Becoming Professional: A Blog

Archive for the ‘Personal Branding’ Category

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by Sean MacEntee on Flickr

Privacy is a big concern, particularly on Facebook. And for absolutely good reason, too. After all, I’m sure we all have those ex-friends we not only never want to see again, but would like to never see us again, too. Keeping who you want close, close and who you want far away as far away as possible is only natural.

That includes companies. These days there is a barter system going on with our private information. We like a brand’s page and allow them to see our demographics in exchange for potentially fun posts and, even better, free stuff. Sounds like a deal, as long as I’m the one who gets to okay it. This same barter is seen on Amazon, where the site learns what you like and makes, sometimes very astute, recommendations. But only when you’re signed in.

But, what about those cases when you’re not signed in. When you didn’t sign up for something and they’ve scraped your data from your Facebook profile? You didn’t sign up for it. I didn’t sign up for it. How can we avoid this danger?

But, is there really a privacy threat?

I mean, no doubt Facebook has privacy issues. Otherwise people wouldn’t be complaining left and right. I do not doubt this, and will not argue against it.

But I will point out that it’s incredibly difficult to get at your public data on Facebook by using the legal Open Graph API. I know because I tried to access my own public data  and that of my friends through that API while not signed in. Here’s what I found:

my open graph informationGo ahead and try it on your own account. All you need is your account ID number, which you can find here:

screen capture of my Facebook ID number in my profile's URLThen just type in followed by that number into your browsers URL bar and – tadaa! You can see what is available publicly about you.

I don’t know about you, but I really don’t care if people know I’m female, speak American English, and thus assume I’m an American female. As far as my name goes, I use a pseudonym online, so have fun!

Notice that even if my privacy settings were to make everything public, they still wouldn’t show up with this public Open Graph API search. That’s because Facebook doesn’t use the word public here the same way that we do. The information displayed above is “public information.” But in order to get at the information I’ve shared with the world on my Facebook Profile, any application developer needs an “access token.”

To get an access token, Facebook’s developer website explains that an app must go through three stages: user authentication, app authorization, app authentication. User authentication is just verifying that the user is who he says he is, same for app authentication. App authorization, however, is that bit where we’re asked to allow the app access to various bits of our data.

Farmville asking for my personal dataSee that bit up at the top, by my profile pic? “Access my basic information” really means “access all the public stuff I’m too silly enough not to set as private on my profile security settings.”

“Public” does not mean “public”

Let’s back up a second. “Public” in the eyes of Facebook app developers is basic demographic information. “Public” in the eyes of you, me, and most consumers is the stuff we set as available for strangers to see on our profiles. Companies and other systematic organizations cannot even see what we allow complete and total strangers to see. At least through this API.

I’m actually a bit reassured by that.

Of course, I’m sure there are work-arounds, particularly for the less than legal. However, at least when it comes to companies trying to spy into my life using the Open Graph API, I can rest assured that it’s a bit more complicated than just searching my name with this tool and that if they want to legally pry into my life, I have to give them permission.

*Note: I am not a Privacy Expert. I just tweedled around with the Open Graph API and this is what I found. As I said, I’m sure that there are other ways to spy on us. I just don’t think this is one of them. So you should always set your privacy settings as high as possible!

me and Paul Wycherley

Me and Olympian Paul Wycherley, another speaker

This past week, I spoke at the Huntswood People Learning and Development event about how to use social media professionally. My audience was made up of contractors in the learning and development field, trainers who work with financial services providers. For the most part, though they may have been on LinkedIn, they were not using social media professionally to aid them in their work. That’s where I came in. My job was to introduce them to the benefits of social media. In less than 20 minutes. I obviously couldn’t discuss everything, so I limited my discussion to profiles. And even then I still went over.

The thing is, profiles are not easy, particularly for those who are not avid social media users. After all, even those who do frequently use social media often get limited use out of their social media profiles. There is a lot more to a LinkedIn profile than merely saying your name and work history. Even Twitter can have some potential, even if you do not use the service regularly. As for Facebook, well, I suggested creating a Facebook Page. It’s just too tempting to post a picture from Friday night on Facebook, both for you and your friends. And those privacy settings are confusing. A Facebook Page just makes more sense here.

As far as first speaking gigs go, I think I did pretty well. I was the first guest speaker, and after me was the canapés, also known as dinner, drinks, and mingling. I was flooded with questions and personal stories. Everyone seemed ready to get started and redo their own online profiles, or put them up in the first place. That’s all a speaker can really ask for, isn’t it?

Here is the full presentation. A video should be on its way shortly from Huntswood, so expect that as well.

Bangs from Bangs and a Bun

Bangs from Bangs and a Bun

Not too long ago I went to a blogger’s meetup. There were bloggers there who had successfully monetized their blogs and those who were just thinking about starting. All were listening raptly to the night’s speaker, Muireann Carey-Campbell (AKA Bangs) from as she discussed finding a voice, a theme, for her successful blog.

Business Bloggers Have it Easy

Business bloggers do not have this problem. The theme is set: the company and the industry. All that’s left is to find content that is engaging, whether that be examples of the product’s uses, like Kodak’s A Thousand Words, or personal anecdotes from the front lines à la Nuts About Southwest. (To be sure, these companies do blur the lines.)

Personal bloggers have it a bit harder. We think we have to have a theme. This is an easy trap to fall into. We think that we have to have a reason to blog. We can’t just post something online. The idea of a theme becomes a crutch holding us back, not guiding us forward. But there is another way of looking at themes for a personal blog.

The Writer Is the Theme

a person writing with a pen and paper

by Orin Zebest on Flickr

During her talk Bangs tackled this issue and provided what I think is a pretty good answer: Don’t care about themes. Just be yourself. A blog is not carried by the subject matter. It is carried by the blogger’s personality.

Particularly in the beginning, bloggers can take advantage of the fact that no one is reading the blog to find their voice. Once this voice is found, the readers will start coming. The key is that if a person is real, not a persona, the blog is that much better. People do not have themes. We have interests. And so it is perfectly acceptable to write on variety of topics. The real person behind the topics, the tone of voice and personality, is what ties it all together.

Don’t Forget That Pesky Audience

audience clapping

by open hardware summit on Flickr

This is the reason I have two blogs, this one and The Masked Geek. Put simply, I have two pretty distinct audiences I want to talk to. Sci-fi and fantasy geeks may use social media, but chances are, most don’t really care about the finer points of content publishing on social channels. Social media marketers may like going to see superhero themed summer blockbusters, but I highly doubt the vast majority want to discuss if Batman is really Bruce Wayne or if Bruce Wayne is just a front for Batman.

You may go into blogging knowing what the target audience is, as business bloggers do. You may just want to write and not have a clue what you will eventually be writing about. But, as a marketer, I just can’t help but think that you have to know who you want to talk to. Even Bangs agrees with this point. During her talk, she said that you have to develop common ground with the readers in order to get traction. This target audience may change as your interests morph. For instance, this blog started out meant for fellow young people entering the workforce, thus the post on where to wear a name tag. Now I talk to fellow digital marketers. That’s fine. It’s okay. The key is to use yourself as the theme, but find common ground with those you want to talk to.

John's Twitter Avatars

John's possible cartoon avatar and current avatar

First a bit of background to why I’m discussing photo versus non-photo Twitter avatars: My friend @JohnAntonios mentioned me in his blog post Personal Branding – Your Avatar is Important, Stick to It. He was discussing how it is important not to just randomly change your Twitter icon or your handle since that is often how your followers know you. All great points. John used myself and another non-photo avatar user (@MrWordsWorth) as examples. Then developed John a cartoon avatar that he is thinking of using as opposed to the photo he currently has. He asked me which I prefer. This made me think of a debate that is currently raging amongst marketers that is profiled in the book I’m reading, Twitterville. I just had to respond with a blog post instead of a simple Tweet.

The debate is about whether or not branded/logo avatar Twitter accounts are better than company spokespeople accounts. I think this applies to personal cartoon accounts as well.

Muppet Twitter Avatar

@MrWordsWorth's Twitter Avatar

Now in the book, author Shel Israel (@shelisrael) is unashamedly biased in preferring spokespeople accounts, like Dell’s policy of having employees use Twitter handles using the @NameatDell template and real photos for their avatars (here’s an example). This is opposed to having accounts like the @Starbucks account which is entirely business and has a logo for an avatar. Israel does a good job of showing the other side of the argument, however, through interviews with “branded tweeters,” or the folk behind such accounts as @Starbucks. (Full book review coming)

But how does this apply to personal accounts? Does it? The arguments for businesses using a logo account are not the same as for an individual using what I’ll call a cartoon account, or a cartoon/non-human avatar. Businesses use logo accounts usually to maintain a consistent, branded message, which would get diluted if people used their personal accounts and talked about baseball games. Individuals use cartoon accounts to better display their personality, perhaps as a part of their personal branding strategy. If their personal brand is best served by a picture of dandelions, then that’s what they would use, according to this argument.

Cartoon Twitter Avatar

My Twitter Avatar

The argument against logo accounts does apply to personal cartoon accounts. Social media is all about interacting with people, not logos. What about to dandelions? Or Muppets, like @MrWordsWorth? Or cartoon faces, like my own avatar. @BryanRicard left a comment on John’s original post saying, “In @KateDavids case, her real picture is used in her Twitter background, so if she wants to use a cartoon image for her profile picture, why not.” But my background is not visible in people’s personal Twitter streams, and many people use 3rd party apps like TweetDeck. They only see my cartoon. Your avatar is your face and what people interact with.

So, in response to my friend John’s question, yes, I like the new avatar. But I like the real picture of him better because his face is more expressive in the photo than in the cartoon. Does that mean that I don’t think people should use cartoons? No, I use a cartoon avatar, after all. But I think that the logo avatar debate applies to personal accounts and must be considered in making an avatar choice. Personally, I think that a dandelion avatar isn’t good if you want to attract followers, but as long as there is a face, cartoon, Muppet, or otherwise, that people can identify with, then the avatar works.

What do you think? Do you think that the logo account debate applies to personal accounts? Do you not distinguish between cartoon accounts and photo accounts? Do you follow brands?

A motivational poster saying "Google Before You Tweet is the New Think Before You Speak"

My boyfriend sent me this link a few days ago. I wish I had checked it out sooner. As far as I can tell it was originally posted here, though it was sent to me via

This poster is reminiscent of an SAT analogies question. Google before you _______: Think before you Speak. But is this true? Is Googling really the new thinking? Is Tweeting the new speaking? Besides the obvious change from a non-digital form of the action, we’ve replaced thinking and speaking with brand names. As much as I love Google and Twitter, they are companies. Thinking and speaking are my own creation, yes, defined by a word, but at least I don’t have to follow it with a (r) or ™ sign. Or pay royalties. But this might just be a mountain out of a mole-hill. After all, when I sneeze, I ask for a Kleenex.

There is the obvious applicability to personal branding. Tweeting is very public, like many forms of speaking, particularly when gabbing with the rumor-spreaders at work. Rumor-spreaders probably love Twitter, too, since it makes it easier to share the gossip. Only unlike just thinking before you speak, we now have lots of tools to be sure that not only is the information we’re sharing accurate, it is applicable. For instance, before posting this blog, I Googled the phrase “Google before you Tweet” and discovered that most of the mentions of this poster on the first few pages of results are just that, an image of the poster with little or no comment or analytical response.

So yes, please Google your topic before you Tweet about it. Be sure that you don’t jump into the middle of a conversation without knowing the details. It helps to prevent you from looking the fool. But please remember that Googling is not thinking. Googling happens on your computer; thinking happens in your brain. Both are useful.

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Who Am I?

I am a Digital Native who is trying to puzzle out what exactly that means. I share my thoughts on social media, digital business models, and PR here on this blog.

I am currently getting my Masters in Digital Marketing from Hult International Business School, having gotten my B.S. in Marketing from Arizona State University. Everything is on track and I am making headway towards my dream: World Domination... or being a productive, helpful citizen and marketer. Whichever comes first.

Don't hesitate to get in touch. I Tweet daily at @KateDavids and also have a science fiction and fantasy blog ( and Twitter (@Masked_Geek).

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