It seems to be a very human trait to try to label, measure or otherwise codify what and who is around us. We have a tendency to want to put everything in a box, in a world where not everything is made-to-measure.
This is not always a bad thing. Scientists must be organised and orderly or their research will fail or be pulled apart by others. Engineers and architects had better get things right or we’re all in trouble. At the other end of the scale, more artistic types may revel in chaos in order to be creative – though I think they’re more the exception. For most of us, the clearest manifestation of this tendency is making lists in a bid to support our minds which are cluttered by the daily demands of life!
But somewhere out of the human proclivity to classify came the concept that people could be brands in themselves. It’s an interesting idea and if you mull it over it works for some people, in some circumstances, though for most of us to brand and market ourselves would be taking things a wee bit too far.
At some level, though, we are all our own brand. We project an image to the world. Lots of tiny influences come into play as we do this and social media presents an environment where there can be lots of pressures to try to be the person we think people want to see. That’s because your Twitter account could be followed by your boss, your siblings, your work peers and rivals and people whose lifestyle looks far more interesting than yours if you told it as it was. How do you speak to all of them at once when we all have different personas for different situations? And who wants to look boring on Facebook?
It’s actually becoming a really complicated landscape, to the point where (anecdotally at least) people are starting to withdraw from the medium. I’m losing track of the amount of times folks have told me they realised that they didn’t really have anything they wanted to say, so why force it? When you have to think carefully about each very public utterance and its implications, that can become tiresome and tiring.
There’s also a disturbing trend developing, thanks to the invention of LinkedIn endorsements; suddenly people you may only loosely know, or not even know at all, are endorsing you for skills you don’t claim to possess!
I and my colleagues focus tightly on our expertise and don’t pretend to be something we are not, so when my profile suddenly says I’ve been endorsed for an activity that is not my specialism, I get jumpy. It can be fixed, but its an example of the inevitable development of this arena and how others will increasingly be able to impact upon whatever online image you have carefully cultivated.
Evolution is inevitable and I’m feeling a continued shift of social channels towards business. Not that they’re not being used to be social – but maybe it’s more in working hours and maybe it’s increasingly for the purposes of being seen in a professional light or making professional connections. Maybe I’m wrong, but watch this space….
I think it’s dawning on many people that perhaps they don’t want to be a brand after all. Leave that to the real brands. Maybe it’s better to breathe a sigh of relief and let go of the pressure to perform, as it were. Yes, lob the holiday photos up to Facebook for the family and friends, stay social, be connected, but don’t feel guilty about letting yourself off the hook from being a public entity all the time.