Brian Shaler

Occasionally Interesting

Gravity is for chumps

Posts Tagged ‘Branding’

If I explain it to one person, I might as well…

If I explain it to one person, I might as well explain it to everyone. I received an email recently asking some questions and/or seeking clarification. Topics include ShalerJump photos, personal branding, and Twitter.

The sender’s name, pieces of the original email, and pieces of my response have been removed.

> My first impression of you from a year or two ago was, “Who is this clown
> who’s trying to be famous for jumping?” No offense.

I wouldn’t say I’m trying to be famous for jumping. I was part of a photography group and jump photos were a fun activity. The first photo of me jumping was taken in October of 2006.

After putting them online, they started getting tagged “ShalerJump” (by the photographers of each photo, not by me) so people could view all of them in a search result. A year later (November, 2007), I was at a conference and someone I had never met introduced me to someone else I had never met as “the guy that jumps.” It sounded fun and interesting, so I decided to roll with it. In May of 2008, I finally bought the domain name

> I read something you
> and/or Adam Nollmeyer wrote, like an interview, about what the Shaler Jump
> was and what it was intended to be… some sort of exercise in personal
> branding I seem to recall. I thought, “this guy is full of himself” and
> “what is he even supposed to be famous _for_?”

The jump photos started to become part of my personal brand when people saw them online and thought of me as “the guy that jumps.” That happened on its own. When I noticed this happening, I adopted it to help in grow, which is the point where it can actually be considered a personal branding effort.

Fame has nothing to do with it. The jump photos serve as both branding and marketing. The marketing side is what draws people in, looking at the photos for what they are and sharing them with friends. The brand side of it is when people actually associate the photos with a person. I brand myself as someone who has fun and does interesting things. (“fun” and “interesting” are both vague words, though I use them quite a bit)

I participated in the interview. Adam thought it would be a good idea to give people more back story on why there are all these photos of me online. To some extent, though, whenever we write publicly about it, we usually take a tongue in cheek approach of making it sound like there’s more to it than there really is. It’s to intrigue people and to mess with them a little bit. (“mess with” as in “confuse” or “to make stop and think”)

> Recently, my curiosity led me to read more about you.

This is something I try to accomplish. I don’t want to try to push who I am onto people. I want to draw people in by being interesting and triggering some level of intrigue.

> Call me old school,
> call me a skeptic, call me cynical, but I look for concrete reasons to
> respect someone, such as skills, talents (other than jumping ha ha),
> concrete accomplishments, etc. Once I did some digging through your
> websites, I realized that you do have some of these things. Maybe not so
> much that I understand why you have 10,617 followers on Twitter at the
> moment, but enough to see that you deserve credit for something other than
> having friends take photos of you while you jump like a lead guitarist in a
> rock band. :-)
> (I hope you’re catching onto my dry humor here. At least a little.)

[Brace yourself. Name-drop alert. Will probably sound uncharacteristically egotistical.]
I started working on personal branding after I realized that being an award-winning web developer didn’t make people respect you. There is one little place on one of my sites where you can find a brief mention of the fact I have worked with: Mazda, Nike, Boeing, Ford SVT, Lincoln (automotive), Mars Inc (Twix), Nivea For Men, Chrysler Financial, Shamrock Farms, blah blah blah.
[Done name-dropping]

You wouldn’t have found me or had an opportunity to judge me (whether or not you should respect me) if it hadn’t been for my for-fun stuff like ShalerJump photos,, various crap/tools/eye-candy I made for the Digg community, photography (+photography tutorials), various micro-sites (,,,, etc), and various things I did on Twitter during the last 1.5 years (TwitLibs, TAG: Twitter Acronym Game, etc).

This illustrates why personal branding and marketing was so crucial. I’m not trying to be “famous for jumping.” It’s simply one of those things I do because it’s fun, and it opens another avenue for people to find me.

> I still don’t understand why anyone would follow 5,741 people, much less be
> followed by twice that number. I’m not saying that in a mean way, just in an
> honest, baffled way. I currently follow 20 people. 5 of them bore me to
> death, 5 of them are tolerably interesting, and the other half don’t even
> update. And I’m getting ready to unfollow some more. ;-) How do you stand
> following 5,741? I would truly appreciate some insight into this.

I follow back everyone who follows me. It’s something Twitter set up for my account over a year ago. Last year, I was following more people than were following me. When I joined Twitter, I started by following a lot of people. Nowadays, I rarely follow people on my own. When/If they follow me, I automatically follow them back.

After Twitter set up the auto-follow-back functionality, my “following” count went up along with my “followers” count. A year ago, I was following over 11,000 people and was followed back by around 7,000. (@garyvee actually gave me crap about this at SXSW, on video. “Who follows 4,000 more people than are following?”) Since then, I have continued with the auto-follow-back, but I have been steadily unfollowing people who are spammers, don’t tweet in English, don’t actually USE twitter (e.g. all their tweets are from twitterfeed), etc. I have gotten it down to 5,741 (as of this writing: 5,712) and out of those, I can probably eventually get down to about 4,000 (but may never hit that specific number, because people will continue to follow me).

I don’t attempt to read every single post from everyone. There isn’t a single person on Twitter whose every update is completely relevant and useful to me. Some people have a high percentage of meaningful tweets, while others have a low percentage. By following a lot of people, I have the ability to “tune in” (like TV) to Twitter whenever I can and skim many tweets to see what’s going on.

There is no right or wrong way to use Twitter. I’m VERY interested in what is going on and what people are doing. I follow people who try to be funny/entertaining (140 characters is a great constraint for witty one-liners), I follow people who link to tech news, and I follow people in my industry (software development, web development, Flash, etc). I follow people who don’t exactly fit those criteria, but a little noise doesn’t hurt, as long as they’re human and tweeting about something. There’s nothing wrong with following only a few people and making sure never to miss a single update — the majority of Twitter users do exactly that.

The President Could Use A Marketing Advisor

I generally do not like talking about politics. This article only includes observations on the President’s poor brand image on the internet.

Businesses use marketing and branding strategies to increase sales. If you think about how sales are increased through successful marketing and branding, you will see that the same strategies can be used in other situations.

Good branding will establish trust. Good marketing will get people listening to your message. No company or person should leave their brand image up to others, especially not the opposition. You do not want your detractors’ messages about you to be heard by more people than your own.

Look at how the President is represented on the internet. Nobody in the administration has any control of the President’s personal brand. It seems to be in the hands of the mass media, conspiracy theorists, and fanatics that swarm around social news sites. Not good.

How does the President’s message get to the people? The Press Secretary reads it in a press conference, where representatives of the media then listens, applies necessary spin, and publishes. The mass media does not work for the government and can say whatever they want. Therefore, they should not be put in responsibility of the President’s message. With this current system, the President’s message is given to the People much like a suppository — obviously not a good marketing strategy.

As a politician, it is important for the President to maintain trust with the People of America. Yet on the internet, all we hear about is what they [may] have done wrong. If people only hear negative things about a someone or something, whether or not the statements are true, they will not be likely to trust the given entity.

I do not trust or support President Bush. How can I? I have heard too much bad and not enough good. It is possible that my assumptions (built on what I have read/heard) are incorrect, but who is telling me otherwise?

Why Should You Be Building A Personal Brand?

Personal branding is something very few people consider as an investment in their career. How do you get a more enjoyable or higher paying job? Education, portfolio, experience. Once you have enough of those, you can look for your ideal job, submit your resume, and stand a better chance than the rest at getting it.

Who benefits from a personal brand?

I commonly talk to people about the benefit of name recognition for entrepreneurs. If you start a business and thousands of people already know and trust you, your business will have an immediate kick-start customer base. In the web services industry, it is all about staying afloat until you hit critical mass and become profitable. The sooner you can do that, the better. With that in mind, the name recognition and established trust can have a significant impact on the likelihood of success of your business.

How does personal branding plug into the job-seeking paradigm?

While the entrepreneur discussion is very interesting to discuss, there is also great value in personal branding for working professionals.

I have learned this first hand while building a brand around my name during the last year. To help establish a reputation as a skilled developer, I worked on various weekend projects and released them to the public with my name attached. Some of the projects yielded tens of thousands of visitors while a couple even hit the 6 figure mark. Right now, it is remarkably difficult to find good or great Flash developers. Guess what happens when tens of thousands of people view a simple Flash tool you built. Some of them are likely to be business owners or managers that are in need of a Flash developer.

Obviously, the more you put your work and yourself out there, the more you will regarded as an expert on a topic. Also, the more your name is seen and discussed around the industry, the more job opportunities will come your way. From here, we can take a look at your situation from an economics perspective. If you are receiving job offers, especially in an industry that is lacking good workers, the supply and demand scale is tipped in your direction. The supply is you, which is constant, and the demand is the number of companies that want to hire you.

By establishing yourself in the industry and building your own personal brand, you put yourself in a position to choose from jobs that are seeking you rather than settling for which ever employer will accept your resume.