We’ve talked before about your personal brand and how important it can be. But now the idea of having a personal brand is under attack. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, says, “Crest has a brand. Perrier has a brand. People are not that simple. When we are packaged, we’re ineffective and inauthentic.” This and other similar assertions are causing many people to look again at the concept of a personal brand and say that we shouldn’t have a personal brand.
But this perspective actually misunderstands what a personal brand is and how natural and normal they can be. Here’s how you can have an authentic personal brand.
Your Brand Is a Persona
It’s important to understand that making a brand isn’t really any different from using personas in your everyday life. What is a persona? Well, a persona is a part of your personality that shows in certain social situations.
An easy way to think of it is to think about the way you act in different groups of people. Do you act the same around your friends as you do around your children? Probably not. You talk about different things. You use different words. You may even sit or walk differently.
Does this mean that you’re being false to one or both of these groups? No, it just means that different parts of your personality are coming out in different situations. As Sandberg points out, people are complex, so it makes sense that not all of our complex personalities will come out in every social situation. Instead, we show some of ourselves in one situation, and a different part of ourselves in another situation. It’s natural, and can often happen without you even thinking about it. It’s normal, and just about everyone does it.
Having a personal brand is just the part of your personality that shows up when you’re in professional situations.
Curate, Don’t Create
Once you realize that your brand is about expressing some parts of your personality, not making up a fake personality, you can realize that the key to having a personal brand isn’t manufacturing things to say or share on social media. It’s about selecting from among the things that you would naturally say to find the one that’s best for the situation.
Imagine you’re in the room with the people that are in your social media audience–and think of what you’d say then. And remember, you’re not artificially creating a “fake” person–you’re just showing the part of yourself that’s right for the situation. What you’re sharing is the real you, it’s just not all of you (which is too complex and multifaceted to show in any one situation, anyway.)
Have More than One Outlet
One of the problems that creates the sense of a brand as being a confinement is that many people try to make all their social outlets serve the brand. Naturally, this will keep you from fully expressing yourself and it can be stifling.
But there’s an easy way around this: have more than one social media outlet. With all the social media out there, it’s easy to have multiple different personae that you use. You can be a different person on Facebook than you are on Twitter or Instagram or Pinterest. And all of them can be somewhat different from who you are in person. But they’re all you. Or parts of you, anyway. This way you can be all the people you really are, and meanwhile you can cultivate audiences that are attracted to certain parts of your personality but may be less interested in others. For example, you may really love crochet, but you save that for Pinterest, while your Twitter personality is mostly focused on environmental justice.
Your Smile Can Be a Great Part of Your Authentic Brand
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