Friday, March 6, 2009
Optimize Your Personal Brand (If You Want To Exist)
By Max Kalehoff In a discussion at my office last week, Steve Baker, author of "the Numerati," described a day when there would be services widely available to help people optimize themselves in the new digital world. He underscored there have long been individual optimization services in the analog world.
Consider college-prep coaches who optimize high school students to pass more easily through the filter of the most competitive admissions officials. These optimizers will advise their clients to do a little more community service here, or another advanced math course there -- all in the name of looking attractive to an algorithm. He's sure we'll eventually have these personal services in the digital world.
Fast-forward to this week, when, during a presentation at Columbia Business School's Brite conference, Steve Rubel underscored the emergence of individual employee brands. These online celebrities help build relationships and trust with customers. Just as Derek Jeter helps fill seats in the stadium, these employees drive customer acquisition, engagement and loyalty. And the key to building a strong personal brand? Optimizing one's self in search engines.
Let's take this one step further: A lack of personal optimization can be a serious disadvantage in a down economy. With unemployment rising, job seekers who are highly visible to employers have the upper hand. Those who are not discoverable don't exist. No wonder LinkedIn is seeing record traffic and a surge in interpersonal recommendations.
The State Of Digital Personal Optimization
There are scattered tools on the Web an individual can use to positively influence his or her personal search-engine reputation. Consider any number of free social-networking sites and publishing tools: LinkedIn and Twitter, as well as any of the blogging platforms like Blogger or Wordpress. But these tools are not part of any cohesive or sanctioned optimization strategy. And, collectively, they all require significant personal investment to learn, activate and maintain.
Whether good or bad, the required sophistication, complexity and uncertainty of various online consumer profile tools may limit the beneficiaries of personal optimization to a relatively small volume of sophisticated Web users. This creates a new kind of digital advantage, if not inequality. And that's only the public Web. There are many other databases that influence our lives, such as organ donor lists, jury and scholarship pools, and IRS taxpayer records.
Ironically, personal optimization is not even universally recognized or understood as a best practice for succeeding in the 21st century. In Internet circles, sure. But we're only beginning to hear a lot about personal optimization as scholastic and job competition heats up. The growing sophistication of ad targeting and identify thieves has probably fueled interest, as well.
Digital Personal Optimization: When?
So begs the question: When will serious digital personal optimization services become widely available? There is a mature industry of services firms and software that aid businesses in their attempts to optimize, but there's very little that's compelling or affordable for individuals.
However, commercial services are not the only answer; we need fundamental academic research on what digital optimization means for people. Parents should be teaching their children the best practices on how to optimize (and not). If schools are charged with preparing our children to succeed, then they, too, should include personal optimization skills in their curricula.
How are you optimizing yourself for today and tomorrow?
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Max Kalehoff is vice president of marketing for Clickable, a search-marketing solution for small and mid-size businesses. He also writes AttentionMax.com
Online Spin for Friday, March 6, 2009: