Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Will the rise of Personal Branding create a need for Personal Analytics?


“This is America, we don’t just make things you want, we make things you didn’t even know you wanted” – Larry the Cable Guy via Prilosec OTC Wild Berry Flavor Ad

This quote isn’t just true about products anymore; it’s true about your social life in the ‘Age of the Individual’. Since ‘social’ is now productized, YOU are also productized. To take this thought one step further, there’s a saying on the web these days, it goes, “if you aren’t paying for it, you are the product.” So what better way to take advantage of being the product than to market yourself effectively? A stretch? I don’t think so. 

Your personal information is captured and sold as a part of your tech life everyday. Your social “status” can be viewed, reviewed, and scrutinized without your knowledge and behind your back by your friends, social connections, and even your employer. There are dangers to haplessly posting your life online that you may not want to flirt with. Enter ‘personal branding’.

Online behavior has been studied and restudied since the Internet went global in the late 80’s and 90’s. Researchers realized and validated that people tend to over-inflate and over-exaggerated who they proclaim to be in virtual environments. This changes somewhat with the advent of social platforms, where people who really know you can keep you in check, but does it change that much? 

By the way, the average person may have hundreds, even 1000+ ‘friends’ on Facebook, but researchers say most people only have 3 confidants, and that’s even trending downward to 2. So, let’s say there are only a handful of people who can keep your tendency to over-inflate your virtual-self and your accomplishments in check, but the rest of those hundreds of online friends? No way. They can only believe or not believe what you post. So many of them take what you post at face value. They see your life like cookie crumbs, never the whole cookie. It’s parsed into one-liners and photos and system generated factoids. The point? If you create a profile by design, you can dramatically impact the way hundreds, even thousands of people perceive you. And, perception, perception is reality.

So what is “Personal Branding” really? In one line, personal branding is not selling the steak, it’s selling the sizzle – I know, I know. But, that’s what it is. In personal branding you take a ‘design’ approach to telling the world about who you are and what you do. So what about that picture you shot with your iPhone, and put on Instagram, that updated your Pinterest Board? Or, that FourSquare ‘mayor’ badge you Tweeted, that pushed to Facebook, that updated your Google+ and your Tumblr blog? All that can be one giant marketing effort – telling people in bits and bytes, and slices of information, who you want them to think you are. It doesn’t have to be fabrication or over-exaggeration. In fact, it should be absolutely true – that brand you create. But for the people to clearly ‘get’ you as a brand, it must be simple and easy to understand. To be an effective branding effort, it has to be crystal clear.

While I'm on the topic, here are some other tools to help with the effort:
·      http://vizualize.me/

There are many more out there and even more coming. In fact, this begs the question, if you’re doing all this work to brand yourself, shouldn’t you know the impact? Shouldn’t you know your key metrics? Things like reach, hits, visits, views, shares, re-shares, comments, likes, followers, un-follows, and so on. All of this is important. Even if you’re not branding yourself, don’t you ever get curious about the people who may be ‘trolling’ your Facebook profile or viewing your posts but not liking or commenting (e.g. reach)? Even better, wouldn’t you want to see who is paying Facebook/Instagram for your posts? According to TechCrunch, the technology is not only out there to do these analytics, it’s only a matter of time before you’re downloading it and/or registering for the sites. 

Now, I know this highly coordinated effort is not for all, but if you want to conduct a really interesting experiment, and use yourself as the subject, post about only one subject, say, the subject you know best, for the next few months on one or more of your social platforms. Pay attention to how people respond to you, treat you, and communicate with you both online and in person. You’ll be surprised how, even your closest friends, will perceive you differently.

Oh, and while I'm at it, you can follow me on Instagram: http://instagram.com/jordan_is

Here are some of my sources for additional context: