|Self-Portrait – Vincent van Gogh|
I believe this strongly about the Internet: There is no such thing as a brand.
To me, a brand is a cultivated fiction, it’s an image spun from a grain of truth. You hear about athletes and celebrities cultivating brands, whether it’s a tough-guy image or a nice-guy image or one of dispassionate competency. Is it true? Doesn’t really matter. It’s a public front.
As I alluded to in my post on LeBron James, brand sorcery used to work in the TV era, but not anymore. The Internet doesn’t tolerate a false front. It loves loves loves nothing more than to expose the truth and stomp all over “brands,” as Tiger Woods and Anthony Weiner have discovered all too keenly.
The only, and I mean only way to approach a world of social media is with honesty, transparency, and authenticity. You can’t fake out the Internet for long.
And it’s not even about morality – look at how the Internet has (mostly) embraced Charlie Sheen and denigrated LeBron James. The key difference is authenticity.
For me personally, this blog reflects my real life. The personality I express here is me, the opinions are my own, and the topics I post about are the things I’m thinking about. Sure, I maintain a certain professional decorum (usually) and I don’t divulge my deepest darkest thoughts (usually) but this isn’t a false front. This is me.
Now that I’m an author, people have suggested that I should change up my “brand” – I should start a blog that appeals to a more middle grade audience, I should start a separate blog for self-promotion, I should stop talking so much about my own book.
And sure, I could try and change up my “brand.” But I don’t think it would work, because it wouldn’t be real. This blog has always reflected where I am in my personal and professional life. I was an agent, so I blogged about agenting. Now have a book out, so I talk about my book. That’s where my head is at. I can only speak with authority on the actual things I’m thinking about.
My advice for people who are trying to carve out their own space in social media is not to think about what you think your blog or your Twitter presence should be, but rather to embrace who you really are. Be yourself. Let your own voice shine through. Lots of people have ideas about what you should be, but you can only be who you are.
The only brand you’ve got is you.
@Katherine Hyde: I understand how you feel and often feel that same way myself. But unfortunately, unless your social media presence is password-protected, I fear that that is naive thinking on your part. In this day and age of over-exposure and public entitlement to know about the private lives of anyone in the public eye, when a google search of an author's name will pop up all your social media-expressed opinions, your readers will not be content to "get to know the writerly side of you through your books alone." And, in fact, they may be offended/disagree with your opinions to the point of not wanting to read your books further. And maybe that's fine with you (and fair enough if it is), but with the industry where it is, it's probably not fine with your agent/publisher. So if you really want to be ENTIRELY yourself and if that may alienate future paying customers, then I'd suggest upping your privacy settings 🙂
I remember reading something about how actors in the 30s/40s/50s never had to deal with the invasion of privacy that celebs these days do and so their many scandals remained private. Such is not our life these days.
Had to laugh at Remus' comment:
"How can I be myself if I'm a flawed human being? If I'm authentically creepy, prejudiced or just simply an asshole then all I am capable of making is a crappy brand that people will shun."
#1 Today, there are many people who have the brand called "creepy, prejudiced, asshole." And they're managed to create quite a celebrity out of it.
#2 It's their choice. They get to be whoever they want to be.
#3 They can always change.
#4 Slapping a fake brand of "adorable, accepting, humanitarian" on top of creepiness doesn't actually fool many people.
#5 And yet still many people choose to be the villains of their own lives. Colorful, aren't they?
Keith Robinson says
Just found your blog (came in via the post about prologues). I had a dilemma recently about what I should blog about. Like you, my target audience is middle grade and maybe young adult. But I don't write my blog for that age group; I write for adults and probably other writers.
I asked readers what THEY want me to blog about, and the few that responded were adults and they already liked what I was doing. So that answered that. I think.
I don't know about branding; I just write what I feel might be vaguely interesting for anyone who reads author blogs. I refuse to mention what my cat did this morning or my favorite things to eat; I just talk about writing related subjects. I mix it up a bit, but generally follow a theme — which is that I'm a writer peddling my wares and trying to get by. 🙂