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Massage Today
January, 2010, Vol. 10, Issue 01

The Brand Called You

Are You Coloring Outside the Lines?

By Lisa Curran Parenteau, LMT, NCTMB

The use of social media tools is exploding in our profession. One of the interesting by-products of our online connectivity is the continued blurring of the lines between professional and personal identities.

Discovering and growing your personal brand online and off is more important today than ever for your successful practice. By putting thought and intention into defining your personal brand sooner than later, you will not only reap many benefits, but also perhaps prevent a faux pas along the way that may stay around in the ether for a long time! If you are online at all, there is no hiding anymore and transparency and authenticity are keys to thriving in our digital world. In this article, I hope to inspire you to draw your lines, and then maybe color outside of them a bit.

I have always been fascinated with emerging technology on the Internet. I'm not an expert by any means, merely curious and persistent. Years ago, I created Web sites for local businesses, with only a few HTML manuals and my trusty Mac. Later, I made my first MySpace page, much to the chagrin of my late teen and twenty-something sons. Then onto LinkedIn, made a few lenses on Squidoo, created profiles, groups and fan pages on Facebook and Twitter. I have always sought out marketing gurus and observed what they were doing, attended as many free webinars as possible, and was brazen enough to stick my big toe in.

One thing I have known instinctively from the start, was that knowing what you want to say, and be remembered for it, seemed central to a social media (SM) presence. I see it as a never-ending cocktail party - OK maybe more like a dreaded Chamber of Commerce networking reception. You want to look and act your best, professionally and personally. You want to connect with others, and articulate your professional goals in a way that engages them. Suavely deliver your elevator speech. [See "Promotion and Sales: What language do you speak?" MT, June 2009.] You don't want to be pushy, obnoxious, politically offensive, or too aggressive. You also want to network with others to listen to their professional goals and get to know them on a personal level, at least a little bit. Ultimately, you aspire to support them in some way and discover if they can support you. You may even find that there is enough in common to serve as a foundation for a future friendship. The beauty of it all is that you get to really plan and strategize around your interaction - and you don't have to buy new shoes (unless you really want to!). Personal branding is this process - how we market ourselves to others.

Personal Branding

The term "personal brand" is believed to have first appeared in the August 1997 issue of Fast Company magazine, in an article by author Tom Peters, who wrote, "We are CEOs of our own companies: Me, Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You." I think this is more important today than it was in 1997. We are taught in massage school business class (I hope!) that creating some marketing collateral, business cards, perhaps a brochure and small Web site are great tools to market your business. These tools are still important to have in our toolbox, but your social media profiles and your online branding is fast becoming even more potentially powerful and an incredibly cost-effective approach that can level the playing field in our marketplace. According to Dan Schawbel, a disciple of Peters, author of Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success, and owner of the award-winning Personal Branding Blog: "The difference between today and over 10 years ago when it was first mentioned by Tom Peters, is the rise of social technologies that have made branding not only more personal, but within reach."

Now that you are considering the importance of your online persona, how do you define, or refine your personal brand? In my last two articles, I wrote about the importance of finding your niche and attracting your perfect customer. [See June 2009 article and "Are You My Perfect Customer?" MT, October 2009.] Please apply those same concepts here and start with your passions. What are you really interested in? Where will you find others who are interested in the same things? Where can you find more information about your interests? Where and how will you find your tribe? If you are reading this, you probably have a cursory knowledge of the common SM tools. Mashable has the best "how-to's" so I won't spend a lot of time here. The most important:

Facebook profile: Try to be as complete as possible, to your level of comfort. Make sure you include a Facebook picture of just you, without any weird people or objects in your profile picture. Please use the same picture in all your profiles! And please only post links and pictures that you would want your Mom to see. (That's probably a good rule of thumb.) While considering your personal brand, share posts, articles, thoughts, quotes, questions that are aligned with the persona you are creating. Remember the cocktail party, would you bring along weird friends, show up in compromising attire, or spout outrageous political opinions? According to Facebook, there are more than 300 million active users. There are probably more people than you think on Facebook that could be a friend of your friends. The fastest growing segment on Facebook is 55- to 65-year-old females.

LinkedIn profile: A LinkedIn profile at its best is a combination of a resume, cover letter, and references document. Use it to create your own professional brochure to search for others who may be in your tribe and to connect through the enormous world of LinkedIn user groups. Search for groups that pique some of your interests; you may be surprised at who you might meet! Eighty percent of companies use LinkedIn as a primary tool to find employees.

Twitter profile: Your Twitter profile should be stylistically connected to your Facebook profile and the pic should be the same as the one used in your other SM profiles. You should customize your background, fill out your profile and include a link to your blog, Facebook profile or page and your LinkedIn profile.

YouTube channel and subscriptions: The #2 search engine in the world is YouTube. Consider creating your own YouTube channel and posting a short video of your specialty. Do you have an expertise in a technique that you would like to share with your tribe? Or another hobby/passion that might attract like-minded subscribers or your perfect customer? Subscribe to channels that may lead you to others in your tribe.

Developing Your Boundaries

Now the challenge of the hour: How much do I share with the online community about my personal life? Where are my boundaries? Some people seem to have a level of fear or anxiety around this basic question: Where should I draw the line? I say draw one that is comfortable for you, and then let the line blur a bit! I had a watershed moment a while back when I was looking at a post from one of my online mentors, Chris Brogan. He uploaded a few pictures of his kids on a family vacation this summer. They were very touching and authentic and it really made me realize how much we all seek connection on some deep level. He wanted to share these intimate family pictures with the world because they were so much of who he was as a person. It made me see him in a whole new light, and have even more respect for him as an entrepreneur and thought leader.

I love what colleague and fellow massage therapist Michael Reynolds had to say on the subject of blurring the line between personal and professional, "At first I did have concerns that maybe I should hide more of my personal life and keep it from my professional life but I soon found that opening up my personal life a bit actually enriched my professional relationships, as well."

Sharing the things about us that are most important to us, in moderation, will create a magnet for others who will be attracted to our authentic selves. A tasteful bit about our family life, a beautiful or funny picture from a recent trip, sharing blog posts about our hobbies and interests, will continue to define us as unique and attractive people. Many folks also disclose information about things like their religious affiliation. At first glance, this may seem risky. But for some, it is very central to their personal identity. I think their feeling is, "If someone does not want to be associated with me because of my religious beliefs, then I probably don't want to do business with them anyway." And conversely, I might have more insight and confidence in a person when I understand more about what makes them tick.

I was asked to do some marketing consulting for my church, and I noticed that one of my online friends, who I found out was a consultant through her LinkedIn profile, was also a fellow church member. It was a no-brainer to seek out some guidance and consulting advice from this person, and she was even more willing to unconditionally give it to me because it was for a fellow church member!

If we are allowing ourselves to be clear and comfortable about our product - our personal brand - we will attract our fellow tribe members. And those who might be turned off or offended, may not have been the best fit for us as potential colleagues or business associates. There is so much that can and will happen when you bring together people with shared passions. New ideas form, relationships are created, information is shared and people are connected, in an authentic way.

Use social media tools to help you with your personal branding. Contribute. Listen. Make it easy for your tribe to reach you. Don't be afraid to celebrate your individuality and color outside the lines.

I look forward to sharing more thoughts and conversations with you on the new Women in Bodywork Business Blog (WIBB) that will be launched on the Massage Today Web site. Here I will join hands with other leaders in our field as we open our hearts, lives and keyboards to you!

Happy New Year. May this year bring you abundance while simultaneously bringing you closer to your center. Namaste.

Lisa Curran Parenteau is a specialist in marketing and practice development. She serves as marketing consultant for the Center for Compassionate Touch, LLC and contributes to curriculum and program development. She also consults with other businesses, non-profit organizations and professional associations. Lisa serves the American Massage Therapy Association as the 3rd VP, webmaster for the Mass. Chapter website and will serve as a 2009 Mass. Delegate to the 2009 national AMTA conference, where she will be presenting a Position Statement to the 2009 House of Delegates. She also serves the Massage Therapy Foundation as a member of the Community Service Review Committee and the Chairperson of the newly formed Marketing Committee. Lisa can be reached at .


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