By JORDAN ECARMA
"Personal brand" might be a favorite phrase to use ironically on Twitter, but that doesn't mean you should ignore it. In the world of social media, every individual becomes a “brand” of sorts. With every Facebook post and each tweet, you leave a digital footprint as well as an impression with anyone who sees it. And in a world where everyone has the potential to be a brand, you want to make sure you’re Chipotle before the E. coli scandal—not after.
My generation gets a lot of flak for anything related to technology: You millennials are always playing on your phones! You text instead of calling! You put personal things online! Personal branding based on our Facebook statuses and Instagram updates is no different. We’re simultaneously accused of being too connected and never connected enough; overly isolated and obnoxiously overexposed; too honest and yet always fake because the Internet “doesn’t count.”
Sure, there are plenty of solid negative arguments. Sometimes those super-happy Facebook updates are fake. Teens might be spending too much time on their phones. Being online doesn’t equal tangible, irreplaceable human interaction.
But what naysayers don’t realize is that technology hasn’t minimized human connections—in fact, it’s done the opposite. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other networks not only expand your potential to maintain social circles but also open you up to social interactions (with real-life humans) that would not be possible without them. Anyone who says the Internet is fake hasn’t really experienced it.
Similarly, using social media to help build your personal brand shouldn’t be about faking anything online. It’s showing the world what’s real about you—just on a slightly more amplified scale.
Here are three ways you should embrace the idea of a “personal brand” … and maybe even have fun with it.
Take charge of your own narrative
If you’re online, you will leave an impression whether you’re aware of it or not. In 2010’s “The Social Network,” Rooney Mara’s fictional Erica Albright reminds Jesse Eisenberg’s Mark Zuckerberg that “the Internet isn’t written in pencil … it’s written in ink.” You never know what will inspire people to dig through your old tweets for dirt or screenshot your Facebook statuses to get you fired. Be aware that social media’s power is a double-edged sword—you can reach people around the world in both incredibly positive and horribly destructive ways.
Especially in an election year, people often reference the “media narrative” around a public figure, whether it’s a presidential candidate or a reality TV celebrity. What you say on social media is your chance to take charge of your own personal narrative and how you want to be perceived. And hey, maybe you can even take a note from Taylor Swift and write a No. 1 song about it.
Show what’s unique about you
Syndrome notes in Pixar’s “The Incredibles” that “When everyone is special, no one will be.” In a world where everyone has a personal brand, is it another way of saying that no one does?
Here’s the most fun part of the personal brand concept: You can use Facebook, Twitter and anywhere else to show what’s unique about you. I laugh a little at anyone who thinks the Internet is fake because this is one part that absolutely will not work unless you’re genuine. I promise that you will do yourself no favors by attempting to manufacture a personality—and you don’t have to because people both IRL and online are drawn to what's sincere.
Protect your personal life
It may sound counterintuitive, but putting yourself online can actually help protect your personal life. Building a brand is not about telling people every last detail about yourself—it’s about putting out specific facets of your personality and staying in control of how much people know.
If you've read this blog, you may have noticed that I am a pretty opinionated individual on everything from movies to faith to politics. I’ve decided to share a lot of what I believe, whether it’s my reason for getting a tattoo or just my unabashed love for a particular songwriter. But with each piece, each Facebook status, each tweet, I try to remember that I am adding something to how people may perceive me. I’d rather embrace the conscious decision to add to my own personal brand instead of being afraid of it.
The secret to personal branding is pretty simple: Enjoy the human connections you make online and take control of your own story. (And always, remember to be careful out there.)
Jordan Ecarma is a former journalist now living the millennial dream: getting paid for writing Facebook statuses (that is, digital PR). She watches her use of the f-word ("feminism") around conservatives and the c-word ("conservatism") around feminists. Find her under @JordanEcarma.