The idea of people being brands can be a bit uncomfortable but when we engage in very public forms of mass communication, that is exactly what we create for ourselves. We have become small time (in some cases, very big time) entertainers through our blogs, Facebook updates, Twitter feeds, Instagram accounts and Snapchats. We are all just a little bit famous to a small group of people. This is, for better or worse, how the contemporary Internet works.
Just like offline, people will make assumptions about you based on how you present yourself. It affects the way they interact with you, how they think of you and what they will say about you. It is important to control your image and own your identity and to hone your personal brand so you control the central conversation about you.
The following are a few things to keep in mind while formulating your personal brand:
The Internet is Real
There used to be a really strong separation between what happens online and what happens IRL (in real life). That no longer stands. The Internet is real. What you do online is part of your real life. Since nothing on the Internet is ever truly erased, the entire footprint of your life online will follow you – possibly forever. Unless society goes full Mad Max and then, you will have bigger problems than a cache of embarrassing duck-lip selfies.
Authenticity is Key
Vice founder Shane Smith often says that “Millenials have the best BS detectors in history” and he is right. While this didn’t used to be true, the greatest sin that you can now commit as a person living online is to be fake. No one wants to be accused of catfishing, so keep it real. Don’t pretend to be something you aren’t; if you’re a huge nerd, be a huge nerd – people will love you for having the courage to be yourself.
Only Share What Makes You Comfortable
When you spend your day looking at social media feeds (and we all do it), a lot of really unusual things start to seem normal. The guy who constantly talks about his personal problems via Facebook updates or the girl who posts highly stylized half naked selfies on Instagram start to seem reasonable. Because you are inundated with this content, you are probably going to want to try it out for yourself. However, if it doesn’t feel right, it will come across as inauthentic. Everyone’s comfort zone is different. A good rule to set for yourself is to not ever do or post anything that makes you fundamentally uncomfortable.
What You Don’t Do is as Important as What You Do
Coco Chanel once said, “Elegance is refusal”, which means that what you choose not to wear is equally important to what you do wear. The same philosophy applies to your personal brand. What you are not (i.e.: nude on the Internet, a chronic over sharer, etc.) defines you as equally as what you are. The things that define you offline: your core personality, your ethics, your basic interests and passions should also form the base for your personal brand.
All of this advice boils down to one basic message: be real, be yourself. Authenticity is the strongest foundation on which to build your personal brand. If the characteristics of your personal brand are that you are relatable because you are honest and ethical online, the conversation around you and about you will be far easier to control.