Friday, October 7, 2011

market economy

Blog was originally short for "web log." I wonder how many people remember that. The idea was to keep a log, or journal, or diary, but to do so in public. It was on the web, so other people could read it. Some wrote about whatever was happening in their lives. Some wrote about specific topics. But now, I doubt that any of the "my boring life" blogs will get a large readership, unless the person is very funny or witty—which sometimes happens. Seinfeld was, after all, a show about nothing, but it was some of the funniest nothing ever.

Twitter started in a similar way. People tweeted their every mundane action in 140 or fewer characters. "Just had lunch at Bungie Burger. Yum!" It wasn't long before people tired of that sort of thing. Anyone who tweets things like that any more is unlikely to have many followers. Maybe even many friends!

Both blogging and tweeting have evolved into something else, at least for those who want it: ways to create your own personal brand. It used to be that a brand was only something owned by a corporation. Now, we have the democratization of branding. Bloggers and tweeters are no longer just people. They are their own product, and they engage in their own marketing.

It was happening right from the start, but usually in a passive way. We built it, and sometimes they came, thanks to search engines and word of mouth. But now, the competition for eyeballs is more active. We share our blogs on Facebook. We set them up to post a URL automatically to Twitter. We set up links to and from other blogs. We comment on other blogs and leave a link behind when we do.

I think a lot of this has to do with the extreme competition for employment and contracts. We no longer approach an interview with our degree and work experience, hoping to be a good fit. It has become almost a company-to-company negotiation. We have strengths, assets, abilities. We show how our brand can help their brand—and how it can do so better than all those other personal brands out there can.

Many of us now need a web presence as much as a corporation does. We market ourselves actively. And thus we must be careful about our web presence. We might need to compartmentalize our lives, or simply keep the fun (yet embarrassing) stuff off the web entirely. The plus side of living in public is that your accomplishments and abilities can be well known. The downside is that you might be highly visible, warts and all.

The better part of valour is discretion, wrote the Bard. If you wake up with a hangover and can't remember what you did the night before except you're pretty sure there were police involved, that might not be the best subject for a blog post or a tweet, or even your "private" Facebook wall. On the web, it's easy to overshare. It's very difficult to take it back.

Addendum: which is better—no photo or (one hopes) a good photo?

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