I am a marketer. In 2012, that can mean a lot of different things — some of them less endearing than others. In my case, it means that in my chosen profession I help companies sell more stuff. As the in house Marketing Manager at QC, I help make people aware of the great cellular products and services sold at their stores. As a sometimes freelancer, it means that I help folks who are active in areas that I feel make the world a better place to live. As a dude who has interests that include anything related to the commercial space industry and the random beauty found in the internet, it means I communicate those interests in ways that other people enjoy.
One thing that I am not, is a person who uses misdirection and rhetorical tricks to deceive others or manipulate consumption patterns in a way that is destructive and unhealthy. I think that view of marketing and marketers is, unfortunately, a perception that clings to the marketing profession in the hive mind. It’s a real shame, and it probably affects the way I present myself online at times.
I am the kind of person who believes that my work is not some separate entity to be walled off and kept apart from the rest of my ‘real life.’ I simply don’t accept the premise or the implications of that mindset. A famous Buddhist monk whom I admire (Thich Nhat Hanh – look him up, he’s amazing) once wrote that “all time is your time.” It’s an idea that has always struck me as deeply meaningful in its simple truth. Whether at work or play, having fun or enduring the grind, whatever we choose to do at any given moment is necessarily a deep and intrinsic aspect of our reality… and even our person, if you believe that people are largely defined by their actions in life.
What got me thinking about my identity as a marketer tonight was a review of my online social media profiles. I follow a pretty standard periodic schedule of review when it comes to online haunts like Twitter, as well as my blog(s) and websites. During this review process I usually try to take a fresh look at how I am presenting myself to the world via the internet. I don’t do this out of some anxiety-driven need to ‘present the best face’ or appear to be cooler or smarter than I actually am, but rather because I feel compelled to get the story right — and present the most honest representation of myself possible. I know that one day I will die, but the data I leave behind on the internet will live forever. I think that creates a certain obligation to generate the most honest online self possible.
Lately I’ve been doing a lot with the LinkedIn website. It’s a professional network that I used to scoff at, as it seemed kind of spammy and just not something I wanted to be too closely associated with. My views have evolved considerably since I took a fresh look at it, however, and now I find I really enjoy updating and expanding my professional network in the digital space. It seems like it’s really come a long way, and engaging with the site no longer leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
On my LinkedIn profile I naturally identify career highlights as a professional in house Marketing Manager, and nerd out on some of the things I do that are related to that. I was listening to a very good webinar about how to ‘do it right’ on LinkedIn, and it occurred to me that there may be aspects of my online *involuntary shudder* PERSONAL BRAND */shudder* that don’t really fit the profile of what you’re supposed to do on that site. The thing is, I made the choice long ago to represent most of my online identity through the use of my actual name rather than a pseudonym. My thinking was that the consequences (if there were any) would be something I can live with as long as I am always honest about who I am and what I really think. If a person or an organization has a negative response to my online content, they would also have a negative response to my real world person.
That said, I also recognize that there is a time and a place for everything, and sometimes it is not helpful to openly communicate every detail of what you might be thinking. To the case in point, I wondered if my @bencoblentz Twitter feed was ‘professional enough’ to include on LinkedIn. The ideas and links I share on Twitter are usually a crazy mishmash of rugby, telecom industry news, tech stuff, space, science, gay rights advocacy, marketing news, internet happenings and a million other things I think about and want to share on any given day. It all goes back to my philosophy of not making a major distinction between the work I get paid to do and the ‘work’ of living and being a citizen and a human being in the 21st century. My thinking is that as long as I don’t conduct myself like a scumbag, and as long as I don’t swear (too) much, it’s all par for the course and not something I feel any particular need to edit or obscure from view. So, anyway, what got my noodle a’boilin’ over the @bencoblentz/LinkedIn question was the bio description I chose long ago for my Twitter account, specifically the descriptor, “Interested in tunes, boys, booze & rugby.”
To me it reads as a playful quick overview of some personal details I feel comfortable sharing online. I love music of all kinds. I am an out and proud gay man. I enjoy socializing over a beer. I play rugby (badly, but enthusiastically). It seems pretty straightforward and harmless. Then, I started thinking… What if a prospective employer or client reads this and thinks I am saying the following: I am a vapid man-boy who only thinks about pop culture and trivial concerns. I am a promiscuous hedonist. I am an alcoholic. I enjoy violent sports and being violent in general.
Over-thinking things? Maybe. Probably. But still, is “Interested in tunes, boys, booze & rugby” really LinkedIn material? Should I change it to say more about being a professional marketer, and less about my ‘personal’ life? Adjust my content stream to talk more about things that relate to my business? Maybe just use my DFM social media stuff for LinkedIn? (most of which is still under development and not ready for promoted use)
The short answer is no. While it may ruffle a few more conservative types, I have to accept that it is okay to really live my philosophy in both spaces. It is okay to be a creative and skilled marketer, yet also a weirdo who likes to talk about Star Trek and drinking whiskey on the internet. Even if it breaks some assumed rules of engagement, I think most people won’t be too shocked by the real me.
Thanks for reading – I hope this finds you well!