Managing Your Personal Brand & Online Presence

Yesterday I attended an “emerging leaders” workshop at which we discussed personal branding. Toward the end of the meeting, as we spoke about the image you portray and the message you send through what you publish about yourself online, I had an epiphany.

I was concerned about how to balance what I post online for my friends to see versus what I would want a client or work associate to see. The seminar presenter, Tora Brown, posed a question to me that hit me like a ton of bricks, “How does the videos and pictures you post online for your friends to see benefit you?” As I let this question percolate in my brain, I realized that the potential damage of clients and colleagues seeing silly pictures or video of me online is much greater than any benefit I receive from putting them on the web.

In fact, I can’t think of any real benefit from publishing such things online! The only thing I can think of that motivates the posting of endless pictures of last weekends party or whatever activity you deem post-worthy, is the narcissistic desire to reflect on how cool you are, or how interesting your life is, and to show that to others. If anyone can think of any other reason to post more than a handful of pictures to provide a snapshot of who you are, one that you’re comfortable for everyone in the world to see, I would love to hear them. Mind you, don’t waste my time with, “because it’s fun” or “because I can”…I’m looking for good reasons and benefits.

One thing I think people often forget when they portray themselves online is that the internet is non-differential toward setting or circumstance. In other words, while some things may be appropriate in some settings, the same thing may not be in a different setting. The people who know you from all different settings and circumstances (work, church, school, social, etc.) go online and see whatever you’ve posted in the context of the setting in which they know you. For example, a client for which I’m trying to list their 20 million dollar property will see the same goofy video I posted for my long time buddy to enjoy.

Also it’s important to remember that people introduce others into their life in bite-size pieces. That is the natural progression of any relationship. Therefore, a long time colleague or client who has gotten to know you on a more personal level, can appreciate and handle seeing a silly posting of yourself, and still take you seriously and trust that you can do the job. In contrast, a recently met potential client or employer who is still trying to feel you out, will likely make a judgment (fair or not) from what they see online after googling your name.

For the many reasons listed above, I recently went through my online content and purged many pointless, and potentially harmful, videos and pictures. Please realize I still recognize there are many benefits to being on Facebook or having a YouTube account…I just feel there is also a risk often not recognized by us Y generation kids. I recommend everyone review what they’ve posted online and reflect on if you’re prepared for everyone in the world to see it.

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11 Responses to Managing Your Personal Brand & Online Presence

  1. garrettmyler says:

    Jeff: A handstand on the freeway…yeah. The idea is that I’d rather play it extra safe, than risk the potential damage.

  2. Jeff says:

    so a hand stand is too silly for a business associate????

  3. Anonymous says:

    I think you are exatly right Garrett Myler. However, I think the things you removed were supper funny!

  4. garrettmyler says:

    For example, I removed a picture of my doing a handstand on a shut-down freeway and a video of me pretending to do different swim strokes using a skateboard on the floor for a talent show.While many, especially those who know me well, can appreciate such things and silliness…many business associates and clients could be put off by it. The potential damage is, I feel, much greater than any potential gain.

  5. Jeff says:

    part of being in business is accepting everyone and using their strengths to market a product. it is about making a connection with the public. EVERYONE has a “silly” side. i think business owners are aware of that. what is your idea of a “silly picture from last weekend”???? is it making funny faces or does it have to do with being an immoral person? i think if your pictures show more than just a “silly side” it really doesnt matter

  6. garrettmyler says:

    “KWrae”, the point is it doesn’t matter how you “think” your business associates should react to discovering your silly side online, whether it’s fair or not, many will make judgements that will affect how you are percieved. Also, if you re-read the original post, it’s not that no one expects you not to have a social life, but people get to know others in bite size pieces. Hence, you wouldn’t introduce yourself to a new client and say, “Check out this picture of the silly thing I did last weekend”. In a way, that is what happens when after your meeting, the client curiously googles your name. Also, some are not at the point in their career or professional life that this is not really an issue yet…for me, it is.

  7. KWrae says:

    i agree that people might judge. but i think that being lighthearted and having a sence of humor is expected of a human. while u might be a professional, you are also human and its okay to show your silly side. i think that buisness people need to see that its good to enjoy yourself. theres a line between silly and immature. if it looks immature then yes… dont put it up. i just dont feel comfortable in thinking i need to hide who i am away from work from the people at work. as l o ng as im not doing anything bad, theres nothing wrong with showing what i do in my personal space.

  8. Crazy Me... says:

    Garrett,I completely agree with your statement. As a teacher there is a certain expectation for my behavior- both in and out of the classroom. While it may not be fair, the things I say and do outside of my class may directly affect people’s view of what is going on inside of my classroom. I appreciate your post and will have to reflect on what I have posted in various spots of the web while none of it is bad or even inappropriate, I would not like my students knowing that information about me.

  9. garrettmyler says:

    It’s obvious that it is unwise to post “wild” or “immoral” pictures or videos. I’m suggesting that things someone does (silly), while completely appropriate and acceptable in one setting, might be too much for someone to accept or appreciate if they don’t know you that well, especially if they’re familiar with you in a business or professional setting.

  10. blondenahaff637 says:

    I agree with jeff. as long as you arent doing anything bad, i see no problem in posting pictures of ur life. i mean dont sit in front of the mirror and just take pictures. when i say pictures of your life… imean LIVING life. not living in your bathroom with a camera. That shows nothing about who you are. A picture is worth a thousand words correct? i take pictures and post pictures that will give someone a thousand words worth of insight into my life. Its always good to have a handfull of good pictures of just you for reasons here and there…. I use the pictures online as an album for myself and for people who no longer see me on a daily basis, to share pictures i have of my friends with the people in the pictures and also to show off how amazing my life is! šŸ™‚ hahah. kinda kidding. Pictures of people being drunk or half naked or of ones self and their obviously dirty mirror are probably not positive things to put online. But you get back whatever u put out.. if you put out crap, that’s what you’ll get back. If you put out positive, happy, enjoyable pictures of yourself then theres nothing wrong with that. I’m sure that people are aware that everyone has a personal life. i would much rather work with someone that i know is happy and carefree in their personal life than someone who seems to not have one and appears stuffy and non demensional. but good points are made. Be careful how you portray yourself coz you never know whos watching. šŸ™‚

  11. Jeff says:

    i agree with what you said to an extent… i find pictures interesting to look at. i like seeing what people do in their free time. while you will often find a few party pictures, more often than not you also find vacation pictures or pictures from a hike or sporting event that was attended. having the standards we do set us apart from many people. often what we think may be harmful will not be harmful to someone who is of the world and not just in the world. i do not condone such behavior but i feel it doesnt hurt anyone to post pictures that represent who they are.

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