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Personal Branding for Introverts

November 18, 2009, 11:18 am · Filed under: Business, Life, Marketing, Twitter

There’s never been a better time in human history to be an introvert. The intertubes give those of us of the less outgoing persuasion a powerful vehicle for exposure, on our own terms.

“My name is Andrew, and I’m an introvert.”

It’s like a dirty word. “Introvert.” Western societies tend to value life-of-the-party types over people like me. I love getting together with a couple of friends and getting all deep and meaningful. For me, flitting around a room filled with people I barely know falls just below “get waterboarded” on my list of to-dos.

If you are unsure for which team you bat, consider the following statements (from Wikipedia):

  1. I am the life of the party.
  2. I enjoy being the center of attention.
  3. I am skilled in handling social situations.
  4. I like to be where the action is.
  5. I make new friends easily.
  6. I am quiet around strangers.
  7. I don’t like to draw attention to myself.
  8. I don’t like to party on the weekends.
  9. I like to work independently.
  10. I often enjoy spending time by myself.

If most of 1-5 ring true for you and most of 6-10 don’t, you’re probably an extrovert. If the opposite is true, you’re probably an introvert. If you fall pretty evenly in both camps, you may be an ambivert. Kinky.

Me, a brand?

Yes, you, a brand. If, like me, you make your living as an independent contractor, freelancer, or consultant, your “brand” is your most valuable asset.

Even if you work in a large company, your brand can affect work assignments, promotions, etc. So, hey, you at IBM, keep reading!

Note: I’m about to spout off about what the term “brand” means. I’m not a marketing expert, so—if you are—please feel free to clarify and correct me in the comments.

In the simplest terms, a brand is what people associate with a person, company, or organization. So, a personal brand is basically what people think of when they think of you.

E.g., consider Anna Kournikova. What comes to mind? Sexy. Athletic. Pretty. Not the world’s greatest tennis player, but who really cares?

Now, consider Stephen Hawking. Big brained dude. Inventor of the black hole. World’s smartest person. Not who you’d choose to back you up in a bar fight, but your absolute top choice for the “phone a friend” lifeline on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.

What do people think of when they think of you? That’s your personal brand.

Ate Bran Flakes for breakfast. Reading the newspaper. Cat has herpes.

At first blush, social networking would seem to favor the extrovert. People willing to share the minutae of their lives are, after all, the primary target audience for services like Twitter, right?

Yes and no. Sure, there are heaps of people tweeting the mundane, but that doesn’t mean you have to be one of them. It is possible to use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. to positively affect your personal brand.

I’m on Twitter. I’ve built up a reasonably high-value following there, even earning the label of “persona” according to Klout, a Twitter influence analysis site.

From my Klout summary:

You have built a personal brand around your identity. There is a good chance that you work in social media or marketing but you might even be famous in real life. Being a persona is not just about having a ton of followers, to make it to the top right corner you need to engage with your audience. Make no mistake about it though, when you talk people listen.

I didn’t set out to be a Twitter “persona.” I am neither famous, nor do I work in social media or marketing. What happened is that, as an introvert, I naturally tend not to tweet about every little detail of my day, preferring to tweet about stuff directly related to my work as a web developer as well as engaging with others of like mind. There is a bit of the personal in there, but by mostly keeping it focused, my tweet stream is more valuable.

The introvert advantage

What do you think? Is there more information out there than you have the ability to process? I thought so.

I love extroverts. Some of my best friends are extroverts. But, here’s the thing: extroverts tend to say whatever’s on their mind. Some go as far as to say seemingly everything that’s on their mind. When that gets amplified by social media, it’s overload.

Introverts tend to think about what they want to say before they say it. If it’s already been said by someone else, we don’t feel the need to say it again. If, after a discussion has run its course, there are important points left uncovered, we chime in. For that reason, when an introvert opens her mouth, people tend to pay attention.

Attention is valuable.

The social media race goes not to the swift of keystroke, but to those with the ability to say the most in the simplest terms.

I believe we, as introverts, have a unique ability to focus our attention on the most salient information, synthesize it into digestible concepts and express it in a modicum of words. In a world marketplace increasingly driven more by “word of text” than “word of mouth,” that gives us a powerful lever for shaping a personal brand.