Monday, 16 September 2013

What’s my whuffie? #socialmediacourse

Personal brand has become quite an important issue, especially within businesses where the core of the business is based on knowledge, experience and good service. We live in an attention economy where social capital, trust and relationships will be the core of the business.

Social media plays as a stage to communicate different identities. You represent your organisation, you represent your personal and professional identities. Sometimes these identities are not very clear, and you represent not only yourself as a person but also as a professional and a member of an organisation. Maybe it’s a bit artificial to say that you could keep these different identities totally separated. For instance, when thinking about my professional and personal identity, I have to say that quite often I don’t make a big difference between them. For me a consulting business is about creating connections with people. And being connected goes beyond the official professional label. As a consultant I am also a human and I like to meet other people as humans too.

The other side of the story is that when the different identities get mixed, you have to be more conscious about your behaviour. Having your colleagues, managers and clients as your Facebook friends probably changes your behaviour from really personal to more professional, I guess. Also, there's a lot of questioning if people are truly themselves or do that instead build a more ideal image of themselves. Maybe some people are more strategic in this sense. For me, authenticity is important, and I respect people who seem to be "real".

Building a personal brand takes time, determination and systematic work. It has been interesting to follow different fashion and lifestyle blogs where something that was meant to be a hobby becomes a job, and the blogger develops a clear personal brand that is followed by thousands. At the same time I have seen the darker side as well. As your reputation gets bigger and your publicity increases, the more carefully your actions are followed. Negative feedback, criticism, rumours, badmouthing, digging stuff from your personal life… Although this is the minus side of building a personal brand, I wouldn’t like to take it as the truth, ”you have a public blog so you just have to take it”. No, bad behaviour is not OK in any circumstances, not even in social media.

But due to my profession I have been thinking about my personal brand and the value I create to my clients and colleagues. I would lie if I said it didn’t matter. People usually buy consultancy services based on their previous experience with you, your references and feedback, if they like you and what you have to offer, and so on. It’s about your reputation. In social media it means you are recognazible based on your reliable ’whuffie’. 

The concept of whuffie originates from Cory Doctorow’s science fiction novel Down and out in the Magic Kingdom, where whuffie is the reputation-based currency of future. Personal reputation, whuffie, is based on how nice, influencing and connected/networked you are. People do business only with those whose whuffie scores are high.

Although I think I have taken some steps towards developing my personal brand, I haven’t done any systematic work or plans for it. I hope this course in social media will help me to get my head around it. For me being in social media is about sharing interesting stuff, being connected and having fun. I don’t want to create a burden for myself by thinking too much about that I ’must’ or I ’have to’.

Luoma-Aho, 2010. Sosiaalinen media: mennäkö vai eikö mennä (In Finnish: Socal Media - to go or not to go? Tiedosta 2/2010, s. 8 - 11; julkaistu


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