Friday, March 5

Picking Roads: Personal Brand Or Persuasive Persona?

When it comes to personal branding, there are plenty of roads that people can take to reach a destination. Unfortunately, most personal branding tips and discussions prompt people to take a different road than the one they prescribe. In fact, most directions have very little to do with being real and very much to do with developing a persuasive persona (intended or not).

Personally, I don't agree with developing a persuasive persona because it seems to be the polar opposite of authenticity. Even when I think to write about this subject, I always wonder if some people will use the tools for agenda over best intent. At the same time, good people probably need to know the ingredients to identify which is which. So here they are...

Three Ingredients For A Persuasive Persona.

This isn't communication theory as much as it is a psychological proof. The tactics are well known in psychology. They have been applied and studied for as long as there has been formalized propaganda. They were employed by con artists well before that.

• Credibility.

Communicator credibility, the degree someone can be believed, depends on how much expertise they appear to have. Appear is the operative word. Credibility can consist of pure fiction, provided someone has the right fact, message, position, affiliation, frequency, or mass following.

All of these things lend to perceived credibility, which creates a persuasive persona. Whether or not there is any verifiable evidence that they are an expert, such as experience or results, hardly matters. It's the platform that Tac Anderson talks about in his post on personal branding.

• Attractiveness.

By attractiveness, I'm not talking about physical qualities as much as charisma. Simply put, people tend to seek out and gravitate around people they like and admire. It's the basis for most social media tactics: People will like you if you make it about them. Everybody loves to be noticed. It's the rule of reciprocity.

There are dozens of posts that could be written on this subject. It can be influenced by any number of factors: schematics we create about people, the primacy effect, pre-existing stereotypes, sense of personal attachment, dispositional bias, self-serving bias, self-attribution, and all sorts of other stuff. But, the bottom line is still the same. People tend to like the ideas of people they like, whether or not those ideas are right.

• Context.

Every group, over time, begins to develop implicit and explicit sets of beliefs, attitudes, ideas, and protocols. The more you adopt or pretend to adopt those beliefs, the more likely you will receive social approval from the group. It has worked this way for a long time. It will likely work this way for a long time to come.

A tribe, as some people call them online, like any other group throughout time, establishes its own set of rewards and punishments for accepting or not accepting social norms. It's also the basis of most social media outreach programs — listen first and then adopt the norms established by that group. By doing so, agents hope to increase their likability until they establish enough credibility to persuade the group.

Persuasive Personas Aren't Always Real.

These tactics are precisely what social media detractors do not like about some social media personas. Intangible credibility, likability over earned respect, and faux belongingness seem all too apparent to them. They say the public is being duped.

Of course, the detractors are only partly right. There are some very smart, experienced, and like-minded people involved in social media. And, of course, some are not. The latter only seek out the endearment of others to elevate their credibility in order to sell products or launch a paid service space to be staffed by volunteers who will do the work for free.

There is nothing wrong with that, per se. Everyone has to eat. All I'm saying is that there are fundamental differences between personal branding, reputation management, and persuasive personas. And in developing your online presence, I hope you take the high road as opposed to the one I've outlined above. Good night and good luck.

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