I really don’t want this to be another post about bashing influencers and the like. The web has plenty of that to go around. Instead I want to flesh-out some of my thoughts on the subjects of branding, marketing, and “influencing” coming from someone who has written and sold services on the internet for a few years now.
I am, by no means, an expert on the aforementioned subjects. I am, however, someone who has experimented with selling my own services, freelancing, and networking through my fair share of companies. My opinions on this stuff have evolved from one end of the spectrum to the other and back again several times. I like to think I’ve (finally?) come to some semblance of a conclusion.
We all need to brand ourselves
This was the mentality I had early on. I entered into the world of internet business more or less as a writer for fitness-based websites. I quickly saw the influence this had on developing a brand and generating traffic and potential customers. By writing on some big name sites, I was quickly garnering a reputation and reach. This happened mostly due to the companies I worked for and their ability to market.
I became a integral part of their content marketing machines. I learned the importance of SEO, topics, trends, and shifts in the industry. This inevitably led me to a desire to “do my own thing” and strike out on some of my very own ventures.
I did the requisite practices of social media marketing, newsletters, and continued writing for others. I turned into the classic case of being metric-obsessed. I worried more about views and likes than developing streamlined systems that could produce real value to customers and generate revenue.
Yes, it’s a very common story so I’ll spare you any more details. Overall, I became very overwhelmed. Everything I read about content marketing said similar things. I quickly felt like I had to be on every platform and checking every few minutes of the day. “You’ve got to be on X, Y, and Z if you want to be successful.”
Having had enough of the obsessive nature of marketing and self-promotion I quickly adopted a minimalistic attitude. Being an ardent fan of Cal Newport’s work, I began to purge my life of platforms, profiles, and soul-crushing digital habits.
I deleted Twitter, stopped checking Facebook and LinkedIn, and only looked at Instagram on my desktop. I wiped each one of all my work and focused solely on producing quality work. I left the world of SEO and marketing up to the clients I worked for. Who better to deal with it than the wide-reaching behemoths?
Additionally, I was blurring the lines between “business” use and personal use. As I’m not at all a heavy user of social media for personal use, I eventually left my intentions on the business side of things. Still, I was increasingly conflicted with the universal “need” to self-promote.
As I dove into online coaching, more writing, and made plans to potentially expand my reach and services I ironically felt a sigh of relief from unloading digital from my life and unplugging my real life from the grips of distraction.
The struggle is real, however. Doing any type of business online requires, well, being online – participating in the game of the digital life to some extent. There are no universal rule books regarding best practices. It seems as though every article and post you read about methods in digital marketing are written by firms selling in kind services. A sort of conflict of interest.
There came a day when I told myself to either do something with my blog (not this one) or delete it. Piggybacking off of my beliefs in a more minimal digital life was dealing with digital items other than social as well. My other blog was just sitting out there lying dormant. Long story short, I came to the conclusion to simply revamp it into a sort of static business card updating only my official contracted work when I felt like it. That way the pressure would be off to develop it into something of a business.
I was free of the burden of marketing and branding myself. I would let my work speak for itself. Having a fitness blog and working in the industry it’s almost required and expected to take numerous selfies posted on Instagram and dolt out tired and repeatable fitness advice.
I have an unfounded repulsion to participating in that stuff. Yes, I’ve competed in bodybuilding shows, did fitness modeling shoots, and still train with ferocity to this day, but I honestly don’t have the desire to plaster myself all over the place in the name of business. Call me weird I guess.
(One reason I started this blog was to talk about other subjects and to write for writing’s sake without any strings attached. No promotion, marketing, branding, etc.)
Do we always have to promote our work? I like to think not.
Does everything we put out there online need to become a business? Absolutely not.
Will I ever do anything with my blog? Things change all the time. I’m sure I’ll revisit the subject and come up with something. But, one thing is guaranteed. Whatever I decide to do, it will be intentional and tasteful.
More to come.
2 thoughts on “Should I Be Branding, Marketing, and Influencing?”
I’ve been thinking about this. I need to build my digital presence, at least for my own name, but it’s so hard to keep up with all the platforms, and I might have to minimise, yet I get FOMO. Anyway, great points here. Thanks for sharing!
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Thanks, Stuart! Yes, it’s a tough balance. One that, I feel, needs deliberate focus and not just throwing spaghetti against the wall.