Scan the headlines in any social news feed and you’ll notice a trend. Every other headline reads as if the same person wrote it. If you read a lot of them at once and pay attention you’ll begin to suspect that most bloggers are obsessed with writing lists of things for other people to do.
Google “Top ten blog headlines” and you’ll see what I mean. You’ll also find blog topic generators, which enable you to type in a few nouns and generate a “week’s worth” of blog post titles. At least half of them will include a numbered list about some important subject or another.
On a certain level all of this makes sense. Marketing experts have figured out the structure of headlines on which readers will click and search engines will index. That’s what marketing people do, they figure out how to get people to notice and engage.
The down side of using these methods is if you’re not careful, your headlines will sound like everyone else’s and they’ll eventually disappear with the rest of them in the online noise.
The same holds true when you market yourself.
Sometimes it’s not easy to get noticed while fitting within the parameters of the acceptable and relevant. Marketing experts will tell you it’s important to be consistent. Consistency creates more impressions over time. Consistency can also be responsible for efficiency and higher profits.
McDonald’s is consistent. The McDonald’s hamburger you buy in rural America is identical in taste and quality to the one you buy in New York City or Beijing. That consistency is what makes McDonald’s good travel food. And, no one can argue with the financial success of McDonald’s.
But, different people define success differently. And, a lot of people want something unique when they’re hungry. They want something that authentically reflects local culture and flavor. That’s why so many of us make the effort to seek out local diners and pubs when we travel.
It’s also why readers skim over homogenized headlines. And, that same efficient consistency might be causing some people to skim over your online profile or resume.
Personal brands and social media
The notion of the personal brand isn’t new. Napoleon Hill, Jack Trout, and Tom Peters all talked about the principals of personal career positioning and individual branding many years ago.
In some ways social media has enabled people to bring these mature concepts to full fruition. Unfortunately, in other ways the same social media has turned the concept of the personal brand into a caricature of itself.
One danger in personal branding is self-commodification. If you chase success the way some bloggers chase search engine optimization you’ll lose authenticity and people will ignore you as you fade into the stream of faceless, nameless professional personas.
The things that make your brand personal are your ethics, opinions, ideals, expertise and passions. That’s nothing new. But, the phenomenon of social technology is new, along with the challenge of translating your unique attributes into digitally consumable content without watering them down into common mush.
Everyone’s got a list and here’s mine
To prevent the dilution of your personality while preparing it for the marketplace, it’s important to remember these three key components of a unique and authentic personal brand.
- Articulation – Your personal brand must include an understandable and recognizable distillation of what it is about you and what you do that you consider important and valuable.
- Authenticity – The objective of your online profile, bio or resume is to attract others who value the ideals within your brand. When you gain the attention of others, you must personify what your brand articulates.
- Consistency – Once it’s fully developed, you must be committed to your own brand. Don’t chase after what you think people want to hear. Don’t hire a robot to spit out your headlines. Be unique. Be you. Be weird if you want to be weird. But, be consistently weird for the duration.
Marketing experts can help you with the esthetic and technical aspects of developing a modern personal brand. In a lot of ways, that’s the easiest part.
The hard part is fully accessing your own heart and mind and articulating what matters to you in such a way that the professional community you’ve chosen understands and cares about what’s genuinely important to you.
And, then mustering and maintaining the courage to stay true to the personal brand you create. Which is really just another way of saying, stay true to yourself.