My name is Adam Earnheardt. My Facebook profile is open to the public under this name. My Twitter handle is @adamearn. Feel free to follow me or to friend me, I’m always looking to expand my digital footprint.
This is because, I am a shameless self-promoter and I believe this is a good thing. Social media has provided a free platform for marketing myself, my employer (Youngstown State University) and my discipline (communication) to 10,000+ followers on Twitter and friends on Facebook who seem interested in reading my posts.
Yes, I am a shameless self-promoter and I am working on my individual brand every time I log in.
Branding is a term we typically associate with products like facial tissues, tires and processed cheese spreads (I love processed cheese spreads). Whole teams of business experts spend resources trying to get consumers to distinguish between their product and other similar products. They are trying to make people want to connect with the product. This connection will translate into sales.
The same concept applies to our social media identities. However, we are not always aware we are a brand until it is too late. Perhaps you’ve heard of Twitter user “theconnor”, who was happy she had just landed a well-paid job from computer giant, Cisco. “theconnor” was unsure whether or not to accept the job. She tweeted “Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work.”
Soon after that tweet was sent, Cisco rescinded the employment offer. One Cisco employee tweeted, “Who is the hiring manager? I’m sure they would love to know you will hate the work. We here at Cisco are versed in the web.” Since then, “theconnor” has set her Twitter account and tweets to private, most likely as an attempt to repair her online identity. But what should have been a private decision was discussed in public and now she has to deal with a major blow to her “brand” as a potential employee.
So, how do you create a brand for yourself? Here are a few quick tips to help you.
1. Stick to your point. You’re good at something. Quilting? Balloon animals? Soccer? Tell people about it, and tell them often – using social media. The occasional post about your kids or morning cup of joe won’t harm your brand. But if you have good, useful information, share it with the world and eventually your fans will find you.
2. Audience is everything. Be sure to keep every potential audience members in mind when drafting that witty reportage. Is your mom or dad reading? Chances are your next boss or client is. Write for every audience member, even if you think some audiences won’t care (and chances are, mom or dad will read everything you write – and think that it’s amazing).
3. Be your brand. Award-winning brand strategist David Brier once said “if you love your brand, set it free.” Of course, he was referring to a company brand, but the same holds true for self-branding. If you love yourself, and think you have something to say, say it – using social media.
4. Use social media (often). 90% of what we can do with social media is free. Still very few people use social media effectively for self-branding. With over 200 social media platforms out there, you’re bound to find something you like. Find it, sign up for it, use it, and stick with it.
I’ll never reach Katy Perry status (last count has @katyperry at about 54 million followers). That’s okay. I don’t know if I want that kind of responsibility. But my Twitter followers expect something from my tweets. They expect to read my interpretation of the latest social media news and innovations. They expect retweets of people I follow who research and write about social media. They expect the occasional tweet about sports, athletes and fans (my other research interest). They expect a few tweets about Youngstown State (okay, more than a few).
One follower once retweeted one of my tweets which read "I wonder if people really know the difference between pro-social media and anti-social media #socialmedia." This led to an online discussion with about 4 or 5 other Twitter users about appropriate social media use. Those users now follow me and we communicate regularly about social media issues.
While I may not be retweeted as much as Lady Gaga (41 millions followers) or Barack Obama (43 million followers), it was pretty gratifying to see someone care enough about what I had to say to share it with his followers. It led to more connections and, for me, a stronger brand.
The next time you’re tweeting or posting to Facebook, remember that you are a brand. The best person to promote that brand is you. Some of us are really good at this, and some are really bad. The point is we can all be a little bit better. My hope is that this column will help us all to be shameless self-promoters – and be really good at it.
~ Dr. Adam Earnheardt is chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University. You can follow him on Twitter at @adamearn.
~ A version of this post appeared in The Vindicator, Sunday, June 29, 2014 in a section entitled "Connected." My thanks to Todd Franko and The Vindicator staff for publishing my thoughts.
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is professor of communication studies the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA where he also directs the graduate program in professional communication. He researches and writes about communication and relationships, parenting and sports. He writes a weekly column for The Vindicator and Tribune-Chronicle newspapers on social media and society.