The Lyre, Spring 2012 / Personal Branding and Your Online Presence
One of the things I love most about being an Alpha Chi Omega is knowing I have more than 150,000 sisters out there waiting for me to meet them! When I joined Alpha Chi Omega, I really wasn’t concerned about any sisters other than the 150 in my Alpha Upsilon chapter—then I went to state day and met sisters from Auburn and Birmingham Southern, then I moved to Austin, Texas and became an advisor to the Alpha Phi chapter, and then I moved to Iowa City, Iowa where I was “adopted” by my Sigma chapter sisters.
In my years as a volunteer, my circle of Alpha Chi Omega friends continued to grow. As I’ve traveled to leadership academies, province days, reunions and conventions, I’ve met sisters of all ages from different chapters and different parts of the country. They’ve become my friends.
For folks who haven’t experienced the phenomenon of lifetime membership in a national sorority, it’s hard to describe this network of friends—some I’ve met only once and others I see only once every two years at conventions—with whom I share this strong bond of sisterhood.
With the advent of social media, I’ve been able to turn what used to be single or occasional connections with sisters into ongoing relationships. I can keep up with awards, graduations, marriages, careers, children and grandchildren—“participating” in their daily lives as well as major milestones. I’ve loved how social media have helped me maintain and enhance these special relationships.
As those who are my Facebook friends or who follow me on Twitter know, I’ve embraced social media for all of their positives. I love the ability to easily share a message with many and to develop and maintain connections with people and organizations I care about.
But social media can have downsides. If I didn’t know it intuitively, I’ve certainly heard it and read it— what you send into the cloud of social media is there for the world to see. Even if you limit your audience, it’s still your world, and it all influences how others view you. A branding consultant friend reminds me regularly that my presence in social media is part of my “personal brand.”
For many reasons, I have tried to ensure my online persona is one of which I can be proud. After all, I represent Alpha Chi Omega and my employer (my local school district’s foundation) when I’m on social media. But I also know that my teenage children see what I post, as do my favorite aunt and my pastor. My status updates, tweets, linked articles and photos are noticed and remarked on by others, and they reflect on me. So, I’m careful what I share online—with occasional exceptions related to my passion for Alabama football!
I am constantly amazed at what many of my online friends of all ages choose to share—unflattering or embarrassing photos; tales of their latest drinking binges; criticisms of their boss (or professors, former friends, their child’s coach or teacher); off-color or insensitive jokes; unnecessary profanity (my grandmother would have pointed out that all profanity is unnecessary); all of the details of their latest gastrointestinal difficulties; and the good and bad points of their latest date. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for the First Amendment, but really, people, does the world need to know all this? And while you certainly have the right to say these things, why would you want to share them with the world?
These things reflect on you! They help define how people see you—your personal brand.
When Alpha Chi Omega launched its “Real. Strong. Women.” brand a few years ago, that’s what we were looking for—a universal way to describe Alpha Chi Omega as an organization, but also as individual members. It’s not just something we say, it describes who we are. That’s one reason I’m very careful about my online persona. I want my personal brand to reflect Alpha Chi Omega’s brand—every day in every way, even when I’m not wearing my badge. I want “Real. Strong. Women.” To be my brand inspiration. By the way I live my life, I hope to create my own version of a real, strong woman based on Alpha Chi Omega’s values of wisdom, devotion and achievement.
In a 1997 Fast Company article entitled “The Brand Called You,” management guru Tom Peters reminded us that “the important thing to remember about your personal visibility campaign is: it all matters. When you’re promoting brand you, everything you do—and everything you choose not to do—communicates the value and character of your brand.”
It’s simple. You are a brand, and your brand is you. Peters wrote, “The brand is a promise of the value you’ll deliver.” What value do you bring to the world around you? Is your brand representing this value? My suggestion: aspire to be a real, strong woman and your brand will follow.