Anyone who knows me well knows that helping people understand, grow and protect their personal brands online is something I’ve been committed to for some time. I’ve written numerous posts on the subject, including these two recent ones – Thinking it won’t happen to you? Dumb idea and Don’t let social make you stupid – along with a popular 4-part series called “Promoting and growing brands in the digital age” that I started writing way back in 2007 (Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4).

While nearly all of the advice I provided in these posts is still valuable (if I may say so myself), just as much or more has changed since then, particularly when it comes to who can now see, capture, process and act upon the information we’re all sharing every day. How hard would it be for someone with a mighty set of algorithms and a big server to answer these questions about you right now?

  Where do you live?
  Where do you shop?
  What do you look like?
  What do you drive?
  How much did your home cost?
  How much do you spend on clothes/groceries/electronics?
  Where did you go to school/where do your kids go to school?
  Where do you vacation and party? What’s your favorite drink?
  How far are your favorite stores from your home and office?
  Who are your friends?
  What are your favorite restaurants? Where do you eat out most often?

The answer is that it wouldn’t be very hard at all for a capable person or company to harvest the answers to these and many more questions about you, and to mix and match them in an infinite number of ways in order to predict what you might do, where you might go and what you might want, watch or buy next.

Is this what we’ve signed up for, or do we just not think about it? Are we paying enough attention to the idea that everything we like, share, post and repost, pin or repin, tweet or retweet, Instagram or “re-gram” is being used to create profiles of each of us, and that the value of these profiles goes far beyond what Amazon might try to see us next?

Mark Cuban is thinking about it, and he believes that the biggest mistake we are making in social media is letting the content we create live forever [If you cannot see the video interview with Mark below, watch it HERE. It’s a must-see].  His point of view is that looking back at the days when privacy worries were focused on cookies is going to appear quaint when the 0s and 1s we throw off become the basis of psychological profiles that are used in pervasive and invasive ways that we cannot control.

You’ll go to a job interview, and the company will have a psychological profile of you based on your online activity. You’ll get sued, and the opposing lawyer will share where and what you’ve posted, along with an analysis saying that your activity looks that of a person who was convicted of xyz crime, and so there must be a link.  You’ll get pulled over for speeding, and the officer will have reviewed an analysis that scored how likely you are to have committed various crimes, or be drunk, or to have seen a therapist or have a weapon in the car before he even walks up to your window.

We already know that these scenarios are not far-fetched.  In the days when I first began writing about personal branding, one of the most important lessons I taught was the importance of creating your own content in order to create and present the narrative you want.  Now that benefit must be balanced with what others can do with the intelligence you produce.

I have tweeted over 13,000 times since joining Twitter in 2008.  How many do I remember? How many feature some tiny tidbit that could be used in a way I did not intend?  How important is it that I keep everything I tweeted in February 2010?  The answers are Not many, Probably several and Not at all.  To that end, I’ve begun erasing old tweets and am beginning to scrub away a bunch of old stuff.

If you handle this intelligently, such social cleansing is not likely to negatively impact your positive search results, but it is likely to limit what is unknowingly shared with others.  At least, that’s the hope: I for one would not bet someone’s life on the idea that anything on the Web can ever be fully erased, but you gotta start somewhere.

What if yesterday rewarded those with the biggest digital footprints possible, while tomorrow goes to those with the smallest?

P.S. Sure, Cuban is selling in this interview; Cuban sells like the rest of us breathe. That doesn’t mean he’s wrong.

Stretching More Than Dollars

October 1st, 2010

by Stephanie Fierman

It’s true that people love certain brands, and it can be awfully expensive to launch new ones.  I started thinking about this after seeing some slightly off-kilter commercials: could it be that established brands are trying to extract value by presenting new uses for existing products?

Witness the following:

* EGGO ON THE GO-GO.  Working three jobs to pay the mortgage? No time to sit down for breakfast? No problem – take Eggo waffles with you! Last I checked, butter and syrup are a real pain on the subway, so this ad shows kids and adults running out the door with waffles in their hands.  A kid is just running with – you know, a plain ol’ waffle – and a woman says that she takes hers with just a “smudge” of (what looks like strawberry) cream cheese.  A smudge? What’s a smudge? And is that waffle toasted? Because raw would be gross, but cold and toasted and hard would be, well, gross… And then you’ve got the smudge… Eeeee!!

* I LOVE THE SMELL OF ASPIRIN IN THE MORNING. Then there’s Bayer A.M. A television ad features a working dad moving in slo-mo while the voiceover asks whether you’ve ever needed a little get-up-and-go in the morning. He takes Bayer A.M. – “an extra-strength pain reliever with alertness aid specially formulated to fight morning pain and fatigue” – and suddenly he’s racing out the door. Specially formulated! My goodness, what is this magic drug?  That would be caffeine – 65 mg of caffeine in each tablet. Less than 1 cup of coffee. So much for pharmacological breakthroughs.

* GOOD DIGESTION FOR DESSERT. Lastly, there’s Yoplait positioning yogurt as dessert. This was new to me, but apparently Yoplait actually sold “dessert yogurt” back in the 80s.  I don’t know – it’s hard to ponder “dessert!” when all I can think of is Jamie Lee Curtis and those animations of little microbes floating around in my gut.  Maybe it’s just me.

There’s nothing wrong with any of these, of course; one could say they actually represent the creativity of the folks behind these brands.  But there are limits: when they start suggesting that we use Stayfree Ultra-Thins as shoe insoles, I’m outta here.

 

 

by Stephanie Fierman

I’ve been a passionate advocate of online personal branding and reputation management since 2007.  That was the year, as some of you know, that I had a personal experience with the power of Google – a “digi-mugging,” if you will.  Or maybe a “Web-jacking.”  

Whatever we call it, it was the moment that I came to realize that the game had started without me.   I started a blog, wrote a 4-part series on the topic (Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4) and never looked back.  I’d discovered that I would need to manage my own brand online – not just as good offense but also good defense – and wanted to help other executives do the same.

How much time are you committing to managing your own personal brand today, and – if asked – what would you advise the majority of businesspeople who are only now getting hip to the digital world?

The ball’s already in play. It’s just a question of whether you’re on the field.

Everyone already has an online personal brand.  It’s just a question of who the brand manager is.  The Web isn’t waiting with a blank slate until you’re ready to pay attention to your online persona. Everyone’s already out there – because of a wedding announcement (from your current or former marriage), past interviews, industrial gossip or rumor, quotes, political contributions, publicly-available legal filings. These are all examples of content that is already living your public life online.  Is that acceptable to you?

Your resume is no longer your resume.  Google is your resume. Google is da bomb.  Around 75% of global Internet users, or 943.8 million people, used Google services in June 2010 – more than any other Web company in the world.  In the U.S., 66% of the core searches in July (or 10.3 billion of the 15.6 billion total) were conducted on Google.  Yahoo is a distance 2nd with 17%. There’s a lot of looking going on. 

In other words…

It’s not about what you do when you’re ready: it’s about what’s going on when you’re not paying attention.  45% of employers, for example, are using social networks to gather information on job candidates, and 35% say they’ve dismissed candidates based on information found there.  Usages is even higher in the recruiting community: 85% use search engines to research candidates, and  45% say they’ve eliminated candidates based on information found on the web.  

And I’m not only talking about proactive job search (i.e., offense).  Successful executives, I believe, are accustomed to thinking about what they want, what they can do next – Master of the Universe stuff.  If I decide to look for a new job, then I’ll start paying attention to this stuff.  What I try to get across to people is that everything we’re talking about – in this particular example, the employment category – is about defense as much as offense.  What about the company that’s looking to fill a job paying 30% more than you’re making now?  Its head of HR has heard your name and does a Google search on a Sunday afternoon.  What might he find about you? 

Let’s use Facebook as an example. 

In 2009, Facebook was the most popular online destination for snooping employers.  So what, you say, you haven’t done anything dumb.  You would never, for example, post some stupid photo to your profile (duh).  But are you tagged in photos posted by other people?  Has someone tagged you and two friends drinking at a party?  People drink at parties: you know you weren’t drunk and anyone judging one photo is an idiot.  Really?  Not to be paranoid, but… are you willing to gamble that a potential employer looking at the same snapshot would agree with you?  More than half of the employers who have knocked a candidate out of the running say that provocative photos are the #1 reason for doing so.

You’ve got to make sure that you have and keep a broad view of the field.

What about where you work right now?  What would your boss, your peers, your staffers or your HR department find out about you right now if they went to Google?  Ditto for clients, (current or potential) business partners, board search, trade associations and other entities you’re likely to care about.

If someone had been wandering my Twitter profile this past weekend, they would have found this attached to a tweet.  No context, just the photo.  Do I need this? What might it communicate to someone about this person’s judgment – or mine?

And P.S:  let’s remember that tweets are now searchable on Google.  I see some of the craziest… you get the point. 

How often do you check your Google results, anyway??  (Answer:  once a week, please.)

This is not to imply that everyone should have a presence everywhere.  Not all executives are good at stream-of-conscious thinking, or can shift from heavy issues to pecking out 140 characters on Twitter.  Additionally, many professionals will need to preliminarily determine what the online cross-over is, if any, between a “personal” voice and a professional one.  And lastly – cool factor aside – social media may not be the best way for a particular executive to attract desirable “followers” or “friends” at a particular moment in time.  I insist on good defense, but offense is in the eye of the beholder.

What play do you recommend, Coach?

When advising a relative newbie, here are a few pre-game thoughts:

Take time to understand the legal and regulatory environment that surrounds you, your organization (if relevant) and the content you may be publishing. Assume that what you say is discoverable in a lawsuit and subject to SEC and other requirements (like Reg FD).  Assume that everything is “on the record” and “in print” (and act accordingly).

Remember that what you say will last forever on the Web. One of my favorite quotes in this regard is “Tweet with caution, Facebook with care, 10 years from now it will still be out there”

Listen to the conversation about you and/or your company first.  Make your own observations before jumping in.

Find a safe place to practice like a Yammer. If you want to check out Twitter, consider signing up with a pseudonym first and tweeting about gardening or fly fishing or some other like topic. You must have your own account to read or follow a tweet stream; you do not need to expose your executive self  before you’re ready.

Once you’ve decided to put your helmet on, here are a few guidelines:

Musts:
* LinkedIn – Create a profile. You need one to study the site, and it’s the place right now for executives to find others

* Facebook – Create a profile if only to lay claim to your own name

* Use a single identifier everywhere. Stick to Matt Jones or Matt P. Jones or Matthew Paul Jones



Up a Notch:
* Twitter – Wander about after opening an account under a pseudonym, and use the site’s search engine liberally to get a feel for the ebb and flow of real-time business conversations

* Start a blog

* Register on sites that let you establish a PURL.  Such sites include Digg, FriendFeed, Tumblr, StumbleUpon, OpenSalon and Squidoo. Use them every once in awhile, if you can.

* Study the search engines and try things out; focus on sites that tend to rank highest


* Share content on community sites like Flickr and Slideshare


Advanced Techniques:
* “Syndicate” your blog on sites that aggregate such posts (and have their own Google rankings)

* Work on securing offline speaking engagements, and get the events promoted on the Web

* Create your own “online” speaking engagements – your own YouTube channel, podcasts, etc.


Now before I get a bunch of comments and emails, a disclaimer: in no way is this intended to be comprehensive advice regarding what you should pack for the big game or how to behave once you get there.  It’s really just a quick slap on the back before the coin toss.  But I’m on my high horse about making sure that everyone at least knows how to protect themselves so – whether you’re warming up on the bench or helping someone who is – these are few ideas that will help avoid a penalty flag on the field.

This post was originally posted here on the Marketing Executive Network Group’s blog, MENG Blend.

I guess it had to happen sooner or later… but back to the point of our story in a moment.stephanie-fierman-identity-theft.gif

I’ve been sitting at my laptop at home in NYC most of the day, getting things done.  Then, about an hour ago, I get an email receipt for a $260 card scanner purchased at the Apple Store in Birmingham, Alabama.  I check Google. The store is real.  Hmm. The receipt has my email address on it, but a dot is missing.  I check Google’s Gmail rules and it says that, even with a dot missing, GMail will usually get your mail to you.  Great.  How many Stephanie Fiermans could there be??  If the receipt is real, the scanner was bought with an AmEx that doesn’t seem to match my number (insert glimmer of hope here), but maybe I’m reading the somewhat fuzzy numbers wrong.  

Even so, the next number hits me like a ton of bricks: a 6-digit number directly beneath the credit card info starts with the first 4 digits of the phrase I use for nearly all my online passwords.  Oh my G*d.  Someone has basically cracked the code for my entire online identity!  I feel my guts clench and – while I’m on hold waiting for the store manager – I get busy changing all my passwords, worried that a thief is working faster than I can call all my credit card companies and check all the other sites.  The store seems like a good place to start, but who knows what could be happening out there in the meantime?!

A very nice store manager named Brad confirms that the Apple transaction number is correct. S**.  My mind is reeling. Identity theft. A stalker. How many credit bureaus are there, again?? Anyway, Brad and I are talking, and sleuthing, and we’re stumped because he says the card was physically swiped at the store, and he’s looking for more info, and we’re talking some more, and I’m wondering if he’s single, and then it hits me: there is another Stephanie Fierman in the United States – and I seem to recall that she’s from the South.

stephanie-fierman-identical-twins.jpgAnd now back to our online personal branding show, already in progress.

While I am certain, gentle reader, that you think there could be no other, there is another Stephanie Fierman in the United States.  I’ve “seen” her on the Web for years.  Since I’ve been blogging and tweeting and writing and guest speaking (and she, conversely, appears to be a normal person), I haven’t seen her pop up on the first several pages of Google for quite some time, but she’s out there. 

And yet we’ve never crossed paths – until today.  So while Brad is running through the possibilities, I type “Stephanie Fierman Alabama” into Google and – there she is.  My doppelganger lives in Alabama.  She LIVES in Birmingham, Alabama!  And the set of numbers that looked like the online password I use? It’s an AmEx authorization code – and pure coincidence. Case closed.

 I’m still a little nauseous, but I figure it’ll go away.

As for you… I decided to write this blog post because (a) the story is too crazy not to share, but also because (b) the part that made it appear as though someone had discovered my “universal” online password scared me straight.  I talk a lot about building your own personal brand (see my series, because you should anyway: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4), but the #1 most important thing about being on the Internet is staying safe – and using the same or close to the same password everywhere is just dumb. Yep – close to the same password on all my credit card sites: brilliant.

Do you do the same thing? Do you use the same phrase or – when you run into a site that needs a letter or a number – do you always add the same letter or number to your basic phrase?  Change them now.  Mix it up. Use truly different phrases.  Especially on all the websites related to YOUR MONEY.stephanie_fierman_dilbert_passwords1.jpg

I have no idea how I’ll remember the strange new brew of passwords I cooked up but – if I forget one – I can always go through the annoying process all the sites have of resetting it.

It’s a heck of a lot better than falling into an identity theft situation that could follow you around for years.

So change your passwords now, and regularly – and please make sure they are sufficiently different from one another.  And check Google to see if you have a doppelganger.  I was lucky, but if yours is an adult film star or, say, in prison, you may have a little online personal branding work to do.

Check out my second blog at www.stephaniefiermanmarketingdaily.com.

So I walked around all last week, turning the Tiger Woods debacle over in my head, wondering if I had anything to add.  Hadn’t everyone already piled on?  Probably.  And even the thoughts I want to share with you aren’t particularly new, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth saying.  Again. And again.tiger-woods-stephanie-fierman.jpg

Thought #1: what should be public is now private, and what should be private has been made public.  This is an expression borrowed from Ellen Hume, currently an Annenberg Fellow and a world-renowned journalist, teacher and television commentator, among other things. 

Ellen was also the founder of PBS‘s Democracy Project, which focused on citizen involvement in public affairs and was, in part, an effort to more fully leverage all the channels beyond television (that were available even in the late 90’s) in ways that tapped in to those channels’ special capabilities.  The Web is great for providing more in-depth detail than one can deliver on television, for example.

When Hume made this public/private statement, she was making the point that we seem to prefer using 24-hour channels, like the Web, to dredge up every salacious, personal detail about everything and everyone, no matter how ultimately truthful or additive to the story such details may be. By the time we beat said details to death, who even knows what was true or not but, man, what a ride.  Think Tiger here: private details that are now gruesomely public, like a neighbor claiming the golfer was snoring on the lawn and the 911 call heard ’round the world.

Contrast all this with TARP.  Could you explain what TARP is in 25 words or less? How many beneficiaries can you name? How many of them have paid back the money? What is the name of the popular American economist and Nobel Prize winner who has been particularly outspoken and critical of the program? Do you know approximately how much the U.S. government has handed out to date?

I could not answer all of these questions, but I do know that Tiger Woods’ wife used a wedge to smash in his car windows.

After you include Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the U.S. government has doled out over $1 TRILLION in our money. The state of the financial markets has an impact on this country, and an impact on you.  Tiger’s mistresses? Not so much. But dang it all if some knucklehead isn’t updating this story every 20 seconds. 

What is public is private and what should be private is public.  Conduct yourself accordingly.

Related Thought #2: The math doesn’t work anymore. Once something is brewing you can hope for the best, but act, please, assuming the worst.

Just this past week, a smart person I know looked at a situation in which it was possible that Company X might encounter negative press if information having nothing to do with the company was misinterpreted in the media. So this smart person did what smart people are trained to do: s/he attempted to thoughtfully quantify Company X’s exposure – for example, how many individuals might actually be impacted by the event. Everyone comfortably concluded that the answer was not very many.

That used to be a good answer. Not anymore. Now it only takes one person with a high-speed Internet connection and a beef to let millions of people know what he knows or what he thinks he knows. Dell poo-pooed Jeff Jarvis.  United ignored Dave Carroll. Comcast disregarded Mona Shaw.  One blogger with an agenda attempted to trash a model’s reputation.   An anonymous jerk on JuicyCampus.com started a vicious tirade about female Yale Law School students.  Are you next?

devil.jpgIt takes one person to start a fire you will not be able to control.  And some form of this content will remain on the Web forever. For-e-ver.

Forget about intelligent, rational assessments of how big something might become.  By the time it’s big, it’s too late.  It could be one anonymous email, or an angry spouse or a dissatisfied customer.  Move quickly when a crisis arises, or else.

So what I hope Tiger, you and I now have in common is an understanding of the gigantic reputational risks that now exist, given the Web and a 24 hour news cycle.  My advice to normal people is to build a positive reputation online before something happens, so it’s there as a counterbalance to any threat that might arise.  I never thought I needed to recommend that one should also attempt to avoid totally avoidable, stupid acts that could unravel everything a person has built, but hey – a fresh reminder never hurt anyone.

gucci-sunglasses-stephanie-fierman.jpgA recent article made me think back to a post I wrote last summer titled “Stephanie Fierman Likes Plastic Gucci Sunglasses – And Is OK With It.” The post says that experts who say that not-rich consumers are essentially duped into buying luxury goods are missing a large swath of buyers who know exactly what they’re doing: that is, buying fun, knowing full well that they could buy functionality at a far lower price. Hence, Gucci vs. $10 plastic sunglasses I can buy on the street. Plastic is plastic. But that dopey logo represents an indulgence a reward – for which I am sometimes willing to pay full freight.street-vendor-stephanie-fierman.jpg

BusinessWeek outlines the efforts of Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist and author of the book Predictably Irrational, who has spent the past year trying to figure out the forces that drive people to cheat (paging Bernie Madoff…)

Ariely’s very very boiled down conclusion is that individuals who are not directly faced with evidence or reminders that what they are doing is wrong are more likely to plow ahead and conversely, those who are reminded are less likely to do so. He describes a couple of experiments he used to try to measure “deception’s slippery slope.”
* Subjects who knowingly wore faux designer sunglasses later cheated twice as often on an unrelated task than those wearing authentic goods – take the first step and it’s that much easier to take the second.
* Get an auto insurance applicant to sign his name on the top of the application rather than the bottom, and he will be more honest about his driving habits – put the consequences right in someone’s face and you’re likely to get “better” behavior.

Here’s a TED video of Ariely talking about why people think it’s ok to cheat:

This has extreme ramifications and potential opportunities for luxury goods manufacturers like LVMH who spend a lot of money and time drawing attention to the costs of counterfeit goods.

Part of the problem is the arguments these companies use. Does the average woman – out with her friends to have a little fun on a Saturday afternoon without a lot of money – have any sympathy when the luxury companies are described as the chief victims of counterfeit buying? I don’t think so.

But what if these manufactures took a different tack, promoting the fact that buying faux fuels organized crime and following it through with stories of what these same criminals did with the $30 I paid for a fake Chloe bag? It certainly wouldn’t be possible in all venues, but could some of these firms visit places like Canal Street in New York and engage directly with potential buyers about the consequences of buying fakes? I don’t think I’ve ever seen this happen. I’ve seen local TV and newspaper stories about how a luxury company has done a raid with local law enforcement… but never a company interacting directly with consumers at the street-level point of purchase.

If was looking at a table full of fake Tiffany merchandise and given proof of the spot that my money goes to fund terrorist groups, what would I do? Would I stand there and think of the two friends I lost on American Airlines Flight 11? I believe I would – and I think I’d walk away from the table, and tell my friends about the experience.

The Guccis and Tod’s and Burberrys of the world need to find a way to debunk the idea that buying fakes is a victimless crime, and they need to do it as close to the moment of impact – the moment I’m about to buy that fake Cartier watch as possible.

Yesterday’s New York Times book review of Ellen Ruppel Shell‘s Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture was, I thought, wonderful and terrifying at the same time. [If you cannot see a video about the book below, click HERE.]

The author’s well-researched hypothesis is that we are either ignorant of or – in many cases – simply choose to ignore the profoundly negative, corrosive effects of needing to have everything cheap, cheap, cheap.  The article’s primary example from the book is shrimp, which went from an expensive treat to something you can get at any cheesy seafood chain restaurant nearly any night of the week on the “all you can eat” menu: a phenom fueled by so much greed and artificial chemicals that what they should serve at our tables is the resulting “pollution and toxic waste,” with a side of the “ruinous debt, environmental degradation, horrifying human rights abuses and violence that left millions destitute” in Thailand and other countries.

Yummm.  Pass the garlic bread.

But do Americans care?  Lower food prices at Wal-Mart are impressive because, even if you never set foot in one of its stores, its mere presence drives down food prices in the surrounding area.  Hurray!  Forget about the fact Wal-Mart’s brand-name food items aren’t all that much cheaper, in fact, and how do you know that that chicken isn’t cheaper because it’s of lower quality?  What we do know is, well, all the things we know about how Wal-Mart has historically kept its prices down. 

These practices are why I do not shop at Wal-Mart.  But I’m in the minority.

And has this obsession American’s have with inexpensive goods damaged us in macro ways that are now coming home to roost?  When prices are too low, innovation is nearly impossible, reports a Harvard economist. 

Paging General Motors. Oh, and this moribund company is already “out of bankruptcy?!” Paging the U.S. government…

The only true major American innovation outside of Apple that’s gotten any real attention… has occurred on Wall Street.  And we all know how well that’s going for millions of people.

So I’m worried.  There are a lot of executives who have generated a lot of shareholder value by sticking the low-price needle into our arms… and consumers like it.  Now we’re in a recession, which is likely to compound the effect: many now have no alternative but to shop for the least expensive goods – and others use it as a sadly understandable reason to reverse course and cut back.  People are worried, and conserving:  I’ve seen several studies where people say they’re cutting back on “values” purchases, such as “green” and organic goods for example.

Where does it end?  What do we care about the most?  The U.S. is consistently on the wrong side of global lists of developed countries ranked for homelessnessobesity, high school graduation, health care quality… and we’re the biggest polluter in the world.   

There’s a lot of chest-beating on television about the national debt.  “We’re saddling our grandchildren with crippling debt! Gahhh!”  What about what we’re doing right now – what we care about today? 

Now more than ever, consumers want to feel good about the things they do and buy.  I’ve written a couple posts about the phenomenon on aspirational purchasing and making something groovy out of pretty much nothing and, recently, I saw the most fascinating example of turning a cruddy experience into something swanky.

Witness:  Cash4Gold.  You have to be living under a rock to not have seen their commercials, but just to be sure… Here’s the company’s weird Super Bowl ad, in which Ed McMahon and MC Hammer talk while a disembodied hand holds money (“Call toll free now!”):

And here is one of Cash4Gold’s standard ads (“Turn your unwanted or broken jewelry into cold hard cash!“)

Do these ads make you feel like a sharp cookie, or like you’re about to lose your house and have already checked the couch for loose change?  Given McMahon’s humiliating mortage disaster and Hammer’s personal woes, Cash4Gold comes across as a last resort for the truly pitiful and desperate.  Hardly something I’d be sharing over dinner with my girlfriends.

Contrast this to OutofYourLife.com.  It’s the exact same concept, but take a look at the company’s television ad:

I can identify with the woman in the ad because, unlike Ed McMahon, she’s “like me” (or like the woman I’d like to be) – attractive, secure and, of course, smart for unloading jewels from her past relationships.  And fyi, all of these ex boyfriends and their golden effluvia don’t mean she’s a loser: it means she dumped them and now has the perfect man, whom she (you), of course, deserve(s). 

Study the ad’s details:  the way the script weaves in the personal “stories” related to each piece, the sexy voiceover, the website’s design – even the box you use to ship off your jewels.  Everything about the ad is intended to reinforce that you are a sexy, beautiful, enticing, clever woman and that this is what such a person does. 

So virtually the same product, but with a message that permits the customer to create a transformational, positive story out of the fact that she’s got to hock her own jewelry to pay the rent. 

This is an unusually overt example of advertising’s ability to shape not only a message, but an entire experience… even the kind of person you are for being a customer.  ‘Love it!

What other self-worth-threatening activities could be transformed in the same manner? How about selling your car, or buying a used car? Ditto for “gently-worn” clothing. Foreclosure auction advertising?

 

One of the major reasons I started this blog back in September 2007 was that, even then, you could see brands and individuals discovering the worlds of search and social media – and the result wasn’t pretty.

What happens when decisions are turned inside out, when employees blog and consumers/clients can say whatever they like to millions of people 24 hours a day?  How are you supposed to behave when a stranger says something personal and inaccurate about you, or buys the URL www.yourcompanyname goesheresucks.com?  Why are all these strangers talking about me and how can I make them stop??

Many a CEO, friend and neighbor had this reaction.  All of them had to find a way to deal.

As an private citizen and a business person, I found myself mucking around in this new environment with everyone else, and wrote a 4-part series on the topic in what now seems like eons ago (Internet Time).  Called “Promoting and Growstephanie-fierman-reputation-cookie.jpging Brands in the Digital Age,” the entries were featured on this blog from October 2007 to March 2008.

So since everyone knows to expect reruns over the summer… I thought I’d run the series again.  For most of  you, I suspect it’ll be the first time you’ve seen this.

Check it out; the advice about building your own personal brand online holds.

Part 1 – I introduce the idea that you are your own personal brand online.  How will you control it?  Can it be controlled? What should you do?

Part 2 – This entry is primarily focused on the announcement that I’d be partnering with DIGO Brands to provide “online brand self-defense” services to clients.

Part 3 – Ah, good one.  This entry focuses on the JuicyCampus debacle, where female Yale students were being harassed and endangered online.

Additionally, Part 3 includes my top ten tips for building your own personal brand online.

Part 4 – More can’t-say-I-didn’t-warn-you tips, plus the always-popular religious rumor(s) swirling around Obama’s candidacy.

Do not let this go.  Do no let anyone else create who you are or what you are online.  You have a lot of tools: use them smartly and persistently, please.

As some of you know, I’ve really started to wonder how we can possibly ingest the fire hose of information that comes at us every day. The obvious answer is that we can’t. Brits know it, tweens know it, experts know it.  And yet… on it comes, leading one to either eliminate it – unsubscribe to an email newsletter, sign off Facebook, stop watching Real Housewives of New Jersey (oops, sorry – that’s mine) – or somehow filter out what we don’t want.  Some call this phenomenon the “attention economy.” 

In the attention economy, a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that finite amount of attention over a rising level of noise.  In other words, it becomes increasingly important to make choices, to become more discriminating, to understand the value of our thoughts and our time.  So while I may watch reality TV because I like it, it would never dawn on me to voluntarily invite a continuous information stream into my skull that I neither want nor need. I recently wrote a post on this topic as it pertains to Twitter, arguably the Web’s newest, most popular time suck.

Well here’s another upside-down concept from the Twuniverse:  Twitter Karma.  If you’re not on Twitter, you don’t have a clue what this would be. But if you are, you may know what’s coming…


On Twitter, you follow people whose thoughts interest you, and others may follow you for the same reason.  Twitter Karma refers to those whom you follow who do not follow you back. This means that you’ve elected to see every tweet of theirs and they have not reciprocated. Some people find this to be rude: so rude, in fact that they unfollow individuals who – after a respectable amount of time – didn’t follow them back.

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Wait – what? This is a problem? Did I go to sleep and wake up back in the 3rd grade?

We’re grown-ups. Each of us has her own unique interests, profession and curiosities. Each of us has goals of expanding his knowledge in different directions. So if I follow you on Twitter because you have a point of view I find valuable, why would I expect you to reciprocate (and consider it a compliment) if you don’t need what I have to say? Maybe someday you’ll be interested… but not now.

I do not take offense, but make no mistake: I’m supposed to.  By implication, those who do not reciprocate are ingrates and creeps.


Twitter karma feels precisely like one of those mean little games children play. Move on.


Look, here’s my point of view: if you’re on Twitter, chances are you’re a reasonably confident person who has something to say. I doubt you need or want an insincere slap on the back from someone who felt pressured to offer it.


This is the only life we get, people. You only have so many brain cells: use them wisely. Be choosy. Mandatory school books or work stuff aside… take in the information you need and want. Leave the rest. By doing so, we not only grow… but maybe we do increase the likelihood that we’ll have something to say that others will want to “follow.”


But, hey. If you’re squeamish about unfollowing a “mean girl” (or guy) on Twitter, sort folks on TweetDeck.  It’ll change your Twexistence.