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Love in the Time of Social Media


I have a confession to make: I’m an online dater.

There. I said it. For some reason, dating online still has a stigma about it. For some reason, it’s still perceived as a weird or creepy way to meet other people but going out to a club and  grinding with strangers while sipping $12 beers is perfectly okay.

But I digress.

The real reason I wanted to talk about this topic today is not so I can defend online dating, but rather so I can talk about how social media, blogs, video content, podcasts, and other online media are creating this brave new world of dating. And while it isn’t always pretty, it is definitely interesting.

What better topic to open for discussion on Valentine’s Day?

We talk a lot about “controlling the message” about ourselves online in a professional way…but the online world is becoming increasingly personal as well.

Online Dating: Be the Person You Want to Be

At BlogWorld 2010, one of the pieces of advice that stuck with me was from Copyblogger’s Brian Clark who said in response to a question about authenticity (and I’m paraphrasing), “Be the best you possible.” Online, we have the ability to mold our brand, to show the pieces of us that make sense for our audience and hide the “nasty bits” as Lisa Barone called them at BlogWorld LA 2011. It doesn’t make you a less authentic blogger or a dishonest blogger to pick and choose the pieces of yourself you feel comfortable revealing.

But I wonder, sometimes, if this mentality is spilling over into the online dating world…and not in a good way.

When you first meet someone, it takes a while to get to know one another. I’m not going to divulge all of my secrets on a first date, share my embarrassing stories until forced to do so by a trip to introduce you to the parents, or blurt out my bad habits in hopes that my honesty will make you swoon. No, I’m going to present the best possible version of Allison.

Online, though, it’s much easier to hide the bad things about yourself, and even someone with the best BS radar in the world can be fooled with a well written profile and a ten-year-old picture showing a full head of hair and wearing pants that haven’t fit in years. We’re crafting stories about ourselves that aren’t telling the whole truth, and it makes it much harder to have successful face-to-face first dates. I should know. I’ve never once had a bad time on a date with someone I met for the first time in a public setting. I’ve had some hilariously bad dates with people I’ve met online, simply because they put too much spin on the profile they presented.

Are our everyday online existences teaching us to be more guarded with the information we share in a potential romantic or even friendship situation? Maybe. It’s hard to say, “Here I am, World! Take me or leave me!” when it is so easy and even second nature to hide the things about ourselves that we don’t like.

The Online Mirror

Yet, the ability to hid aspects of ourselves online can also help us reflect upon ourselves in profound ways. Online dating has changed the way I think about the content I publish. When I’m blogging, tweeting, etc. I have less of a filter because if you don’t like my content, it doesn’t really feel like a personal rejection. It’s just business. But when someone doesn’t like my online dating profile? Well, that’s a harder hit. Deep down, we all want to be liked.

So it’s been an interesting experiment for me, creating online dating profiles. Without thinking about it, there are things I naturally hid about myself in order to present what I thought was the best possible me to potential dates. It created a clearer mirror about the qualities I have that I need to work on in all aspects of my online life. Why should I subject my readers to *insert quality here* when I’m not willing to talk about those qualities on an online dating profile?

A good example: I’m not afraid to curse on my blog or even my social media accounts. However, on a popular dating website (OKCupid), I was filling out some of their survey questions and it asked “How often do you curse?” Although “like a sailor” was probably the most honest answer, there was no way that was the type of impression I wanted to give off to people visiting my profile! While I still do curse when I feel like a strong word is needed, I realized that having an unnecessary potty mouth was not the type of person I wanted to be online. So I’m working to break myself of this habit.

The New Stalker

I think the most curious and interesting part of online dating, however, is that it has created a whole new class of stalkers. At one time, creepy stalkers sat outside your house in a car, watching your every move. Today, stalkers sit on Google, watching your every move. And it’s not only creeps who participate. I’ve definitely googled someone before a first date. It’s not about being creepy. It’s about being curious and having a wealth of information at my fingertips, if only I have the courage to take a peek.

What happens when you google your name? What about when you google any screen names you use? You might not like the information that pops up about you, especially if you not only date online, but also work online like I do. Someone interesting in a date with you is going to make a mental snapshot in his/her mind based on the content you’re putting out there (or things other people are saying about you). Do you control this message?

Friend Me!

IN closing, let me share a somewhat embarrassing story about myself when on an Atlantic City trip about a year ago. We were there for one of my best friend’s bachelorette parties, so I’m not ashamed to say I had more than a few drinks. Someone I met at the last bar we visited had bought me a few drinks. As we were leaving he tried to get my number, but I wasn’t really interested in giving it to him (not my style). Still, he had been very nice to me, and I always feel bad rejecting people, so my response to his insistence as I walked out the door was, “Are you on  Facebook? Friend me!”

Nevermind that he was probably too drunk to even remember my first name (and I certainly hadn’t given him my last night or even told him where I was from). For some reason, my rum-filled mind went directly to social media. I remember thinking that if he really wanted to get to know me, not just call me later in the hopes that I’d come to his hotel room, he’d friend me on Facebook. Needless to say, my friends cracked up at me telling him to friend me on Facebook rather than giving him my number.

The point to my story, and to this entire post really, is that we’re all content creators, and not just in a professional way, and more and more, people are going to look at the “profile” you’ve created for yourself online. Whether you run an online business or not, your presence on social media and other online properties is going to seep into your personal life. What information is out there about you? Would you want to date yourself?

Lisa Barone on Authenticity


“Authenticy in marketing is telling a story people want to hear.” – Seth Godin

Lisa Barone’s session at BlogWorld LA 2011, “Creating Your Blogging Superhero,” covered the topic that seems to have become a buzzword in the new media world lately: authenticity. Authentic scares some people because they think it means airing their dirty laundry, but as Lisa teaches, you can be authentic in a really smart way to become a blogging superhero to your readers.

It reminds me of something Brian Clark said at BlogWorld 2010 – I’m paraphrasing, but basically, what he said is that you need to be the best “you” possible online. I think it’s really smart advice. Here are Lisa’s four tips to creating your blogging superhero:

1. Identify your place in the market.

What makes you different? What do you want your audience to know about you – and more importantly, what do you want your audience to remember about you? Says Lisa, “We live in a crowded complex world. Your audience is only going to be able to remember a few things about you.” Before you can create your blogging superhero, you need to identify your place in the reader’s world.

2. Identify the traits and experiences that help you epitomize that.

What traits do you have as a blogger that help you show that you’re perfect for that place in the market? Those are the traits that you’re going to what to show online. According to Lisa, “Being a successful marketer doesn’t mean letting all the nasty bits hang out.” The traits you display should relate back to your core goal as a blogger.

3. Build a story that ties it together, emphasizing the traits that allow you to be the best version of yourself.

“That’s what marketing is – using yourself to show people their desired outcome,” says Lisa

You don’t have to lie to your readers – you just should be selective about how much you want to reveal about yourself. It isn’t inauthentic to want to show your best traits. You act differently around “the boys” or “the girls” than you do around your children, and you act differently around your children than you do around your boss. Tell a story using the pieces of you that make sense for your readers.

4. Lose everything that does not relate back to what you want to show. It’s a distraction.

Lastly, remember that you don’t have to share anything that doesn’t relate back to your goal, even if it isn’t necessarily bad information about yourself. Remember, people can only remember a few things about you, so think about how you want to be known in your niche or industry. Says Lisa, “Too much irrelevant information distracts from your core goal.”

If you missed BlogWorld LA 2011 or were in another session when Lisa talked, check out the virtual ticket. You can listen to her entire presentation there, as well as see sessions with other speakers.

Why Authenticity Is A Lie (Bad) Marketers Tell


Session: Creating Your Blogging Superhero
Speaker: Lisa Barone

Hi, I’m Lisa. It’s time for an intervention.

Bloggers and social media-types will stand on their heads to tell you that what your audience really wants is a more authentic, transparent version of your brand. They want you to bare it all on your blog, on Twitter and on Facebook so they can connect with you, engage with you, and so that you can become friends with your customer.

It’s a sham. All of it. And you need to get over yourself.

The truth is your customers do not want to know the depths of your soul or what keeps you up at night. Not even your mother wants to know that much about you, truly. What your customers want is the best version of you. The version of you that allows them to see themselves, where they want to be, and which helps them achieve their goals.

That’s what marketing is — Using yourself to show people their desired outcome. Even if that outcome is just your customer with a finally-working dishwasher.

As a marketer, you provide that experience by giving up the hokey authenticity act and creating a characterized version of yourself that exudes who your audience wants to be.

Whether you want to increase sales, build a community, or find new customers, building a sellable character, a caricaturized version of yourself, is how you do it.

Creating this caricature allows you to do a few things.

  • It gives you the freedom to magnify the personality traits you already possess to attract people.
  • It allows you to play on your strengths to establish a point of difference.
  • It makes your personality appear larger than life.
  • It gives you a cushion so that when the Internet gets mean (which it will), you’re not absorbing all the shots with your true self.

Said simpler – It makes your brand magnetic.

The characterized You is a heightened version of yourself. It’s where all the right traits are highlighted and where the ones that don’t fit the brand are simply deemphasized. It’s the You after you’ve had a few too many, when suddenly you know all the punchlines and you’re not afraid to take risks. That’s who you need to be to your audience. That’s who we’re drawn to.

No, you don’t need to be drunk, just compelling.

Wait! How can you relate to customers if you’re not being your “true authentic self” and are acting like a character?! You can’t just MAKE UP who you are!

Sure you can. You do it every day. Only you don’t call it acting. You call it being an adult.

  • You show one set of personality traits when you’re working at the office.
  • Another set when you’re at home playing with your children.
  • A different set when meeting your friends at the bar for Happy Hour.

It’s not deceptive there, is it? You’re not any less you, are you? You’re simply the right you for the right audience.

Same thing.

The authenticity lie has allowed too many marketers to make total blunders of their online persona, encouraging them to partake in Twitter rants, social media flame wars, and constant whining. Your 20 minute Twitter tirade about the bad service you received at your favorite restaurant doesn’t make you “transparent” or “more relatable”, it makes you appear unstable. Actually, sometimes it makes you an a**hole.

Which, fine, you probably are, but why broadcast that to the rest of the world?

Being a successful marketer doesn’t mean disrobing and letting all the nasty bits hang out. It means simply understanding what your audience needs and then identifying which traits that you possess that help you to be that person.

  • Blogworld speaker Shane Ketterman connects with people at Rewire Business by being so vulnerable and human that we can’t help but relate and be inspired by his words.
  • The Bloggess connects with people by being that person who says what we wish we could and by making us believe it’s okay if we’re a little off.
  • Chris Brogan connects with people by laying down in the middle of the road for his audience and being the most helpful guy on the planet.

I can pretty much assure you that there are days where Chris Brogan wakes up and doesn’t want to help or talk to a single person that day. But you never see them. Not because he’s not authentic or because he’s secretly a robot with no soul, but because those days aren’t part of the brand. And because of that, he keeps them out.

What you need to figure out is who YOUR character is. What natural traits do you possess that are helpful to your audience? What can you highlight about yourself that will help someone else achieve something? Because that’s what authenticity really is – it’s undisputed credibility. It’s you giving your audience the parts about you they need, and removing anything else that will distract them or take away from that credibility.

So maybe it’s not authenticity that’s a lie. It’s just our perception of what authenticity really means.

What traits make up your brand’s character?

Lisa Barone if the Co-Founder and Chief Branding Officer at SEO consulting firm Outspoken Media. You can catch her blogging about marketing at the Outspoken Media blog or on Twitter at @lisabarone.

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