I am beginning to suspect the zombie apocalypse is upon us after all. But instead of unstoppable hordes of walking dead, we are now plagued with unrelenting armies of walking spam. These walking spam share eerie similarities with the undead: They are fictitious; they are everywhere; and they were once real people. Sadly, they are now nothing more than -- cue blood-curdling scream -- obsessively crafted social media profiles.
For all the shock, outrage and moralizing over the likes of Anthony Weiner, Geraldo and any number of reality show, former child stars and soon-to-be former pop stars, are their digital hijinks really that far removed from what has come to be totally acceptable and commonplace for millions online?
We are now in the era of the professional selfie. Thanks to the cheap and easy amplification of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the rest of the usual suspects, many have been lured into trying to pass off a predictably preened and meticulously pruned public image as who they actually are. Amazingly, this narcissistic image management is often executed, or at least planned and evaluated, during real-life personal and professional interactions.
What's worse, this type of behavior is often encouraged. Where there is a business trend -- no matter how ridiculous -- there are experts. And today, there is no shortage of alleged thought leaders insisting that carefully crafting your many online profiles is some sort of prerequisite for success. (I am beginning to suspect that those who can, do; and those who can't become social media gurus.)
Register your name as a website url and blog regularly from it to raise your search ranking! Use LinkedIn to create your personal advertising! Make sure your Twitter account links to your LinkedIn profile with an avatar created from your Facebook profile photo and make sure your Facebook photo features only you and disable the ability to tag you in any photos that others may see, post comments on your wall or do anything that may reveal that your are a human being interacting with other human beings who may not be sufficiently aligned or consistent with your strict personal brand standards!
It is time we all step back and admit that this obsessive fixation with our digital doppelgängers has reached the level of absurdity. Not only is it, frankly, a little creepy, it is also completely ineffective and self-sabotaging. You are not connecting with anybody if your primary concern when communicating with them is how it will benefit you or make you appear to others. That is not real networking. Not even in Los Angeles.
Brand Me is certainly not a new concept. And it is not a bad one, either. The theory that we are each our own brand, and should employ branding best practices, has been around, and valid, for decades. It certainly predates the Internet. But now that our lives are as public and publishable as we can possibly stomach to make them, this fairly effective and insightful idea is regularly taken to cartoonish -- and buffoonish -- extremes.
Haven't the basic principles of branding taken a big enough beating without being held responsible for people's strange compulsion to be their own personal paparazzi?
The problem with Brand Me today is that it entails very little actual branding and far too much "me." A strong brand is built and sustained through deeds and actions, not empty promotion. People will be attracted to you by how you participate and what you accomplish -- not by what you say about yourself online.
So log out, put down the iPhone and look around. What meaningful action can you take, right now, to positively influence whatever you are engaged in? That's how to establish yourself. Always remember, great brands add value. If you aren't contributing to anything but your own image, you're not really a brand. You're just kind of a jerk.