articles, is pretty much just an enhancement of the status update ability they already had.  You don’t read about LinkedIn groups rallying about the layout changes or changing the User Terms, because they don’t.

As more and more people grow up with a Facebook profile, documenting them from middle school through adulthood, why wouldn’t they want another profile where they can remake their personal brand in a professional manner, not whatever wall posts and pictures their friends have tagged throughout the horrors of their teenage life?

Sure, LinkedIn only has 65 million users worldwide compared to Facebooks 400+ million.  But as the digital age spreads, think how many more professionals and students will start building their profiles on there to get a job or build their network without a history of unflattering content following them.  That number will only continue to grow.

I think LinkedIn has found a niche Facebook will have a hard time competing with.  Zuckerburg may have his online party, but the rest of us need to put a suit on in the morning.

Am I wrong?  Let me know what you think in the comments.

Social Media @ Work: The Personal Brand

Employers don’t know what to do with social media at work.  You want your employee’s to leverage their networks, but you don’t want them to waste your money by playing Farmville all day.  You have to treat your employees like adults, and that might be too much for most employers.

Worst of all, most people don’t understand how social media interacts with work.  Yeah, it as fun to tweet how hot that boy at the club is Saturday at 1 am, but try explaining that to a client who sees it Sunday morning.  Or maybe they’ll notice all those strange, “artistic” photos you keep posting to Flickr of decapitated Barbie dolls.  Probably though, your current or future employer will find ancient photos of you from college that are completely inaccurate to who you are today.

You can’t control everything about yourself on the internet, and you can’t control how anyone uses the internet.  All you can do is suggest certain ways to use the tools online and suggest a better picture of who you are.  If you don’t think these suggestions are powerful, think again.

People notice what is front of them.  That’s why it’s important to be on the first page of Google.  People don’t pay attention after that first page.  If you work hard on creating a singular vision of yourself, you’ll find most people will only pay attention to that aspect. Because the internet is forever, you’ll have to address the dark crappy corners head on when necessary, but those instances will slowly become fewer and far more in between.

This singular vision is your personal brand.  It is your hyper-stylized, ultra-polished version of yourself people want to be near and be friends with.  It’s you bumped up a notch, the way you wish you could be.  It’s the way you want people to notice you, not the photos of you from high school you can’t escape.  If I can become the Anti-Social Media guy in three months, you can become whatever you want to in the same time.

Who will you be in three months?  What will your brand be?

Personal Branding and Girl Scouts

I was listening to a piece on NPR about how the Girl Scouts are using online methods of marketing to sell their cookies.  The scouts are told the following helpful tidbits to protect themselves online:

“Um, don’t show your picture, don’t tell your last name — you don’t want anyone to come find you, which is really bad,” she says. “Don’t tell them your phone number. If they say, like, ‘It’s safe, I’m OK, I’m a doctor’ or something, they might be lying.”

Let’s compare that with what Twitter says to use for your profile.

  • A real picture of yourself is encouraged. It adds personableness to your tweets.
  • Because the images are usually seen in a small version, a crop of your face works best.

Twitter wants you to show who you are. They have geolocation for tweets to show where you are.  Keep in mind, there is nothing about Twitter that makes it so anyone needs to know exactly who you are or where you are.  It’s not like it’s Foursquare or Gowalla, which shares where you are with your friends.

And this is just Twitter.

Think about the implications for Myspace, or Facebook, or LinkedIn.  With each of these networks, your face, your personality, your name, and your work are what draw people into you. At the end of the day, you’re yourself, and it’s available for EVERYONE on the planet to find and corrupt.

Keep in mind, a truly malicious person can go ahead and create a fake profile or blog under your name and start publishing crap in mere seconds.  Once that happens, then you’ll just have to tell everyone it was the OTHER Jane Smith that wrote that blog post.

It’s amazing this type of theft or information smearing does not happen more often, or if it does, we just don’t hear much about it. What we’re teaching girl scouts to do online is better than what we do with ourselves and our insane concept of personal brands.  The Girl Scouts protect themselves not only from psychopaths, but also angry customers.  It’s a win-win situation for them.  For the rest of us, we might just be waiting until our identity becomes stolen or mutilated.

And who knows, maybe I could be wrong.  Those girl scouts might not make it because they don’t have a cool personal brand to sell themselves with.

You’re too lazy to make a personal brand, Part 2. What’s in a name?

Reader Allison Najman made a great point in the comments on my post on personal branding.  She wrote:

It also helps if you have a unique name that no famous person or sports player has. You know, something like Najman :)

Allison is a great point. You need a name that stands out, so change your name.  If your parents were cruel and gave you a name like John Smith, change it to something more exciting.  Velociraptor Smith is a much better name.  Not only does it recall a prehistoric, flesh-eating dinosaur, there just aren’t that many Velociraptor Smith’s.

Given the choice between hiring John Smith and Velociraptor Smith, I’d go with Velociraptor.  Why?  It’s unique, it’s memorable, and it strikes fear into the hearts of my competitors.  Changing your name not only improves your search results, it essentially rewrites what your personal brand is.

So be lazy but unique and make your name stand out so your work doesn’t have to.

You’re too lazy to make a personal brand

It’s hard to make a personal brand.  Take it from me.  I’ve been using the internet for over a decade, and I’m still number two on Google, and I’ve tried my damnedest to be number one.

With things such as search engine optimization and shameless whoring self-promotion, you can bump yourself up in Google’s rankings.  But that’s only going to do so much.  You can tweak the system, claim your identity as much as you want, but there’s still something missing from all that to make yourself number one.

To make a good personal brand, you have to consistently turn out amazing work.  Not mediocre, not good, but AMAZING.

And that is hard as hell.

You have to do it every day.  You have to be likeable.  Even worse, you want this to happen online, so you better work your ass off on the internet.  You’ve got to be smart, timely, and worst of all, social.

This isn’t fun and games.  It’s hard work.  You’ve already got a great life.  Why do you need to work your ass off for a slice of online glory?