It’s taken me a while to get going on Thing 3. I have been putting it off because I know my personal brand is pretty much non-existent – scatty at best – and I know it’s something that should be on my growing to-do list. I always feel like I have something better to do though! I am not one of those people who spends ages on their blog theme; I chose the first pretty one I came across, and that’s enough for me. I don’t have the patience to make everything look nice and consistent; I just want to set things up and get going! At the same time, it’s only in recent months that I’ve really done anything that might make my name known to people who don’t know me personally, so constructing a personal brand hasn’t, until recently, been something that I’ve felt I needed to consider. I do realise that I should probably make more of an effort in this respect though, if I’m going to continue blogging, writing and speaking, so hopefully my reflections in this post will help me to identify steps to take.
I have a Twitter account which I use heavily, a main blog, this CPD23 blog, a LISNPN account, and a LinkedIn account (which I have only just set up). I also have a Facebook account but I don’t really include that in my online presence as I don’t really use it that much; I mainly just keep it there as a convenient way of contacting friends. I use my full name on my blogs, LISNPN and LinkedIn, and @rachel_s_b on Twitter. I really wish I could use my full name on Twitter but unfortunately someone else has it (and annoyingly, as always seems to be the case, they have tweeted a total of once – grr!). When I first started using Twitter a few years ago, I wanted to remain fairly anonymous – recognisable to people I knew in real life, but not discoverable by name – so I used a daft nickname. A few months into my MA, I decided I might want to use Twitter in a professional capacity, so I changed it to something which included my first name and other initials; I was still reluctant to have my full name on there. Like many people of my generation, I started using the internet as a young teenager, in the days of chat rooms and forums but long before Facebook, and the dangers of revealing anything online that could identify us in real life were drummed into us by our parents, teachers and the media. In more recent years, we have been warned to be careful about what we put online because it never really goes away, and is only a few clicks away from the eyes of a potential employer. All of this means that I have found it really difficult to break out of the mentality that I should remain anonymous for my own good, and to feel even vaguely OK about putting my full name to my public online profiles (and even now it freaks me out a bit when my blog stats show that someone searched for something like my name “and new professionals” or “dissertation” – that’s someone who knows who I am and is looking for something about me). I think the breakthrough came when I became a CILIP blogger; one of the criteria that you have to meet is to clearly identify who you are on your blog, so I added my surname to my first name on my blog homepage. From that point on I was never going to be difficult to find elsewhere – my Twitter feed appears on my blog homepage so that is easily discovered by someone reading it – so I decided to go ahead and add my full name to my Twitter profile. The whole point of LinkedIn is to market yourself and to make contacts, so it seemed pointless using anything except my full name. Nothing bad has (yet!) come of having my full name on my profiles, so now I am wishing that, in the interests of consistency and easy recognition, I could use my full name as my Twitter handle. However, as I said, I do have my full name in my profile information, and it’s not as if the two are vastly dissimilar, so I don’t think this will cause any problems in my personal brand. It is frustrating though!
When it comes to photographs, however, my efforts are poor! I have a major problem with photographs, in that I am extremely unphotogenic! Approximately 99% of the photos of me that exist make me cringe. I tend to deal with this by using a slightly pretentious one where I am looking away from the camera (as I do for my blog and LinkedIn), or by making use of my recent discovery that sunglasses can make my face vaguely photographable (see Twitter). I know that in the interests of recognition I should be using one in which I am looking straight at the camera, but honestly, I would just look awful – not an image I’d want to portray! I have tried to use face shots in my profiles in the past, but I hate them so much that eventually I crack and remove them. I have put a photo of myself into a blog-post in the past, to illustrate it, but I was OK with that because I knew the post would slip down the page eventually – it wasn’t like a profile picture that you see every time you log on! I have no idea what to do about this one. I suppose I could make some poor soul stand there for ages taking headshots of me until I find one that I can bear to make public! What do you think – do you think it’s a problem that you don’t see my face properly on Twitter or my blog or LinkedIn?
I definitely take the “profersonal” approach on Twitter, mixing library-related stuff with my love of Beyonce, cider, Lady Gaga, tattoos and volcanoes, among other things! I think I get the balance about right (although my followers may disagree!). I always like to see people tweet about their other thoughts, loves, activities and interests, as well as the professional stuff; we are all more than just librarians, after all! As I have said many times now, I am a firm believer that talking about hobbies, football, anything really, in order to make friends, is just a good a way of networking as making more formal professional contacts through discussing professional issues, and pretty much everyone who I follow seems able to do both very well. With my blog, however, I try not to let the non-library aspects of my life creep in; with the CILIP blogger badge, I feel very much that my blog should be for professional issues, thoughts and discussion only, as it goes through to the CILIP members blog landscape, on which, I presume, visitors will expect to find professional blogs. I am thinking of starting a non-library blog for other writing that I’d like to do (I am going on holiday alone for the first time next week and think that I may well come back with lots of tips for other solo holidaymakers, but I don’t think my current blog is the appropriate place for that), although then I worry about fragmenting my online identity, bringing a non-professional presence into the mix!
I really fall down on my visual brand. As I said earlier, I just don’t have the patience to make my blog or Twitter look nice! To be honest, I remain unconvinced that this aspect of my visual brand is important. I don’t really notice other peoples’ blog backgrounds (sorry!) – I am there to read and maybe comment, and that’s it. What I do think is important though is ensuring that you can be recognised, and that all aspects of your online presence can be easily found. I try to do this through linking everything; a link to my blog on Twitter, my Twitter feed featured on my blog, my Twitter name and blog URL in my LISNPN and LinkedIn profiles. However, I think I am going to investigate Flavors, or something similar, as a means of bringing as much as possible into one place, the URL for which I can then distribute. Now that I have started publishing, I also want to find a way of bringing a list of publications and conference papers into my online presence too.
I Google myself fairly frequently, and have done for years. Until fairly recently, the results were dominated by a lady tattooist in Hollywood, California. Since I published an article and was selected as a New Professionals Conference speaker, I have started to creep further into the results. Now the majority of the results on the first couple of pages are me; various Tweets, my blog, my LinkedIn profile, LISNPN, Lanyrd, bits and bobs from various CDG newsletters (bet the tattooist is thrilled if she Googles her name these days!). My Twitter profile is the first result, which emphasises to me the importance of keeping it as something that I wouldn’t mind people in high places seeing. My blog doesn’t appear until the second page, but when it was new it didn’t appear until much further down, so maybe the more I blog the higher it’ll climb. I was pleased to see that the 5th result was my “speaker profile” on the CDG for the New Professionals Conference, as that tells people a lot of what they should know about me, as well as including my email address for easy contact. There’s nothing that appears in the first 10 pages of results which I wouldn’t want people to see, so I’m comfortable with what appears when someone Googles me. Googling my name plus “librarian” brings my blog up to the first page of results, my dissertation up to the third, and, excitingly, a blog post praising my New Professionals Conference paper appears at the top of the fourth page! I could spend hours trawling through Google to see what else is there now!
Writing this post has actually helped me realise that my personal brand is perhaps not in as poor a state as I thought. I definitely think I need to work on consistency and recognition, however, and, as I said, I’m going to look into tools to help me do this. Is there anything you’d like to say about my personal brand? Does it matter that you can’t see my face properly in my profile photos? Do my non-professional Tweets irritate you? All comments and criticism welcomed!