It’s the photo album on Facebook with 500 photos of your high school classmate’s bourgeois wedding. Or the album full of every purchase an old friend has made from Christian Louboutin. Or the endless statuses about all of the promotions your cousin has gotten at the dream job she just landed, how many celebrities she’s met since moving to New York, and how her life could easily be fodder for SATC 3. Twenty years ago, maybe even 10 years ago, all of this would be considered obnoxious bragging. Now, in a society where anyone can invent himself or herself to be anything with a few online social media profiles and a camera, what was formerly known as bragging is sometimes called personal branding or self-marketing. Have we made bragging obsolete, especially since today’s corporate world basically requires that you show, prove, and toot your own horn a little ( ok, a lot) more than generations past ever had or wanted to?
When I was younger, my mom went to great lengths to make sure that my siblings and I didn’t brag. If a friend from school went with us on a shopping trip, we were not to buy anything if the friend couldn’t buy anything. When we accomplished something at school, no matter how big it may have been or how excited we were about it, we were required to be humble, only telling a select few close family members. Bragging in my household was heavily reviled, as is the case in many traditional Southern families. Such disregard for other’s perceived feelings was a slap in the face to an upbringing that emphasized staying in good social graces.
Like my parents, I still honor the values of humility and consideration of others, and I try to infuse that into my own method of self-branding. Finding a balance between the necessary self-promotion for professional purposes and thoughtfulness of your followers, friends, and contacts is the key to creating a successful personal brand that draws people to you while driving you toward your goals. Letting your pride get the best of you online can cost you valuable connections, wreck the brand that you have worked hard to build and, as in the case of journalist Khristopher Brooks, lead you to lose the opportunities that are the whole point of investing so much into a personal brand.
Even though what we now know as personal branding or self-promotion has been around for decades through “quieter” means, such as résumés and curriculum vitaes, many young, new professionals and job seekers do not completely understand what personal branding is, especially when it comes to social media. Before social media can even come into the picture, you’ve got to know what your brand is about, and that might take some soul searching. Job search coach Meg Guiseppi created a great 10-point guide to help you in this process. Knowing what goals and values are important to you will help you to create a personal brand that you can be passionate about.
After you’ve done the hard work of discovering exactly what your brand is, use social media to enforce what you stand for and demonstrate what you have to offer. Whatever you do, be consistent. Social media expert Lauren Huston makes the point on her blog that when the values that brands claim to have conflict with what that brand does on a day to day basis, trust is lost and high numbers of followers and fans are not as impressive. It’s ok to have a status here or a tweet there about accomplishments that demonstrate your success in your field, but if your personal brand touts the value of authenticity and you’re constantly on Facebook dropping names of major clients without out mixing up your statuses to include some bits of knowledge that can help your audience, you’ll seem more pretentious, less authentic, and yes, even a little obnoxious.
A great personal brand is personable and human, yet professional and helpful at the same time. Keep this in mind while composing your next 140 characters, and you just might get a direct message that’s the opportunity you’ve been dreaming of.
Follow Nichole on Twitter at @ReasonsAndRoses or on her blog, ReasonsAndRoses.com.
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