The week before we trekked off to SMX West to bring you the best best liveblogging coverage in the land (I’m biased), I had an incredible opportunity to guestblog on Copyblogger about what belly dancing taught me about personal branding. In that post, I listed off a number of things that I feel are important when constructing your personal brand. On specific tactic I mentioned was to create a character around yourself so that you are always presenting people with the absolute best version of who you are. You don’t necessarily want to give your audience “you”; you want to give them your superhero.
Obviously, people had some opinions about this. After all, social media is about authenticity and transparency and all those wonderful things. How the heck can you provide that if you’re not giving people your full, true self? How will they ever get to know the real you? I think in order to best serve your audience you have to create a superhero persona.
Here’s why. Feel free to tell me I’m doing it wrong.
You Amplify What Makes You Great
There are certain traits about me that make me perfectly suited for blogging and community building. Things like:
- I’m vocal about the things I’m passionate about.
- I have no problem calling a spade a spade.
- I’m highly social.
- I like to help others and lighten their load when I can.
- I can be witty within the confines of 140 characters.
All of these things make me good at my job. They are personality traits that I hold and that are very natural to me. However, they’re all magnified on the Web. I don’t manufacture who I am, but it’d be naïve to assume that I am this person 24 hours a day. If I lived my life like my Twitter account I would dead within a week. It would be too exhausting. So, to maintain that, the Web gets a very specific version of me. It’s the version that helps us to attract the audience that we’re looking for and the version that best allows me to do my job. We all have multiple personalities. Part of creating your superhero self means knowing how and when to use them.
It Gives You Superpowers
One thing I learned in my Lurker vs Participant post is that insecurity runs rampant on the Web. I was blown away by the number of people who lurk instead of participating simply because they assume that everyone is smarter than them or that speaking up will make them look dumb. When you create a character of yourself, you get to remove that fear. You are no longer controlled by other people’s perceptions of you because you get to be the best version of yourself. You know that version of you who can walk on water, the one that is super funny, and is also a really good dancer? Yeah, the person you become when you’re drunk? Being a superhero means you get to be that person all the time (without the falling over parts). And those are the kinds of personas that people are attracted to. Because it’s who they secretly wish they could be – unmoved by fear and strong enough to be true to themselves. You get to be that. It’s like being handing superpowers.
Your Cape Shields You From Harm
According to the rules of social media, we’re all supposed to get naked. We’re supposed to strip it all down and present the world with a bare, honest version of ourselves. And that sounds great. It sounds great up until the moment someone starts pelting you with rocks and you start feeling the welts forming from leaving yourself totally exposed. Creating a character that is based on who you are lets YOU decide how naked you want to get and which angles you want to show people. It gives you a very thin barrier of protection you can use to deflect the dings. And trust me, you’re probably going to need it. I broke character on Saturday when someone emailed me very upset over our liveblogging coverage and, as a result, didn’t handle the email the best that I could have. Had I remained in character (and not been overtired from a 12 hour flight), I would have been able to approach the situation differently and do a better job for the brand. That’s the shield your cape gives you. It helps you separate yourself from the situation.
You Draw Your Own Lines
When you look at your online brand as a character, it allows you to create natural boundaries that make it easier to decide what you will or will not share about yourself. Recently Chris Garrett spoke about drawing the line at what you do or do not share, which is something we all have to think about. I think I let a lot hang out in my personal brand. I’m pretty comfortable getting naked because I feel like I’m forced to live my real life like that anyway. But that said, over the last six months I’ve become a lot more aware of what I’m putting out there. I don’t think I filter myself, per se, but there are aspects of my life I’ve chosen not to share. Not because they’re particularly scandalous or interesting, but because I’ve learned that sometimes it’s best to hold close the things and people most important to you. Leaving everything about you open for public consumption gives you nothing to turn to when you need that break or time out from the Web. It also leaves them naked, whether or not they wanted to be.
While I see the importance of being authentic and transparent in your actions, I don’t think you need to expose your whole self to your audience. People don’t need to know everything about you or everything that is personal to you. They just have to feel like they do. And that means presenting them with the version of you that best portrays what they’re looking for. Creating your naked superhero self isn’t difficult. It requires three things.
- Know who you are and why you’re unique
- Know what your audience wants
- Know which traits to magnify to blend 1 and 2.
Do that and you’ll not only be able to create a personal brand that people want to interact and engage with, but you’ll also keep a little security blanket to protect you from the cold and errant rocks.