Originally, I started this blog to ensure that professional friends in Boston wouldn’t forget about me. After all, it was my wife’s and my intention to return to Boston in a few years’ time. And I wanted to be sure that my network of contacts remained alive and well. I knew that this network would be a huge determinant of my future job prospects in Boston.
But blogging has grown into something more.
First, I realized that on Facebook, I have personal friends, family and some friends borne of business relationships. And that many of my blog readers come from that community. In fact, I occasionally post links to a blog entry on Facebook if I think those friends will enjoy it.
Then there’s LinkedIn. My first foray into social networks years ago. Here, a combination of close and less close business relationships. And another source of blog readers. So I occasionally post links to blog entries here, too. But for different reasons, such as blog posts that are strictly business in nature.
Once I got my blogging underway, and experimented with driving readership from networks on Facebook and LinkedIn, I couldn’t help but be me; I started measuring the blog traffic, using basic tools that come with the blog software. You think about what types of posts cause people to leave comments. Or what days of the week solicit the most visitors. Etc. Etc.
Then, the inevitable.
The narcissistic, indulgent, inevitable event: you Google yourself. “Why can’t anyone find me on Google?!?”, you wonder. Like it’s somehow important. Then you start learning about search engines and how they do, or don’t, show you in the results. “Who the hell are these other Don MacLennans”? It’s not like it’s a common name, after all.
By now, you realize the self-involved, slippery slope you’re hurtling down (how’s that for alliteration?). And you must arrest your slide.
Why, after all, are you doing this?
And that’s when you realize you have entered the business of brand management. Everybody has a brand. We just call it “reputation”. And we are constantly defining our brand on the basis of how we use social media. Sure, uploading photos from the weekend, or teasing a friend online, are innocent acts of Facebook-ing. But if you’re like me, you probably have members of your network that could somehow affect your business reputation too. You start thinking a bit more clearly about which networks to join, who you connect with in each, and – especially – what types of information you expose about yourself.
The articles are starting to show up in the media about remorseful 20-somethings who have learned to regret the extreme transparency of their online lives. In the end, something personal got held against them.
Another anecdote: an executive of a former employer made liberal use of the online world to espouse his religious beliefs. And wrote in tortured terms about how he saw his spirituality as being intertwined with his work. Please. Unless you happen to agree with his religious sect, this is not a good thing for his reputation.
So there are downsides to the online world. But what about the upside?
Back to my original premise about staying in touch with Bostonians. It seems to be working. And I realize that if I invest in learning a little about these tools, I can control how I’m seen in the online world.
Meanwhile, I’m connected with hundreds of people I would not otherwise remain in touch with. They are friends for a reason; I like them. I just don’t have time for each one at frequent intervals. Too many phone calls and emails required!
By blogging, I am also deepening my network’s understanding of me. Presumably, they see me as somewhat thoughtful, or funny, or cool to know because I live in a cool city overseas.
Therefore, my “brand” is growing, and I am (mostly) in control. I bet it pays off.