Off topic or on the right track?

I spend a lot of time talking to my students, former students and colleagues about personal branding. And the more I talk to them, the more I start thinking about younger users of the web. I have had a chance to speak to high schoolers a number of times about the changing world of journalism and social media. I remind them that a simple Google search (and Bing and Yahoo) can show you a lot about your personal brand. And I tell them that you should think about your personal brand now, not later. But that got me thinking about my children. I blog about each of them, they have their own gmail accounts (and thus Google profile and Buzz accounts that I haven’t activated) and I plan to help manage their Facebook (or whatever social media tool is cool at the time) profiles until they are 18 (probably against their will). I think parents need to think of ways to jump in and think about personal branding before that brand is established. That way I don’t have to help them fix it by the time they are in high school or college.

How early is too early to worry about a person’s brand? If you search for my kids, you’ll find a picture of my son from the local newspaper and nothing about my daughter unless you know the name of her blog. In this searchable and cached world, how early do we need to worry? Do I just spend too much time talking about branding and parenting in separate venues that I’m merging these two topics because I’m obsessed? I just thought I’d throw it out there. I might be off topic for this blog but at the same time I wonder if I’m on the right track.

5 comments ↓

#1 Jon Lee on 02.11.10 at 6:32 am

Go integration.

I think it’s a good thing Jen. As you’ve said before, managing your kids’ online experience is no different than managing their real life experience.

One of the things I notice in my self is thinking that my choices online aren’t as powerful as my real life choices. But the reality is, especially with Facebook, my real life choices are often part of my online choices. Buzz and Facebook are making it easier and easier to have our “personal brands” as you call them be no different than the brand we have when we are in line at the grocery.

Mark Hurst, who wrote the book Bit Literacy, likes to say bits are heavy. They have meaning. If your inbox is crazy full, that weighs down on you. Even though there’s nothing physical, that pile matters.

The fact is, all these innovations can make us be more aware of who we are. But, the more integrated they get, the harder it will be to construct people’s perceptions. Instead, the only way to have a good “brand” is to be a good person.

#2 Jen Reeves on 02.11.10 at 6:33 am

It’s so cool to have a thoughtful brother. You rock.

#3 MattHurst on 02.11.10 at 8:31 am

I think it’s great you’re being so proactive to protect a positive personal brand for your kids. Of course you’re right that they will want to take over Facebook before they’re 18 (probably as soon as they find out their friends are using it).
But isn’t that all part of media literacy? You need to be held accountable for what you say in public, even if that means getting negative feedback for going too far online. I think that’s one of the best parts of this uniquely democratic medium.

#4 Colby Gergen on 02.12.10 at 12:14 pm

This is definitely on topic and an important issue for everyone. Yes, your kids are going to hate you if you have *any* control over their Facebook account, haha. But in today’s searchable world, I don’t know if that’s a bad thing.

Whenever I talk to students, I always tell them, “if you take one thing away from today, search yourself on pipl.com to make sure that livejournal, xanga, or myspace from when you were a pissed-off 13-year-old isn’t out there.”

Sure enough, plenty of students have came back to me, telling me they found one (or more) of the above. They got a good laugh out of it, but were glad to get rid of it.

If someone is thinking about their (or their kids’) personal brand at a young age, maybe those pitfalls can be avoided.

But then there’s the other side – at what point is a concern about personal branding hurting the experiences and learning opportunities of growing up. If kids are raised with a “brand myself” mindset, can they feel comfortable being themselves?

#5 Jen Reeves on 02.13.10 at 3:04 pm

You last point is something I worry about. I know too much. What if I stymie their growth and creative process because I know too much. I guess it’s a wait an see game since they’re still kind of young.

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