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A Not Entirely Useful Post About Personal Branding

July 10th , 2012

I've had a bit of a lapse the last couple of weeks. What with being tired and having to look after my parents away from home I felt a bit disconnected from the more social things I normally do, like talk to people on Twitter (yes, I missed my family too but that isn't what this is about).

At the same time I didn't want to hide away completely. I wanted to stay in touch with people. So I was a bit stuck, because I use Twitter in a particular way, a very personal way. And I wasn't feeling very personable. But I felt a need to keep going.

By way of trying to deal with this I looked at things from another angle. I attempted to work out what I was like on Twitter from an external perspective. I suppose I tried to work out what my style was. Have you ever done that, looked at your own tweets and tried to understand them en masse?

Suffice to say it's a bit odd. Perhaps if I stuck to a topic it would seem clearer. But I don't. And most people I know don't. So when I look at my tweets they're just little, half-formed thoughts, hanging there. Perhaps there's the occasional link to a worthy article to keep the quality levels up.

Anyway, after thinking about Twitter for a while, here's what I did. I tried to fake it. I looked at the general flow of things I tweeted about and tried to recreate that, keep it going. I shared a few links, tweeted about some of the things that were going on (largely observations about hospitals). And, of course, I tried to maintain conversations with my favourite people.

In other words, I suppose I tried to maintain my Personal Brand. Not that I've ever set out to have a Personal Brand. Most people don't. And all good branding people know that brands exist whether or not you want them. The most we can ever do is tinker. This is never more true than when we're talking about people's own brands.

A brand is a very sophisticated thing, emerging from a complex set of interactions. Everything you do and say is one more part of it. Even in 140 characters our personalities come across. What my slightly disconcerting experiment told me is that it's very difficult to understand your own brand. Of course, it's possible for others to see it but then that perception is only theirs.

So, after this attempt to keep myself going I have some not entirely useful thoughts on personal branding.

I think you can create less friction between yourself and the rest of the world. I think you can set things up so that your brand is more clearly communicated. I'll even accept that you can reinforce your brand through various means.

But you can't get to the centre of it. You can be yourself but only if you happen to be yourself. It's not a choice. Everything you do that tries to get to the heart of your Personal Brand pushes it a little further away. We're constantly stuck between the difficulty of understanding ourselves and the one-dimensional perceptions of others.

When I wasn't up to tweeting I should have stayed away. I realise that now. I also wrote some pretty shonky blog posts in the same period. Another symbol of the need to be consistent. This post is no exception. But I wanted to write about my experiences. And now I have, and my parents are getting better, and I've been home a while. So things are getting back to normal. Hopefully I am too.