So I changed my Twitter handle this weekend. The moment was chosen carefully, when Asia would be asleep and the UK awake but outside enjoying the 4 day drizzle of a weekend that was the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Two browsers, 5 minutes, a dozen clicks and it was done. Some might say an era was over: I would say @Wise_Man_Say was no more.
Well, not entirely actually. I’m still here and as a business, a blog, a contractor vehicle, Wise Man Say is going from strength to strength; even the twitter handle is still up there, but now the world’s most platform unfriendly moniker (3 capital letters, 2 underscores, 13 characters adds up to 1 metric ton of wtf) – is now a sign post for the real me: @HungLee
It’s important I made the change. Here are 5 reasons why
I wasn’t joking about it being platform unfriendly. Has there been a more ill conceived twitter handle than @Wise_Man_Say? It was difficult to type, easy to get wrong, involved the shift key – twice(!) and most importantly on a character limited platform, ate up vital messaging real estate. I got used to it, but messaging with 120 characters when everyone else was going with 130 was maybe a disadvantage and definitely an annoyance. As with most things social, less is more, and on Twitter, you can definitely can say more with a shorter handle.
Lesson: make your moniker easy for your audience. And pick a name that is retweetable. It’s cost me…..millions of followers. FACT.
2. Original Intent
There was original intent behind the @Wise_Man_Say. The concept was create a brand that held value independent of real me. This was so I could sell it to the highest bidder and retire to a private island in the South Pacific. The brand, the IP, the digital assets, the whole damn thing would go – perhaps to a forward thinking recruitment firm, maybe a social media marketing consultancy, or maybe just to a company who wanted access to the audience I had built up.
But that was in 2009 and I didn’t know shit. I didn’t know anything about how the world would change, or how I might change with it. I didn’t know enough about personal branding. I didn’t know about network value. And I didn’t guess how online properties would become essential communication platform, extensions of Real Me. As my knowledge grew, my views changed, and original intent with it. I could never sell my digital properties now – it’s a big part of who I am, and entirely what I do. Can you imagine starting twitter again from scratch? I can, and the idea doesn’t appeal.
Lesson: plans are overrated when setting up a new business in an emerging space – things change; the trick is to change with it.
You ever try to find someone you knew were on Twitter but didn’t have the handle to? You’d typically type in @firstnamesecondname and hope the guy had the common sense or lack of imagination to come up with anything more creative. If he didn’t, you were stuck and left hoping the guy was active enough on the platform for him to be picked up by a search engine and, over to Google you go. It’s do-able but a pain, and only the highly motivated would take the time to track people down after failing on first pass. So, calling yourself something you’re not breaks the first rule of the social web – be findable.
Lesson: Let’s face it, ou’re on twitter because you want to be heard. And to be heard, you first have to be found. So forget being cute and go with boring old @firstnamesecondname. Tough luck if you’re Tamil or native Welsh
4. Personal Branding Is Over
Those who follow this blog, will know that I have a complicated relationship with Personal Branding. As a concept, I think that it’s simultaneously useful, flawed, good fun, unethical and probably injurious to your mental health.
In truth, it’s nothing new – we’ve been being giving facets of our personality to different audiences ever since mass society gave us the opportunity to move to different places and be with different people. Freed from the strong ties of village and home town, the city gave us the weak ties that we needed to create identities we wanted and present them to the audience we wanted to show them to. All social media did was give this a pedal-to-the-floor fuel injection.
The world is turning again. If the late noughties was about projecting brand and curating the message, the era of the tens is about that message getting out of your control. We can no longer help but interact on social platforms, and whenever we do, we produce data. Lots of it. And Big Data aggregators are in the business of pulling your fragmented persona’s back together again. This includes search engines, by the way.
Personal Branding is about promoting the parts of you that win, hiding those parts that don’t. This will simply become too onerous for anyone to do effectively, or will produce such low returns that it will be more efficient to simply live honest and transparent lives. Privacy is over, and without it, Personal Branding cannot survive.
Lesson: You can’t hide. So don’t try. Be the Real You, all the time.
Personal Branding may be bad, but Persona Branding worse. I never did quite pull the trigger on being ‘Wise Man Say’ full time and go as nom de guere, but others have, and well, good luck to them. I didn’t, and I think I may have just lucked out. Here’s the thing with a Persona brand. It’s not portable. Calling yourself ‘CVHero’ or ‘LinkedInExpert’ or ‘RecruiterGuru’ and you’re betting all of your social capital on you being interested in those things for all time or that those things will still be around at all. What happens if CV’s go out of fashion? Or if LinkedIn becomes so ubiquitous no needs experts on it any more? The same applies for those who have attached employer monikers to their online presence – ReutersKaren, CNNStuart and so forth. What if you move, or get moved?
The future of work is characterised by the breakdown of the employer-employee social contract. Labour flexibility, project related work patterns, multiple client engagements – they are going to be the norm. We can expect to be move around a lot more than we have ever done before, and when you do, you better be able to take your all of your assets with you.
Lesson: your digital properties need to be portable.
What is our relationship with our digital properties? What is the distinction between our online and offline selves? What can we do, in the face of Big Data? The relationship with your digital properties is that they must be yours. There is no distinction between online and offline. And there is nothing we can do in the face of Big Data, other than buy that private island and retire to the South Pacific.
The anonymity of mass society is over. Claim your name and be the whole you, wherever you may be. You can only be one person on the social web.