I have this running dialogue going on with Bon of “Crib Chronicles,” who besides being a wonderful writer, is doing post-graduate work on digital identity and cyborgology (!), which are fancy words for investigating social media in more academic terms. I like to argue with her because she writes a lot about “branding,” even though she herself admits that she doesn’t like the word.
In the past, Bon has tried to explain branding like this —
branding is what is read on to you, how you are perceived, what you signify in the eyes of everybody else. it is not you, but a version of you. it is an act, and a group act, one that does not exist without a network of some sort to reflect and amplify it. it is ephemeral, a wisp on the wind. it is not about content or truth. it is about image and perceived capacity.
(own it, cribchronicles.com, June 8th, 2010)
This is interesting, but to me the concept of branding is over-hyped. It is like reading a novel and focusing on the color of the character’s hat. When I write a story, I worry less about the perception of others than the character’s interior life. What is he thinking? Why is he acting that way? I am talking about that old-fashioned actor’s mantra of “motivation.”
I realize that I brand myself online all the time. Some love me. Others have unfollowed me a long time ago. My blogging “success” or “failure” may be related to this “brand,” but who cares? None of this is getting to the heart of who I am. What makes me tick? What is my motivation? That’s the interesting stuff. I never take any of your “brands” at face value.
I like to analyze my motivations, just like I would with a character in a book. It is a good exercise, and sometimes you can obtain surprising answers.
For example, tonight I am thinking about my last post. Have you read it? In it, I suggested this one day writing retreat on the day before BlogHer.
What the hell was I thinking about? Why do I even suggest this?
Right off the back, you’ll notice that I said this “retreat” would be free. Talk about a terrible business concept! Clearly, this is not being done for the money.
OK, then maybe I am hungry for power or attention, molding this retreat in my own image, in an attempt to brand myself as a writing guru?
I don’t think so. Dealing with bloggers is a pain in the ass. I have no interests in running retreats. I have had enough experience with you cranky people just putting on that holiday concert every year. There’s very little glory in it.
I guess I could use this as a building blog, starting small, and then slowly making myself less available to the mob as I monetize my access to “the weak ties,” as discussed by Julian Smith, co-author with Chris Brogan’s of “Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust.”
I wish I could tell you that was true. I’d like to have such a clear-headed business mind. My motivation is honestly so lame that I guarantee you that I will get trolls on this post because of it.
I didn’t like BlogHer last year. It was too crowded and everyone was running all over the place. I only got to speak to some of my favorite people for five minutes before they sped off again to some private party. I’m not even sure I want to go to San Diego this year, but if I do go, I’ll ONLY do it if a few bloggers that I know come a day earlier, so I can have some quality time with them, talking about writing and blogging.
That was my motivation for the retreat idea. I was too shy to ask others for what I really wanted in person. Instead, I constructed an entire “retreat” as an excuse to get someone like my friend Schmutzie to arrive in San Diego a day early.
That’s my brand.