When you meet someone for the first time, one question gets asked more than any other.

What do you do?

A typical response you get is the title of their position and the company they work for.  But is this really the answer?

When you say it like that, it’s like saying your identity belongs to a company. That you are a part of that business.

In reality we are in the business of ourselves.  You might not have an official incorporation or business license, but don’t let that make you think you aren’t your own brand.

Businesses are LICENSING you. They pay you over a period of time to help them with a problem you can solve.  When that problem is solved, or other opportunities arrive, you start a new license with the next company.

Our Branded Web

Instead of store front windows or billboard advertisements, for most of us our brands are on the web. Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and now Google+ are all avenues people use to investigate whether your brand is right for the job, remarkable, or engaging.

Branding yourself is not just a matter of having business skills and then promoting how great you are at sales, customer service, or IT.  That’s boring, thousands of others are great at those things too.  You have to be remarkable.

The greatest invention of all time, sliced bread, was a failure for 15 years before it became popular and a house hold staple. The problem wasn’t the fact that no one needed sliced bread.  It wasn’t until a marketer by the name of W.E. Long started promoting “Wonder Bread” that sliced bread began to take off as a household staple.

Social Media Psychology

Our online brands are the same way.  We each have remarkable talents and abilities, but maybe feel our skills are left sitting on a shelf, waiting to be sold.

I recently came across some interesting connections between psychology and social media.  I thought I might share them here to help us build our brands more effectively.

The 7%-38%-55% Rule

Dr. Albert Mehrabian in the 60’s further developed the study of communication by measuring how much we like and accept a message based on words, tone of voice, and body language.

He found that we absorb meaning at the following intervals for each of the three forms; 7% from words, 38% from tone of voice, and 55% from body language.

This was interesting to me for a number of reasons.

First, unless you are using video heavily, you are only going to have 45% of the capabilities to get people to like your content, since body language is absent. At the same time you can risk people not liking your content if you do use video but your body language is poor.

Second, since the majority of your branding will most likely be written, it is important to have personality in the writing. Personality is what gives your writing its tone of voice.  If you’ve read Tim’s A Daring Adventure or Srinivas’s Skool of Life, you know what I mean by tone.

I have this problem.  Sometimes I write like a reporter instead of a person.  Sorry guys and gals.

The Vividness Effect

This was a new one to me, although I see it everyday.

Remember when the iPhone came out and it was riddled with problems? You had to hold it a certain way to get calls, the battery died quickly, even Jobs’ demo failedIf it had been any other brand the phone would have never succeeded.  So what happened?

The vividness effect is what happened.  The effect occurs when people trump evidence with testimony or other subjective reasoning. Despite all the evidence and facts that the phone had problems, people still wanted the phone because of other’s experiences with Apple and a large belief that their particular phone wouldn’t have the same issues.

So how can we take advantage of this?  By using testimonies.

LinkedIn is perfect for this.  Making sure you have at least 2-3 testimonies publicly shared on your profile can help convince people that your brand is strong.   If you have a site, you can do the same there.  We all know the power of social proof.

How to Build Your Brand Using Social Media Psychology
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

We’ve all seen this triangle before in our Psychology 101 classes.  Yet it still serves as one of the key foundations for understanding human motivation.

Two of the “needs” stood out to me in particular with regards to building our brands online.  Belonging and Esteem.

Belonging:  The need to fit in and have a sense of being missed.

I recently helped my dad sell his Ford Explorer.  Although I hadn’t ridden in it for several years, I actually missed the car and was sad to see it go. There had been so many memories in that car that it was weird to know someone else would now be using it.  Keep in mind this was a Ford Explorer, one of the most picked on cars in history.

Wouldn’t it be great if clients or our bosses felt the same way about us as brands? We do this by fostering relationships.

The biggest mistake people make when it comes to promoting their brand through social media is to make it all about themselves.  You help others love and feel a part of “You” as a brand by including them.  Comment on their sites when they come to yours.  Tweet other’s excellent articles or videos.  Get to know those in your online circles.

Esteem:  The need to be respected and to have self-esteem and self-respect.

When I think of the most respected online personaes Guy Kawasaki, Robert Scoble, and Chris Brogan come to mind.

Their audiences adore them.  Every article, photo, and video they post is reshared by thousands.  They’ve mastered the art of gaining their audiences’ respect.

I think our own brands grow from what we share as well.  Experts are seen as experts because they can consistently provide engaging content on their area of mastery.

The 6 Personas of Online Sharers

The New York Times created an incredible document showcasing The Psychology of Sharing.  Inside they outlined 6 personaes of online sharers.

Studying these different types may help you see what kind of information you can be sharing to help build your brand the way that fits your personality the best.

1.  Altruists:  These are the people who share helpful information through being thoughtful and connected.

You send a couple articles on nutrition and wellness to a friend with health issues because you know she was looking for help.

2.  Careerists:  These personaes share things related to business and are interested in exchanging ideas on how to solve problems in the work field.

These are your friends who like to keep you posted on the latest trends in the workplace, business news, and productivity tools.

3.  Hipsters:  Sharing is a part of them.

Mostly the younger generation, they are less likely to email but will share lots of creative content such as pictures, movies, and media.

4.  Boomerangs:  Post to get a reaction.

These types aren’t afraid to post something controversial or provacative.  If they don’t get a comment or feedback they feel they missed their mark.  They want validation and to feel empowered.

5.  Connectors:  Always passing the deals and opportunities to their friends.

You see a great deal on a hotel package so you send it to your friends and then schedule a vacation together.

6.  Selectives:  Only share things with someone specific.  If it isn’t relevant to them their is no point in sending it.

Less likely to be on Twitter or to share public posts.  More likely to use email only.

What Say You?

Most of the time this blog is my journal of discovery.  Everyone’s comments have been so valuable to me and my learning.

What have you found works well when it comes to building your brand online?  How do you get more engagement?  How do you grow your audience?