We Are All Products: Online Branding

Personal Brand Plan Model

Personal Brand Plan Model (Photo credit: stefano principato)

That sounds rather harsh, doesn’t it? But I’d argue that it’s true, especially in terms of having an online presence. I adore reading  articles by others working in social media. The usual discussion about personal branding seems to always focus on having the mindset when you are starting a business. To me, that’s way too late in the game. The moment you start having an online presence is the moment you’ve started your personal branding. It doesn’t matter if you are aware of this fact or not. That’s just reality.

I’d say it works in your favor when you are unaware of it–to a degree. Why is that? Because you aren’t staging your reactions. Just like when you’re socializing offline, you become self-conscious the more you realize those around you are paying attention. Your phrasing can change. Your body language becomes  a little stiffer. Your social cues lets others know the spotlight is on you and the level of comfort you have with that fact.

One of the typical phrases right now is that we are a “voyeuristic society”. I’ve even said it myself. Because of that truth, you need to learn how to internalize it and figure out who you are as a brand. I don’t care if you have no interest in fame. Every time you are applying and/or interviewing for a job, you are showcasing your brand. Every time you are meeting new people, you are showcasing your brand.

When it comes to the internet, it is harder because you remove the social cues. It’s amazing how restrictive written language alone actually is. And you can’t forget that. It’s what will cause issues at times. Without cues like tone, body language, etc. miscommunication is inevitable. You can read every book on the subject out there. You can attend all sorts of workshops and conferences. But by just being yourself, you have your foundation.

I can give you a personal example. I’m in the process of closing down my online web store I had for two years on Etsy. I went into it rather blind now that I have hindsight. I tried many styles and channels trying to narrow down the brand of my business. Nothing clicked in my head that branding I was establishing in the process was chaotic. Obviously not my goal, but I was so focused on that future idea I forgot what it was showcasing in the present.

But I had another online presence that was completely separate from it. And that brand stayed in a central niche. Once again, completely unplanned–but it worked. I’d argue that it still does. For seven years now the animedancer87 brand has been about music and pop culture. Every website I’ve used that alias on sticks to the same topics. Because of that, I’ve gained seven years of experience and knowledge.

Sometimes branding should be intentional. Sometimes it’s a natural evolution. As you are floating between different SNS, never forget that the internet remembers. It doesn’t care that you are talking with friends or potential clients. It doesn’t care that you have two or ten years experience.  You have a brand and you are a product. It’s what you do with that knowledge that will affect how successful of a presence you maintain online.

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