Communications expert Karthik Srinivasan condenses years of expertise in digital marketing in his new book
Be Social to create a detailed guide in building an online personal brand. In today’s digital age where social media occupies the centre stage in our everyday life, our virtual presence influences how the world perceives us and that is why Be Social discusses the importance of building and maintaining a personal brand online.
In a career spanning two decades, Srinivasan has worked with leading companies such as Flipkart to create and manage digital perceptions of brands. He has also made a mark for himself online as the most viewed LinkedIn profile through the years 2015-17 under marketing and advertisement/communication in addition to authoring award-winning blogs.
Excerpts from the interview:
Be Social focuses on how people can create personal brands for themselves on the internet . Why is this process of building a brand so important, especially in today’s age?
In this day and age where everything is digital, people should know what you are interested in from a personal as well as a professional point of view. This will open up new opportunities, both personally and professionally. You need to treat yourself as a brand and do the best projection of that brand online so that people form a positive opinion about you. Because all social media platforms are free, people don’t think that much about what they are saying online and assume that they are just talking in front of their friends. That’s not the case. They are actually talking to the entire world. This is all the more reason why it’s so important to be cognizant about what you’re saying online and how you are saying it such that your brand is affected positively. That’s why it’s important to make an effort in building an online brand for yourself.
What are a few basic strategies and guidelines a person should keep in mind while just starting to work on building an online personal brand?
The most important thing is that a person should actually have a brand in the first place. What I mean by that is there should be four or five parameters about you and your online image that people should be able to identify. You should post content related to these four or five things more often, rather than talking about everything. This will make people associate you with certain things. For example, somebody can see your profile and immediately think, “Okay, this person is really interested in cars and driving”, if that’s what you choose to focus on. The point is that you are able to create a perception in people’s minds when you actually focus on a few things that you are genuinely interested in and you eventually become known for them. This is how you create a brand.
In your experience, have you noticed any patterns of thought, especially among Indians that pose problems in building successful online brands?
One big challenge, especially among Indians, is that we are not very articulate. Even in schools, we are not encouraged to speak in front of the class; only a handful of very confident students in the class speak up. This sort of problem manifests itself when we are putting up things online as well as we are always worried about what people will think.
So what can we do to overcome this problem of not being articulate enough and being hesitant to express our thoughts online?
There is no instant solution to this problem because if you have not been in this frame of mind of expressing yourself clearly all throughout school, college and even your professional life, nothing will change overnight. However, one good way to build confidence is to take inspiration from people who are doing it right. In my book, I have quoted Anand Mahindra’s tweets frequently and other profiles as well. If you actually analyse their tweets and posts, you will come to understand that it’s not rocket science and in fact, it’s fairly simple. The point is that there are ample people online to take inspiration from so we can analyse their online behaviour and use their strategies in a positive way.
Can you identify a few reasons why the online presence of people like Anand Mahindra has been so influential? What can we, as beginners, take away as lessons from their profiles?
The reason why I have quoted Anand Mahindra’s tweets so extensively is that he is someone who most working professionals in India can look up to. He is obviously very popular in the offline world as one of the best industrialists in India, however, he has actually carried that popularity with himself in the online world and that is quite amazing. His Twitter timeline is full of humorous, interesting and sparkling tweets –something you would not expect from an industrialist like him. He isn’t afraid to show the human side of Anand Mahindra and that is refreshingly different from other professionals who only talk about their careers and companies. He knows what he is interested in and these topics come up in his tweets very often. We can learn to do the same –make a list of a few topics that interest you and try giving your thoughts on these topics as often as possible.
We have to be very careful these days about the content that we are putting up online because we can hurt anybody’s sentiments, even unknowingly. How does one draw the line when it comes to posting slightly riskier content and how can one discern the difference between what is appropriate and what is not?
We are only human and of course, we will have some controversial opinions and thoughts. But the point is we have to very careful is sharing our thoughts with the world because when the world is watching, everything you say and do online is under scrutiny. If you are posting something that may seem negative to people, try and analyse how the tone of your post comes across to people when you share it online. Does it come across as mean or snide? If it does, then people will be quick to retaliate and they will be equally mean to you.
In your book, you also talk about how individuals are more than his job designation and their social media should also reflect that. Can you elaborate upon this idea and also tell us how we can encompass multiple facets of our identity in our social media profiles?
LinkedIn is probably the only platform where one is directly connected to one’s job designation and company. All other platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are personal social network platforms and not professional platforms. Your job is just one part of your personality and probably just your income earning capability –nothing more than that. Since we are humans, we are obviously interested in multiple things among which our jobs are just one. Solely focusing on your job on social media is the online equivalent of a Delhite saying
Tu jaanta nahin mera baap kaun hai. Identify your likes and your dislikes very consciously and stick to those topics online so that people can understand that these things make a person who he is. How do you personally deal with the challenge of generating authentic and interesting content online on a regular basis? Is it ever okay to take a break from social media?
It’s absolutely okay to take a break from social media from time to time because it can be relentless and overwhelming at times. We have to be careful to not fall into the trap of social media addiction and remember that we have an offline life as well. If you don’t have anything meaningful to contribute online, it is always better to just shut up and listen to what others have to say. The challenge that confronts most of us is how we can sustain interest in the topics that we have identified for ourselves and create original content about the same things. One solution to this problem is to read news and content about the topics that you like frequently. You can use the “lists” feature on Twitter to curate a list of accounts that directly appeal to you and your interests. This way, your Twitter will only show you the content that you want to see without wasting your time. If you read more, you will eventually be able to form your own opinions and share interesting content online.
I talk about this in more detail in my book. We need to have a schedule of how we are spending our time online. We all have FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and that’s why we keep looking at things online to make sure that we are up to date with everything that’s happening. This is not a healthy mindset and it’s better to have a fixed time slot that you create for yourself during the day where you only read and post about things that you are interested in. You need to make a very focused effort to curate the information that you are consuming as well as the information that you are sharing. Unless this information falls under the scope of the four or five topics that you have identified for yourself, don’t say it all.
How can we make sure that we get the maximum utility on social media and ensure that spending time online becomes a productive exercise instead of a distraction? What are some healthy habits we can cultivate in this respect?