We all have a "brand" - we all have things we are known for, passions we pursue, favorite musicians, movies, and food, opinions on everything from politics to the environment to fashion. I could probably set the internet on fire right now just by asking the question: Should chokers circa 1990 come back into style?
Whether or not you agree or disagree is irrelevant. No matter what it is you love in life and want to share with the world, there are a few key things to keep in mind before putting it out there on the inter-webs.
1. Don't be an internet troll
If you ever want to question the integrity and future existence of the human race, just read the comments section of a controversial Facebook post. It is downright unbelievable what some people are willing to post in the comments section on Facebook....things I would hope and PRAY they would never say to a person if that person was standing in front of them. Things that, if these people were my employees, friends, or family, I would be embarrassed to be associated with. Every time I get sucked into reading such comments, I wonder to myself if these people realize that the malicious, racist, derogatory things they put on social media can be seen by hundreds of thousands of people?
We all have opinions, often strong ones, especially when it comes to issues surrounding politics, societal issues, health, parenting, etc. It DOES NOT mean social media is public forum to say hateful things because you disagree with another person. I have seen individuals lose their jobs and estrange friends and family over their inability to not be a troll on social media. Share your thoughts, but do it respectfully or don't do it at all.
2. Educate, Don't Preach
We all have passions in life, topics that we could spend hours, if not days, talking about with anyone willing to listen. Topics that we are extremely knowledgeable about and find it frustrating when others talk about these things out of ignorance and lack of education on the topic. We all have that thing and we all want to sit there and tell them all the reasons why they're wrong! For me, it's health and fitness. There is a wealth of information in the world about this topic, and much of it is misleading and controversial, and everybody has an opinion on it. The health and wellness industry is fueled by misleading information, so its a struggle to not say something when you see people fall victim to it.
However, like with anything, telling someone that what they are doing is wrong, will be ineffective and potentially harmful to them, and that you have all the answers, rarely works in your favor, am I right? You must resist the temptation to preach!
Instead, share information. Share your experiences but make it clear these are uniquely your own and will not be the same for everybody. If you're a health nut, share your favorite healthy recipes and workouts. Blog about the pros and cons of different "diets". Talk about what has worked for you and why. Share your successes and your failures. Be human. Provide others with trusted information and let them make informed decisions, but don't tell them what to do.
The upcoming election is a perfect example of this. It is an extremely polarized election. If you like one candidate, you hate the other, and vice versa. You may even hate both and are crowdfunding a casket to fit America in. I mean, I've seen weirder things on GoFundMe. No matter your stance, I'm sure you've had to sit through conversations with friends, family, and coworkers telling you who you should be voting for. You've probably gotten looks of disgust from people who are steadfast in their beliefs and are appalled you would vote for the other side. So they insult you and call you an idiot. Don't do that. Instead, share articles that provide insightful information that can help people vote in an informed way. Talk about why a certain policy or issue is critical. Your opinion will be obvious but you won't be bashing people in the process. Your passion will come through without making you look like a zealot. Be that guy.
3. Motivate & Support others who share your passion
There's an old Cherokee proverb that I love.
This can be applied to many scenarios but I think it's particularly important when it comes to building your online presence and community. Whatever it is that you are passionate about, find others who share that passion and support them. Follow them, engage with them, share their work, and let them know you share similar interests. Many of us, myself included, tend to take a more passive approach to social media. Many times we look and watch more than we engage. But make me angry and I'll throw up a Yelp review like you've never seen! Why is it that we tend to only express ourselves when we are angry or annoyed? Why do we tend to feed that beast the most, especially in forums that are public and can be seen by many many others!
Nobody wants to surround themselves with people who only complain. Share the things you love more than the things you're angry about. Every time you want to make a snarky comment to someone's rude post, ignore it and find someone to support instead. You'll be amazed how much better it feels to feed the good wolf! The more you do that, the more you are respected within your communities and the more others want to pay back the favor to you.
You can find more tips on personal branding, storytelling, and building your social presence by listening to the Youth Empowerment Podcast. I was recently interviewed on these topics, among others! Check it out here.
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