Posted on Fri 22 August 2014

My brand experiment

I'm working on an experiment at the moment to refocus my personal brand and make my output of content more valuable and consistent. I've been reading a lot and listening to some helpful podcasts, and came up with a plan for attempting this refocusing. I wanted to share it with you in case it helps you to think about your own brand and how you can adjust the way it comes across to others.

My personal brand

Sean McCabe says you can't help that other people will put you in a box, so you might as well choose what that box is—and clearly define it. His reasoning is that when we come in contact with people online, we don't have the capacity to process them as a full-fledged human being. We can only do this with a small group of people (150 according to Dunbar's number), and these are usually friends, family and colleagues who we interact with in real life. We simply meet and follow too many people online for them to all be well-rounded individuals in our minds. So we put them into boxes: Viticci talks about apps and games, Ryan runs Product Hunt, Paul Graham used to run YC, Nikki used to run 99dresses. We can't help it.

So if people are going to (subconsciously) put you in a box anyway, you might as well choose the box you go in. This is something I've been struggling with for a while now, as I seem to be dumped in a box labelled "social media" quite often, even though it's not my focus. I've finally found some solid ideas and strategies I can apply to make sure I'm being put in the box I want to be in.

For me, the box is labelled "authentic content for startups". That's what I want people to think of when they hear my name (or see it, more likely). I'm also a startup founder, so some people may put me in a box labelled "co-founder of Exist" and that would be fine. Eventually, "co-founder of Exist" will be the only box I'm in.

I've made a few changes to my own social network setup to encourage people to associate me with authentic content. I'm currently experimenting with not scheduling any of my social media posts, but publishing every one organically. I don't know how much difference this will make, but so far I like that I can almost always engage in conversations that come from things I post (some people will always end up replying after I'm in bed due to time zones, but posting only when I'm awake means this happens less often).

I've also reclaimed an old Twitter account, freshened it up and made it private. This is where my everyday stream-of-consciousness social posts will live, with only close friends following along. It gives me an outlet to share without worrying about what box I fit into, since close friends know me well enough that they don't need a box for me. My existing Twitter account will be more focused on sharing thoughts and links about content marketing, being authentic and writing. I'm also planning to try making some small SoundCloud clips about these topics, just to experiment with a different medium to writing.

And lastly, I'm working on my members-only content marketing project, The List, which will be launching soon. This is just the start of my efforts to focus on sharing what I've learned about content marketing and helping startups use content marketing to connect with their audience, without compromising their values.


In order to test this refocusing effectively, I want to aim for some consistency in the content I'm producing and sharing. This should give new and existing followers an easy reference for what they can expect from me in the future. Here's my current plan:

  • 1 personal blog post published every Friday
  • 1 issue of The List every month
  • 1 links roundup published on the Exist blog every Tuesday
  • 1 other blog post published on the Exist blog every Thursday

I haven't yet set goals for social media posts, as I'm unsure of how hard it will be to stick to those when I'm posting everything organically. I don't want to fall into the trap of sharing for the sake of it, just to hit my quota.

Even without the time spent on social media, there's a lot of content to be created there. The List is an email newsletter that includes original, exclusive content in each installment, answers to questions from readers and links to useful resources. It's a lot of work. Then there are two blog posts for Exist and one for my own blog every week, plus all of my freelance client work.

In order to get through everything that needs to be done, I've started planning my work week fairly specifically. Each morning from 6-7am is spent writing for my own blog or The List. Mondays, Tuesdays and some Wednesdays from 8am are spent on client writing. Thursdays (and any free Wednesdays) from 8am are spent on Exist writing and other work (read: emails). Fridays are my catch up day (I used to take Mondays to catch up, but Fridays make more sense for me now), so I do things like groceries and running errands on a Friday, and finish off any of my writing that didn't get done during the week. That leaves weekends free for working on Exist and resting.

I'm writing this at 6:53am. This is just the second time I've managed to get up at 6am and go straight into writing. I'm much more prone to sitting back in my chair with a coffee and just wasting time while I wake up. So far I'm enjoying the way writing helps my brain to wake up, even if my eyes still feel sleepy. As the mornings get warmer I'm sure getting out of bed to write will become easier, too.

I've done a few experiments before with the way I create and share content online. This is one of the more major shifts in my focus, so I'm curious to see how it pans out over time. And maybe a little impatient.

P.S. I make some stuff you might like: Exist, a personal analytics app to help you understand your life, and Larder, a bookmarking app for developers.

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