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Personal Branding in Social Circles – Are You the Brand or Is Your Persona?

I’ve been active in social media and the tech community at large for a number of years now. I spend my days as a collaboration engineer for a reseller, and my personal time as a freelance technical trainer and a technology evangelist of sorts. I like to talk about things that catch my interest, and as time has gone by, that has evolved quite a bit.   Having a healthy dose of ADHD helps as well.

Over the years I’ve created ‘playful’ brandings for myself for use in social circles such as Twitter and the like, representative of the current technology I’m active in. When I decided to deep dive into Cisco voice technology I rebranded myself @ciscovoicedude, a few years later as technology evolved I decided that it was getting a bit dated and I took on the persona of @Collab_Ninja, which in my mind reflects both the progress of collaboration technology as well as my passion for learning. These personas have never been ‘who I am’ nor are they ‘commercial’ in nature – they were simply fun playthings, that fit at the time what I was focused on, but one thing has shown itself to repeat – they wear out; they expire.

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One thing that’s become apparent to me over the last couple of years is that there is no permanence to these personas, and when I make a slight course-correction in the trajectory of life, it makes me feel like I’m having to reinvent myself with my social identity. I’m starting to realize the shortcoming in this approach, and want to make one final course correction to get things back on track – identifying myself as me. After all, it’s not these playful personas who define who I am – it’s me. My interests are always going to change and evolve as technology evolves, and I don’t want to have to continually reinvent my social identity every time that happens.  I also don’t want to be the guy walking around in 2016 with the big  3.5″ floppy disk or the Novell CNE tattoo on his arm. I want to be the dynamic, ever-evolving, and ever-growing person, and I want my social brand to do the same, but with permanence.

Recently, it’s come to my attention that another party is interested in using one of the playthings I identify with in a commercial fashion, and it got me thinking about clarity of identity, confusion for those I interact with knowing who is me, and who is not. It was at that point (and a night of sleeping on it) that I decided that it wasn’t the playful persona who was my personal brand; it’s ME who is the personal brand, and it’s that persona – the persona of ME, that I should be building and investing in.  Whatever creative marketing idea or plaything of the moment I choose to use is irrelevant, and doesn’t define who I am.

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Don’t get me wrong – I’ve got no bad blood for the individual who wants to take on this plaything as an identity, and in fact, I wish him the best of luck. Even though many of our interests are common, he’s got bigger and better plans for the plaything than I will ever fully pursue. It’ll be fun to watch his idea evolve, and see what he does with it.  But with that said, I don’t want there to be confusion as to who I am, what I stand for, or what I’m affiliated with, hence my motivation to re-evaluate what makes my personal social brand, and how I ‘rep it’ in the community.

I hope that by sharing my recent enlightenment and reconsideration of myself, that you’ll take the time to evaluate your own social branding and how you represent yourself to the world.   Do you want to be reliant on your persona, or should you be out there representing YOU?

About the Author

Joshua Kittle is a collaboration engineer for a Cisco partner by day, content developer for Pluralsight and technology enthusiast by night, based in Columbus, Ohio.  His interests include unified communications, social media, and community engagement. You can find Josh on Twitter as @joshuarkittle, formerly @Collab_Ninja and @ciscovoicedude

Photo credit: Frédéric BissonAnnaHernán Piñera

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