We’ve all heard the expression you are what you eat. As a columnist and author, I’ve come to understand in many ways that you are what you write. But social media has given us an entirely new way of understanding our personal brand image: You are what your followers say you are.
Currently, more than 100 of my Twitter followers have put me on a list – not as many as @ginidietrich(!), but enough to give me a sense of how @WhenGrowthStall is positioned in the Twitterverse. Simply scanning the titles is an enlightening exercise.
I’m listed based on my industry (advertising agencies, pr-ad-mktg agencies), my company (mckeewallworkcleveland, mwc), my location (albuquerque, nm, locals, international, overseas), and my job title (c-level, ceos-n-experts, entrepreneurs).
I’m listed based on my areas of expertise (business, branding, marketing, social media, consulting), my interests (innovation, leadership, markets, strategy), my roles in various people’s lives (partners, clients, friends) my other job (writers, journalists, press-reporters, news-views), and my other-other jobs (authors, speakers, vistage, business coaches).
I’m even on some fairly ego-gratifying lists (industry-gurus, management-innovators, raisesmyiq, minds-i-like, super-smarties, thought-leaders, toptier—OK, I’ll stop now). These are, not surprisingly, offset by some lists that have the opposite effect (random, various, the-others, and likebutdontfollow – I have to admit, that last one seems especially odd to me).
Altogether, the lists I’m on paint an interesting portrait of how people view my contributions to the world (at least through social media), and in that sense they’re instructive. I also think they’re pretty fair overall.
I often explain to the companies with which I work that their brand isn’t what they think it is, it’s what their customers and prospects say it is. The most they can do is send signals into the marketplace so people will come to the conclusions they wish them to. And that’s an imperfect science at best. That’s why the best thing to be is who you are.
Take a few minutes to do your own analysis of what the lists on which you appear say about you, and consider how well it matches your own self-portrait. When you do, keep in mind the advice I laid out in a recent BusinessWeek.com column about authenticity: “Branding isn’t difficult. It’s just like real life. You should continually strive to make your brand the best it can be. Just never try to make it something other than what it is.”
That’s a good rule for all of us to keep in mind as we express ourselves in social media. After all, spin sucks.
Steve McKee is president of McKee Wallwork Cleveland and author of When Growth Stalls: How it Happens, Why You’re Stuck and What to Do About It.