We work hard to build our personal brands–perhaps to a fault. We scrub our Facebook pages. We scrape our knuckles on every possible social media platform. We struggle to create original content, comments, tweets, and posts. We labor to create an individual voice, leaving the echo chamber and “yes man” thoughts to others.
And in one moment…we can blow it all up.
Here are five ways we kill our personal brand, and solutions that enable us to avoid these online hazards:
1. Being deliberately confrontational
Right up until you hit the publish/send/tweet button you can write anything you want. Often, however, that’s where we should stop. Calling someone out, openly disrespecting someone else’s work or opinions, or submitting a comment that only serves to cause an argument–or in any other way being a troll–is ultimately bad for your personal brand.
Solution: You do not have to agree with everyone; in fact, it’s impossible to do so. However, you can go out of your way to show you respect the thoughts of others–and extend the conversation through constructive thoughts–by always taking the high road when confrontation rears its ugly head.
2. Polarizing content
A form of deliberate confrontation is generating content sure to force people to take a side. Content regarding politics, religion, protests (think Occupy Wall Street) and wildly unpopular personal beliefs can turn best friends and followers into enemies, and champions and mentors into strangers.
Solution: Keep inside thoughts inside. . . period. Write that cathartic blog and therapeutic comment–and then delete it. If you wouldn’t say it out loud, it shouldn’t show up in digital format, either. The litmus test: if the content you are about to post feels slimy, angry, uncomfortable, or hateful: pass.
3. Talking about YOU all the time
Nothing is more annoying than someone who always talks about themselves–mostly because those people turn out to be the spammers of the world. They frequently refer to themselves as an “expert”, “guru”, or a “ninja”–and are often the ones who send DMs on Twitter selling you product before even trying to build a relationship.
Solution: Strive to present a balanced personal brand that tells the stories of those around you, supports the efforts of your allies and partners and shows your ability to consistently engage with others. When others see your self-less efforts the process goes full circle; they become your champions, enabling you to talk less . . . about you.
4. Pivoting over and over…and over
This happens far more often than one would expect; especially for those of us still trying to find our passions and direction in life. We openly gush (think Tom Cruise on Oprah’s couch) about our new direction, the passion of the day, or our great new start-up. We are SO excited. And then we never, ever talk about it again. Trouble is that our digital footprint is an evidence locker–and everyone around us is fully aware that we can’t seem to finish anything we start.
Solution: First, realize the Internet is not your personal journal–and the world may not be ready for your contiguous thoughts. Be cautious, even stealthy, about your plans and what keeps you awake all night because you’re just so excited. If you still feel the same way tomorrow, or next week–and after you have something more than just an idea–then, and only then, talk about it online.
5. Not owning a mistake
In a moment of weakness, you’ve slipped–maybe you’ve been deliberately confrontational, posted polarizing content, become a spammer of all things you, or have pivoted more times than a politician caught tweeting “clad in only a towel” pictures. Worse yet, you now compound the problem by sticking your head in the sand. You hope the problem will just go away, without input from you. Trust me: this didn’t work for Netflix, Klout, or those politicians. It won’t work for you either.
Solution: Simple: own the problem. Admit you made a mistake. Tell everyone impacted–in a very public, sincere manner, and without offering excuses–that you know you crossed the line. Take your time, involve your mentors, and do it right, the first time.
Be original. Be creative. Show yourself as a confident leader–even a thought leader.
And make sure you avoid these five killer mistakes as you create, define, and polish your personal brand.
Mark Babbitt, the CEO and Founder of YouTern, is a serial entrepreneur and mentor and a passionate supporter of Gen Y talent. Mark contributes to 12Most.com, Glassdoor and Business Insider. He has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Mashable, Forbes and Under30CEO regarding internships, higher education’s role in preparing emerging talent for the workforce and career development. Recently, Mark was honored to be named to GenJuice’s list of “Top 100 Most Desirable Mentors”. You can contact Mark via email or on Twitter:@YouTernMark.