The social CV of brand you

Steve Sammartino writes that, while cultivating a profile online takes effort, it gives the potential for total control of one’s identity.

I imagine when free public education first arrived it was a bit unsettling for people. Those who were already working away happily in their pre-industrial era lives would have seen it as some kind of curiosity.

Marketing issue badge The Social issueRemembering that before the industrial dawn education was reserved for the fortunate few who could afford it, while most people would simply learn the skills their mother or father could hand down. They’d serve their apprenticeship and then partake in the family trade or microbusiness.

But this system started to change during the Industrial Revolution when workers who knew writing, reading and arithmetic where needed to fill the factory floors. Free public education arrived and eventually became a legal mandate. Post-industrial children got plugged straight into the educational industrial complex.

Fast-forward to now and we’ve got a similar situation on our hands – new tools of connection and education have arrived. The way we connect, learn and develop credentials is being turned upside down.

While digital natives have little problem with moving up the learning curve of using and connecting, it seems few have realised these social tools are very different from a phone or teenage hangout. They are quickly becoming a tool of judgement, maybe even more so than a formal education.

This puts us squarely in an era of ‘single person media organisations.’ Whether we like it or not, we all now run our own media company. We have to manage our presence in social channels, much like we have had to manage our education. The way we participate, populate and curate our online presence has as much impact on our career as our education does – or, should we say, once did.

And while it sounds daunting that we now have to get a new set of ‘qualifications,’ the good news is that we now, for good or bad, live in the era of the 15-minute expert. Unless we’re a doctor or something important, we are as qualified as our social presence says we are. And this is something we can and should influence.

One of the most important tools to arrive out of social media is the new Automatic CV Generator tool. It’s a bit of a secret, not many people know about it. It’s a website in which you input your name and it automatically pulls up all your recent business activity, skills and projects. It’s called Google.

So while we may send someone a CV that we wrote, the real CV potential employees and business partners care about are the results when they search your name. And it’s our choice what they find. How good is that! We can recreate our skills and persona based on what we feed into the internet machine. Our brand isn’t who we worked for and what positions we held. These days it is what we say it is.

For all its goodness, Google has a lot of flaws in it. It has some significant biases. It favours recency. It favours reputable web pages, say when you are featured in a news article. It prefers www.yourname.com to www.facebook.com/yourname.

What this means is that if we pay attention we can build our brand. We can become an expert in our desired area. The work we choose to publish under our name and our forums will bubble to the top of the search for us. And we all know people rarely search beyond the first page.

What people see is what I want them to see and, while I don’t have anything to hide, I certainly have key projects that I’m proud of and want to be the leaders for brand Sammartino. It’s a simple process of proving passion through output. Proving ability through projects.

This kind of activity is rewarded by search engines. In a very short period of time our own published works (social, blogging, video, tweeting, you name it) can very quickly grow our personal brand and even change perceptions of expertise. We can renovate our lives.

Related: So online persona is a powerful tool. But Mark Ritson reckons marketers are being fed bullshit about social media »

I often tell students that their digital footprint is more important than their degree. That they ought to prove to potential employers that marketing is more than their degree. That they should prove they actually like it enough to create work and thoughts in their spare time.

Once we understand the need to build our personal brands there are a few important strategic rules we need to follow.

 

1. It’s a game of tools

We can never be an expert at all tools. It takes too much effort to move up the learning curve. Social media presence is like sport. If you play them all, it’s hard to get good at them without losing focus on your actual projects. Choose a few and master them.

 

2. All tools are created equal

If the social tool in question is big enough for you to know about it, then you can extract enough value out of it. The more you give the more you get. We also need to make sure our content matches the context of where we are publishing.

 

3. Build your brand, not theirs

Make sure the investment you make is in an identity, philosophy and name you can take with you. If we’ve learned anything in the social web era, it’s that the tools change, morph and even die. We need to be able to jump ship, and it’s good to bring what you’ve built with you – which should be your audience. Facebook replaced Myspace. Snapchat will probably replace Twitter. We need to be loyal to our brands, not theirs.

 

4. Know whose garden it is

If we grow our vegetables in someone else’s garden, then they can change the rules without notice. All our effort in planting, managing and maintaining our garden can all be for nothing when they pull up the roots. We’ve seen it with Facebook, where brands that invested large sums of money getting ‘likes’ for their brands on Facebook now face organic reach to their fans of less than 10%.

Facebook once promised direct access to a fan base built on its forum, and now the same brands have to pay to access their own asset! The algorithm got changed and no discussion was entered into. The greatest bait-and-switch in marketing history.

It all comes down to the question of access versus control.

We should never build our brands on open tools at the expense of building direct connections. Earning an audience on your own dotcom or blog or building an email list may be harder and slower, but it is worth the effort. It becomes a kind of digital insurance policy.

No matter what happens we maintain a direct relationship, and have control over system and interactions. It’s a marketer’s dream, and yet so few people and companies understand the power this creates. This shift we are living through is about connection and attention.

Attention is the scarcest resource in today’s economy. Once we’ve worked hard to gain someone’s attention, we should also ensure it’s in a place where our biggest asset can’t be taken away from us.

More than ever we need to build our own brands. And if we can’t build one for ourselves, what chance do we have of building one for the companies we work for?

* * * * *

Steve Sammartino is a regular contributor to Marketing mag. Purchase a subscription and never miss his columns

* * * * *

Steve Sammartino
BY Steve Sammartino ON 18 May 2016
After investing 15 years in managing some of the world's biggest brands, Steve took his marketing mindset into the entrepreneurial space. His ventures include rentoid.com, an air-powered car made of Lego and he’s the co-founder  of surfing technology company Sneaky Surf. He blogs at Stevesammartino.com, is a regular technology commentator on the ABC and his best-selling book The Great Fragmentation has been translated into multiple languages. His breadth of experience provides a unique perspective on the future of marketing.