There are common misconceptions about personal branding. First, there is the theory that only businesses or celebrities need to pay attention to their brand because of a commercial or financial incentive. Second, there are some that think personal branding is somewhat narcissistic and calculated, and that if you’re confident and don’t need validation from society then there is no need to be cognizant of your image. Here is some perspective to these trains of thought.
1. What you post today may haunt you in the future
Let’s begin by defining what personal branding is. While there are different degrees of branding, in this article I’m referring to the image you choose to present to the world. In this age of the proliferation of social media, we now live in a culture where every meal, outfit, and selfies of every different angle possible are constantly shared. Whether we are conscious of it or not, the very act of participating in this type of sharing is creating an image and brand of yourself. The catch is, while the phase in life you are in and subsequently the image you are putting out there may change, what you put on the internet lasts – and in fact can be quite permanent.
There are many social media sites that even if you delete the photo off of your album, the photo will be stored on its servers and Google can still show that image on the web. Also, if you get on the bad side of some internet savvy low-life, it takes a few mere clicks to screenshot your image and post it on bashing site. Sites like “The Dirty” unfortunately have extremely high SEO. Meaning, if you are posted on there and someone Googles you, that hate attack will have a good chance of appearing on the first page of search results.
Think of everything you post as something you can’t take back. It’s better to be safe than to be sorry. Ask yourself, in 5-10 years from now, “Will I be okay with this picture being up?” Ask yourself if the CEO of your dream company looked at your social media presence, if what they saw would be seen as a positive or a cause for concern.
2. Your career ambitions today will likely change tomorrow
The greatest consumers of social media are in the younger age demographic – a generation of people who will likely experience multiple career changes. Stats show that the average number of career changes in someone’s lifetime is around 7- 9. So, while you may think that your job/business now does not require you to be mindful of what the public sees, the reality is, you just don’t know what the future holds. Thus, it’s probably a safer strategy to restrain from posting photos that give the wrong impression. Sure, that beer-bonging pic is funny, that huge bottle of Moet you are gulping might look pimp and that bikini shot selfie sure is hawt – but do you really want that out there forever? Take the photos all you want, but you don’t necessarily have to display it for everyone to see. When was the last time you saw a highly respected business person or CEO with such imagery displayed for the world to judge?
You will be googled. This is inevitable. Whether it be by a potential employer, a romantic interest or a prospective client – at some point in time your collection of imagery will contribute to one’s impression of you. Might as well take steps to make that impression professional and timeless.
3. The internet is a breeding ground for masking insecurity.
In this digital world, it’s almost as if an experience or great meal never happened if it wasn’t captured, filtered and documented on some social site. One of the consequences of our culture of oversharing is that it can breed narcissism, an insatiable appetite for validation by “likes” and a playground for attention seeking and masking insecurity.
Before you post, ask yourself a few questions such as “Why am I sharing this?” Are you posting that bedroom selfie because you really want some attention right now? Are you posting that picture posing with a bunch of models because you want people to think you’re popular and liked? Or are you really yearning for validation from likes? Second, ask yourself, would your future self approve of this? If you were a respected CEO with staff looking up to you, would you feel that the image is appropriate? I’m not saying to not post your awesome displays of life, I’m suggesting to be simply be mindful of the “why” and the “what” of your posts.
The instant factor of social media is part of its allure. But it’s also what’s causing us to react quickly without thought and consideration. Every photo, tweet and status you post is slowly building your brand, shaping the way people see you, and contributing to social norms. Be aware that people are watching and regardless of your follower count, and that you are very much a part of influencing the world around you.