Personal Brand in a Digital Age

I recently invested some of my very scarce dollars in the purchase of a service that I thought would be really impactful in the long run.

The person who sold it to me was well known in the community, seemed to be a community champion, and was generally a bright happy person.

When the sales process was being undertaken, I was swept along. The person presented their service in a way that led me to believe that we had the same outcome in mind. I was wrong. Deadlines were missed, the final project piece was thrown together, and I was left holding the bag.

At the end of the “project” I was left with the feeling of being suckered, being let down by the provider and the project being an abject failure. It was, disheartening. Then, something interesting happened. When my closest peers heard about what happened, they started to tell me their stories of similar encounters with the same service provider. They used terms like shady and dishonest.

I’ll come back to this story near the end…

In psychology, there is a term called thin slicing. In short, this means that over time, when we interact with someone, we form an impression of that person not in terms of the big relationship stuff, but the little flags that rise over time.

What does that mean for us as leaders in the Digital Age? it means that everything we do, say, comment on, like, and share, all add up to create or at least influence our professional brand.

As an example, someone reached out to me recently to be involved in something here on the shore. I was considering it, but then began to notice this person on media streams here and there. The person often commented negatively, used profanity to those who disagreed with their opinion, and shut down the conversation if they disagreed.

As everyone can have an off day, I started to look at other groups, and posting sites, I started talking to people I knew, who knew this person, and an uneasy picture emerged. I’ve never met this person face to face, but my thin slicing subconscious mind was screaming quietly in my ear to run.. run fast..

My point is that we need to consider that we can come across one way, however, it is often those other things those other interactions we have that determine if we are seen as credible, reliable and trustworthy. If enough flags go up, then people in our community questions us. If enough reinforcements are found, then we build credible trustworthiness.

So what are my top tips on maintaining (or building) personal brand credibility in a digital world?

1) Trust Your Gut – it knows exactly what will happen when you hit that post button. If its causing you to pause, then delete, don’t post.

2) Assess Impact – An old Rotary adage is – “Is it in the best interests of all involved?” in other words does it build or erode relationships. If it builds proceed.

3) Know Your Friends. Know who your friends are online, what they post and if you want to be associated with their viewpoints. If not,lock down access to your friends list. I clicked on a funny post a friend shared a few years ago, only to be directed to a dark, sexist, and misogynistic page, not my viewpoint, and I’ve never shared from that friend again.

4) Privacy is Fake, Anonymity is Deceptive. You have no anonymity online. It takes only a second for someone to form an opinion and screen shot something to be shared. Recent psychology studies have shown that people who post toxic stuff online don’t think people reading them will know or care. WRONG! if you are building an online professional brand, EVERYTHING you say and do contributes to who people see you as.

5) Discuss, don’t Demean. I’ve seen so many posts recently on these “neighbourhood watch sites” where people demand that they are the only one who understands, or they are right, you are wrong. This diminishes the true functionality of these sites as people don’t want to share for fear of reprisal. If you find yourself in dispute with another person, a better approach is to ask about the difference of opinion, try to understand each other. It doesn’t mean you have to agree, but at minimum, please try to refrain from telling the other person to F.O. (as I saw this week).

6) Post Real Value. This means you take the time to think about what other people might find valuable or interesting. Building brand is about giving more than you get, about creating value in the relationship. Always consider whether your post will add value or not. As an example, I wrote a bit of an opinion piece about our voter turnout. After a while, I reread the article and considered whether it added to my newsletter, or whether I was just complaining. I deleted the article.

Back to my opening story. I have since found that this person is all talk, no follow through. In hindsight, I did have some cautionary moments before I committed to the project. Maybe I had been thin slicing and wasn’t even aware..

Finally, my bonus tip. Get a good, approachable and professional picture done and use it on all your streams. People will get to know who you are through your impeccable posting, your great discussions, and your good looks!

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