I'm a 30-year-old Enneagram Type 6 cat lady pursuing mindfulness, simplicity, and a BA in Advertising and Public Relations. I live in Grand Rapids, MI with my tuxedo cat, Stella, and my accordionist/artist partner, Michael. I'm a born-and-raised Yooper, and still one at heart.
As a practical way of learning how our online activity can affect our personal brand, our CAP 105 class created BrandYourself accounts at the beginning of the semester. Though I already knew that our online activity can haunt us forever, the experience of monitoring my search results with BrandYourself has made painfully clear how hard it can be to get rid of information you don’t want associated with your name.
It’s not that there’s anything incriminating out there for me to worry about; rather, a few of my search results were websites that I had submitted writing to years ago, which I have no power to take down. Also, my Vine account shows up in my results, as does a mirror site that scraped my content (yay!). These websites just don’t represent me anymore, but they still appear when someone searches my name online. Bummer.
When I created my account in September, I was somewhat surprised to find my search result score was a C:
Throughout the semester, the score improved slightly to a C+, then to a B-. I think it may have actually dropped again to a C before I raised it back to a B-, which is my current score at the end of the semester.
Based on my personal online weaknesses that I’ve learned using BrandYourself, here are five ways I can improve my online presence and thereby improve my personal brand:
1. Build my own blog
Developing my voice and brand through my own blog is quite possibly the best way I can express and have control over my personal brand online. By learning more about SEO and incorporating keywords into my posts, and by linking to other sites when applicable, I can help my blog become my #1 relevant search result.
2. Write for other blogs
If I submit content to be published on websites that align with my personal brand, my name will be connected with information that more closely represents my personal brand. This will create more relevant search results for my name, and will also help bury search results that don’t apply to me or that I don’t want to be among my top results.
3. Boost my LinkedIn profile
My LinkedIn profile is in need of updating, and through BrandYourself, I’ve learned there are ways to make my profile more search-friendly. This includes becoming more active on LinkedIn by posting status updates and making regular updates to my profile.
5. Create a BrandYourself profile
Creating a professional BrandYourself profile will create one more positive search result that accurately represents my personal brand.
5. Continue using BrandYourself
While I am not inclined to pay for extra services with BrandYourself at this time, I may in the future. I’ve found it to be a very valuable tool. For now, I will continue using the features available for free to monitor my search results and find ways to improve them.
BrandYourself is a great tool for monitoring, improving, and maintaining how we are represented online. Keeping up with it all takes some work! However, maintaining your personal brand is important work that translates into having a professional and credible reputation, both online and offline.
At the beginning of his February 2013 TED Talk, Sugata Mitra referred to the British Empire, which had to try to “run the entire planet without computers, without telephones, with data handwritten on pieces of paper, and traveling by ships.”
It seems impossible from today’s perspective. So how did they do it? “They created a global computer made up of people,” said Mitra. Schools trained children to become identical parts of this machine by learning to write neatly, read, and do basic math in their head. This anecdote made me think about how, just as Mitra argues traditional education is outdated, so is the traditional work setting.
Forgive this oversimplification, but the concept of work has obviously evolved since Victorian times with the invention of computers and telecommunications. People have also developed their once-identical knowledge and skills into specialties, which requires collaboration to achieve an end goal.
Today’s teams often work together despite being unable to meet in person. Beyond computers, phones, and videoconferencing, other technologies allow people to collaborate and create an efficient workflow. I’ve had the opportunity to experience some of these tools in recent employment, and some of these may be used well into my career. However, I know I must be open learning other tools, as the options will keep growing.
While taking the Hootsuite Platform Training this semester, I learned how Hootsuite simplifies social media management through its Organizations and Teams functions. Among other team-oriented features, social media posts and messages can be assigned to specific members within a team, so the right person is responding to each unique inquiry under the brand’s social media handles.
I have already experienced the usefulness of Google apps, such as Gmail, Docs, Drive, Calendar, and Sheets, in workplace and student collaboration. With Google’s ubiquity, I don’t expect these tools to go away soon, and I hope my familiarity with them will serve me well in my future workplace.
However, there are other tools that may prove more useful for project management, like Basecamp and Podio. I am currently getting acquainted with Basecamp and see the value in having all of a team’s projects, tasks, to-do lists, calendars, and more in one location.
While the above tools seem fairly straightforward in their usefulness for the workplace, I was surprised that Ragan suggested Snapchat as a tool for project management – “to share status updates and progress reports quickly and efficiently, for example. The creative, urgent, flash-in-the-pan nature of the app makes it remarkably suited to a fast-paced work environment,” writes Jody Ordioni. Though I have yet to become comfortable with Snapchat, and the “urgent, flash-in-the-pan nature” of it stresses me out more than it delights me, I can see how it could be useful for collaborators who were all on board with the idea.
Though technology can be helpful in connecting people who are geographically distant, it can also prevent or remove some of the face-to-face interactions that contribute to a spirit of collaboration. Skype and other videoconferencing tools can help bridge the distance. As our class learned during our recent field trip to Externa CGI, someday virtual reality will allow people to see each other as if they are in the same room, although they won’t actually physically be in the same room! Until virtual reality becomes a reality for the average business, there is one tool that can help foster face-to-face interactions beyond a static TV or computer screen: a robot.
I can only imagine how many technological advancements will be made by the time I am settled into my career. The thought of using Snapchat or virtual reality in my everyday workflow and teamwork seems so out there to me, but it may be quite normal very soon. No matter what tools I’ll be using, I am grateful the technology exists to help teams do their best work.
In recent years, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with social media: I love how these channels help me stay in touch with friends and family, make new connections with people in my community and around the world, and stay informed on social issues; I hate how much time I spend on them, how I almost always feel the need to “catch up” after even half a day away from my feeds, and how scrolling social media detaches me from all the “real life” happening outside of my phone and laptop screens.
Before taking CAP 105, I was curious about a future working with digital media, but I was unsure to what extent I’d want to pursue it. I did know I had a lot to learn. Coincidentally, I spent a lot of time in middle and high school exploring very basic graphic design and website design using HTML and CSS. In the early 2000s, I had my own domain, a personal website, which I created graphics for, and a blog – which was just my personal diary, but online. I had a lot of fun with it, but it never occurred to me that it presented a potential career path. I didn’t know anything about strategy at that point, though looking back, I realize I had a head start on the concept of my personal brand.
Before I made the decision last year to return to school, I was feeling a pull towards helping small businesses or individuals with their writing projects and websites. Taking CAP 220 this summer helped me realize that I wanted to learn more about effectively using digital tools for a career in public relations.
During a marketing for nonprofits session I attended for a work conference just over a year ago, I felt my heart rate increase as the experts discussed website analytics and SEO. It was a feeling of clarity, that yes, I was interested in this, and yes, I want to learn more. CAP 105 has affirmed these interest areas for me and has presented so many directions to explore further.
In jobs I previously held, I witnessed what I believed was weak implementation of digital media for the employer’s PR and marketing. But without having the experience or knowledge of what really was the “right” way to do it, I didn’t feel was qualified to criticize or suggest a better way.
Now, near the end of CAP 105, I feel empowered – though I still have more to learn. I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to learn about social media as part of my college experience. Because I’ve become HootSuite certified, I am confident that I could work with social media in a significant capacity in the future. The tools that Derek DeVries showed our class for digital and analytics also made me very excited about the prospect of working with such resources in the future. And while SEO is still somewhat cloudy to me, and I haven’t had an opportunity to implement Google Analytics yet, I am excited to learn more and put that knowledge into practice.
Since I am pursuing a future in public relations, there’s no question that digital media will have a huge impact on my career. Communicating with publics requires being present where the publics are, which is increasingly online. For instance, 79 percent of online American adults use Facebook. After catching an audience’s attention, it’s important to use the right kind of content to engage them, which could be an infographics, videos, or text. I could someday make any or all of these myself, or I could use my network to find the right professional for the job.
CAP 105 has also echoed the fact that how I represent myself on social media can have an impact on my future career opportunities. I still have some work to do to let my personal brand truly shine through, and also to use social media as platforms for showing my knowledge and skills. By practicing with presenting my personal brand, I’ll be better prepared for managing social accounts for brands in my future employment.
Social media platforms are alwayschanging and play an important role in marketing. Rules for SEO have changed over time, and new digital media tools are being created every day. There will always be something new to learn. However, CAP 105 has also helped me realize that while it’s useful to have a broad knowledge of the tools that we’ve covered, what will be most helpful to me as I enter my career will be specializing in some of them, rather than continuing to wade a couple inches deep in all of them. I’m looking forward to discovering where my talent and interests best align.
My first experiences with the internet were with Yahoo! chat rooms, message boards, and ICQ. I would spend a lot of time sitting in front of a desktop computer to be able to communicate with others around the world. I kept a lot of my “online life” to myself, not even telling my closest friends how I spent my time in front of the computer. This came to mind as I was watching “Generation Like” (Koughan, 2014) and seeing teenagers talk with each other about what their Facebook profile picture should be. Out in public, I’ve noticed people sharing something on their smartphone screen with the person sitting next to them, or teaching each other how to use mobile apps.
I learned how to use and communicate on the Internet by taking it into my own hands. I felt empowered because I was exploring this whole new world on my own, and almost had a secret life online. It struck me that one girl in “Generation Like” said she felt empowered by gaining fame-by-association through being recognized as one of the biggest fans of the franchise (Koughan, 2014). She has done this by participating in all of The Hunger Games marketing initiatives. (Whether she recognized them as that is another issue.) While the world of The Hunger Games has been opened up to her, it sounds as if that IS her world. Expansive as that world may be on Tumblr, Twitter, and the Hunger Games website, the fact remains that she is, ultimately, not just doing what she does on these channels for herself. She is being used as a marketing tool.
I first signed up for Facebook, then called “The Facebook” and only open to college students, as a Grand Valley freshman in 2004. I’d also had a MySpace for a while before that.
Before joining Facebook, I was more often than not connecting with people I didn’t know “in real life.” Web 2.0 was very new in 2004, and I was amazed at its capabilities for connecting people. I was happy to have Facebook as a way to keep in touch with my best friends from high school, who were all far away at other colleges. It also helped me get to know my new college classmates and peers in my dorm. Of course, the reach of Facebook and social media has grown exponentially since then.
Tyler Oakley, a YouTube sensation who is featured in “Generation Like,” says people can relate to him because he’s “just one of them” (Koughan, 2014). But, as the film pointed out, he’s not. Brands have seen him as an influencer and have chosen him as a marketing channel. His YouTube videos are not just Tyler being Tyler; they’re Tyler being Tyler sponsored by (insert brand name here).
The teens in “Generation Like” did not understand selling out as a negative concept, and as Jason Calacanis, founder of Inside.com, pointed out, “Selling out is not selling out anymore; it’s like getting the brass ring” (Koughan, 2014). These online celebrities are highly admired and celebrated, and they feel successful because their sponsorships have helped them get to where they are.
I must admit it makes me uneasy, though I also wonder how bad it can be if these “celebrities” are truly happy. I just don’t think I could be okay with being a sellout myself.
However, “Generation Like” defined the concept of likes, retweets, followers, and other forms of engagement as “social currency” (Koughan, 2014). There’s an excitement about celebrities, or just large numbers of people, “noticing” you through social media. The teens in the film were talking about how many likes a boy’s profile photo got compared with a girl’s. Though I might not care about accumulating likes quite as much as these teenagers do, I do believe in the power of this social currency, as I often find myself feeling empowered by being on the receiving end myself.
In recent years, I have been trying to be more thoughtful about what I post on social media, and I am not one to go fishing for likes or retweets. I approach my social media channels as places to express myself as authentically as possible, and with Twitter and LinkedIn, a venue for increasing my credibility as a professional. I see likes and retweets as indicators I’m on the right track, rather than as a measurement of my social value.
There are so many ways social media can be helpful to students and professionals in building their careers and personas, but as we’ve also seen too many times, there are also many ways social media can do harm.
I am very interested in how technology affects us individually and socially, and so “Generation Like” was a great resource. I encourage others to make time to watch this documentary and think about their own use of the internet and social media, and how it has changed or might change over time.
Every September, Grand Rapids, Michigan is transformed into a public art gallery known the world over as ArtPrize.
This massive event could not exist without its use of technology – in fact, one of its 10 guiding principles is “ArtPrize Embraces Technology.”
A major technical element of ArtPrize is its extensive website. This is where public or private spaces can register to be official ArtPrize venues, artists can propose their ArtPrize entries and be matched with a host venue, and visitors can find information on the event, as well as on individual entries. Perhaps most importantly, the website allows the public to vote for their favorite pieces in the public vote contest, in which $300,000 in prize money is available to artists. Once a visitor has registered as a voter (they must be within the vicinity of ArtPrize to do so), they can cast their vote in three different ways: on the website, through text/SMS, and now through the official ArtPrize app.
Yes, the event’s voting system is entirely electronic. While this certainly increases efficiency and accuracy in tallying votes, and prevents dishonest voting practices, this dependence on technology has backfired in the past. In 2015, the voting system was down for about six hours on the opening day of ArtPrize because of a service outage (Francis, 2015). It’s unknown just how much that glitch affected the voting overall, but it could have contributed to a decrease in voter turnout: the number of registered voters in 2015 was 15 percent less than in 2014 (Harger, 2016).
Historically, a small percentage of ArtPrize attendees have actually registered to vote – less than 20 percent of 1.9 million people in the first seven years (Harger, 2016). It is easy to enjoy the event without voting, but imagine how different the public vote contest could look if more people would take the time to register and vote. It’s possible the reliance on technology is preventing people from voting; perhaps they would prefer not to share their personal information with ArtPrize, or their access to technology is limited. It will be interesting to see how voter participation trends in the future, especially if changes are made to the voting process.
The ArtPrize mobile app is much more than a tool for voting, as it was developed to provide “an authentic visitor experience, where technology enables a human-to-human connection and a real experience with contemporary art” (Woods, 2016). The human-to-human connection comes in especially with the Lists feature, which is also available on the ArtPrize website. Visitors can create lists of their favorite entries or pieces they want to see, or curate lists based on themes or media used. App users can share their lists with others via social media and email.
Beyond the voting and lists, the app essentially serves as a guide for ArtPrize visitors, with maps for venues, parking, restrooms, and handicap accessible options; updates and news from ArtPrize; and information on art, artists, and events.
Other Uses of Technology
In 2014, ArtPrize organizers found an opportunity with a digital signage pilot program the Rapid bus system had been testing. Throughout ArtPrize, “the digital signage system was interfaced with ArtPrize social media to provide passengers with updated information,” such as the most popular entries and where to find them, and upcoming events or performances (Zirlin, 2015). The signage allowed the captive audience of passengers to learn about the event in real-time, whether or not they were planning to attend. This created an experience on public transit that was memorable and useful, adding value to the ArtPrize brand.
Social media opportunities have also been implemented by individual ArtPrize venues. In 2011, Mercantile Bank installed touch-screen kiosks in their pop-up gallery. Visitors could snap digital photos and directly upload them to Facebook, where the visitors would be “checked in” at the venue. The photos were also uploaded to Mercantile’s Facebook page, and randomly selected images were transmitted to three digital billboards around Grand Rapids (Chen, 2012). This ambitious project was a clever way for the venue to increase its exposure while giving value to its visitors during ArtPrize. There is a lot of opportunity for venues to adopt similar tactics in the future.
Finally, any discussion of technology and ArtPrize would be lacking without mention of how technology factors into the art itself. Many artists have used new or old technologies (or traces of them) as part of their pieces or in creating their pieces, or have submitted art that causes the viewer to question their relationship to technology.
For instance, are our gadgets distracting us from the world right in front of us?
ArtPrize has created a phenomenon in the art world as it seeks to make art more accessible to everyone. The many forms of technology used within and around ArtPrize have contributed to that cause, but there is still plenty of room to grow.