It’s been 5 years since I started to build the Preston Towers brand. A “brand”? Actually, no, it isn’t – the username was a joke name for a start. That’s a ridiculous expression that infers some kind of plan. No, there’s been no plan. Just tweets and words from whatever came into my head at the time. But in saying that, I have been able to see how exactly someone could build their “brand” – I have seen many built over these 5 years – people trading their wares to the right people on social media and landed themselves jobs as opinion contributors on anything that takes their fancy. So, here’s some tips.
1. Have a Unique Take on Things
There’s a variety of angles people have on issues. Mine seemed to be from the aspect of Western Sydney, as there didn’t seem to be all that many people tweeting about politics from the region. So, I tweeted about things that had not been reported in a time when there wasn’t a whole lot of accurate, detailed, specific information being communicated across various platforms. This wasn’t a brand building exercise – it came from genuine annoyance at the quality of coverage. But it became part of my “brand” as I noted that I was getting posts read and retweeted more when I did write about the region. I had become the Western Suburbs Guy. And continue that way for most. Personally, I’d rather be the anything that takes my interest guy – classical music, sport, literature, teaching, whatever. But I had little choice in people’s perceptions of me, as it turned out. It’s nearly impossible to shift perceptions that become fixed very quickly.
2. Use Twitter during the Working Day
One of the things about Twitter as a social networking tool is that the bigger traffic is in the evening, for a number of obvious reasons. Vast arrays of people tweeting about TV shows, especially Q & A. A significant chunk of my followers started to do so after episodes of Q and A if I managed to crack a half decent joke / popular comment or two. That, however, doesn’t gain you as much traction brand wise (or is that “cut through”) as when people tweet during the working day. If you really want to get into the inner circle, get your brand well known to the core media employers and influencers (yes, they actually exist, even if they express disdain for the word), tweet during the working day. Whenever I am on school holidays, I could see how many people spend the hours from 9 to 5 charming each other and from those conversations have come various writing and editing jobs. So, get yourself a job where you can throw bon mots and epigrams at people during downtimes. That will build your brand to the right people very quickly.
3. Write one killer post that gets you Known
There is, in most people who blog, a killer post that really gains a person a reputation and, more importantly, traction in terms of audiences. The one post that really gets people talking and sharing – even getting mass Facebook coverage. It’s often also the one post that gets a person’s brand embedded (yes, embedded – I use this term deliberately, not ironically – I have seen this happen in many cases) into particular media outlets. That means, it doesn’t matter how mediocre your other work can be – people will remember that killer post and forgive the lesser ones. For a while, anyway.
4. Don’t Use a Pseudonym
If I was serious about getting work through social media connections, I would have ceased being a pseudonym some time ago. It seems that pseudonyms are for a past era – these days, the brand needs to have a real, identifiable person behind the profile. That way, people can build a relationship with the person, rather than only the ideas. That way, things like beer choices, attitudes towards TV shows and photos of friendship groups become a crucial part of the way a persona’s output is appreciated and read. It’s understandable in an era that upholds interest in the personal as being on the same – or even superior – level as the political.
5. Don’t Take Things So Seriously
One of the most important things for a social media brand builder is that you must pick and choose the issues about which you can be serious. It’s quick to see how a critical mass on Twitter will consider your objection or views are deemed to be “too serious” or “too earnest”. They will respond to you sarcastically, storify your work and the rest. Pile-ons are ugly and it’s rare to get support from others. It’s safer to wait to see when key players on social media have chosen to be serious about an issue before you can join in. Unless, of course, you have succeeded in becoming a key player. Then you will have learnt when to be serious in the correct way.
Same goes for how you respond to people who follow you purely to criticise you. I had a fair few of them over the years, who generally said I was too earnest / serious / wrong and would not respond to me at any other time. My mistake was to respond to them with various levels of anger, frustration, confusion all borne of anxiety. I should have been cooler and either ignored them or learnt to do “fully sick burns” in response. That’s a key skill if you decide to speak out individually or continue to hold unpopular opinions.
6. Know the Cliques and Circles of Friends
It’s one of the important areas of making your way in social media – know who else is who and, more importantly, what circles of friends exist. If you want to build your brand, you need to gain the assent of some and maybe even the disdain of others in order to gain acceptance and opportunities. Just as crucially, if you disagree with particular people, you need to consider carefully whether you express that opinion on social media or decide to just keep the view to yourself. Having made the mistake of disagreeing with various people over the years, I would advise that it doesn’t help your brand to take them on and get the criticism raining down on your head. On that, it’s very easy to bring opprobrium on one’s head – anywhere between 1 and 15 minutes, depending on what you tweet and whose opinion piece about which you express an opinion. So, it’s important to really think of what the consequences would be.
7. Be Yourself In Real Life Meetings – Or at least, a constructed version
If you really want to make it as a person who makes money and connections through social media, you will need to meet people in real life. The tweetup is a vital part of that process. I’m fortunate in having met a number of great people and when I meet people, I’m not overly concerned about making a good impression on people I don’t really like all that much. That’s because I have a good life away from the keyboard and don’t need to make money or impress people I don’t like or respect. The brand builder, however, needs to be more cautious than that and be strategic on exactly what kind of persona they are projecting. And be ready to join in when absent people with Twitter profiles are being criticised / slammed. There is no quicker way to be accepted by the right people.
This is not to say everyone on Twitter is like this, a Brand Builder. Far from it. But it’s been clear to see who has been following each of these points and have been a success at doing it. Good luck to them – they enjoy their lives and have made some good connections. For me, though, it’s sometimes difficult to enjoy social interactions on the platform when you know there is this level of manipulation, control and game playing occurring behind the computer screens of others. For someone who suffers considerable levels of anxiety, it’s sometimes crippling. This is why, when it comes to it, I’m grateful for using a pseudonym. That way, it’s become easy to escape that world and not have to second think your opinions about life, politics and the wider world. In addition, it’s also great to know people in real life who are able to tell you to get off that high horse and be happier for it.
And if you want to be an actual person and not a brand, that’s the best advice that can be provided.