“YOU write it,” I told Adam, nearly shoving the awkward task of writing an unveiling announcement for the Men with Pens/SXSW Meetup Event into his lap over Twitter DMs. “I can’t. I just can’t. And you know me well enough as a person. YOU do it.”
“ME?!” Adam was stunned. “But I… wha-… I… ME?!” (He didn’t quite use those words, but the sentiment was close.)
“You. I can’t. Go.” I waved a regal hand across the virtual world, my command firm.
And what could Adam do? He probably sighed heavily and wished he was someone else at that moment, but he wrote the post and sent it in. “How’s this – is it alright?”
That’s when I saw it.
One of my favorite discussions involve pen names (or pseudonyms or alter egos or digital selfs or facets of personality or whatever you’d like to call it). The psychology surrounding the topic is fascinating.
I edited Adam’s post and chopped away a bunch of stuff that didn’t matter, and what was left after the snippings fell to the floor ended up being a gem of a post on digital personas… and humanity.
So Adam never got to write the Meetup announcement, but he did land his first unintentional guest post here at Men with Pens. Please welcome him, and enjoy.
There’s a small phenomenon happening on the web lately. It’s not something new, but the idea has a unique spin:
Create an entirely self-sufficient digital persona.
Like I said, it’s not a new concept. It’s been happening since the first author in history decided to use a pen name. And the internet’s social landscape makes it infinitely easier to bring this digital self to life, even almost overnight.
But what is new is the approach.
An author can develop a pseudo-self through a series of books published over many years. Think about it: Do you really know Stephen King? Of course not. And yet… if he’s a favorite author of yours, you do have a sense of knowing him, even just a little.
You, as a freelancer, don’t have to wait to publish a series before people come to know you. You can leverage space like Twitter and use instant, real-time interaction to build an alter ego. And thanks to the bite-sized information revolution, people have developed the ability to judge a lot from a book’s cover (pun intended).
In other words, you can turn your social media bios into solid reinforcement of your chosen digital self.
Creating a persona can be a serious advantage to your developing business. You could be a 5-foot-nothing mid-20s grad student and serve a client base that prefers the aggression and power of someone who stands 6-foot-7 and who can bench-press the neighbor’s full-size 4×4.
Your digital persona could help you deliver the writing style that keeps a steady flow of work coming in.
But there’s a danger in creating digital personas, and most people overlook it. As liberating as it seems to reinvent yourself online, it can lead to a gigantic supernova unless you keep in mind who’s at the other end of the interaction – human beings.
Without recognizing the core of your humanity as you build a digital persona, you risk being banished into the abyss of irrelevance. Or worse.
So how do you achieve success with this augmented digital reality?
Get into their heads.
No this isn’t voodoo or a Vulcan mind meld. I’m talking about really understanding who your people are. If you’re creating a digital persona that serves an audience, then you need to do some serious recon.
What are your people’s needs and problems? What are their online and offline habits? Who are they spending most of their time talking to, and why? It’s imperative to learn about your people, inside and out, so you can actively interact as one of them.
It’s not enough to simply know who your people are. You need to experience life from their perspective and approach everything from their point of view. Even walk 10,000 miles in their moccasins…if that’s what they’re into.
Get into their spaces.
Where do your people hang out online? Are you and your digital persona there too? Why not? You should be.
If you’re going to earn the trust of people you want to serve, then you need to earn your stripes. Being active in your people’s circles goes a long way in the social proof department.
You probably think you know all this already, but it’s amazing how many still flat-out ignore this advice, simply because they don’t feel like taking the time to learn more about their tribe, where those people hang out and why they spend their time there.
Get your virtual butt off the couch. Get out of your current social circles and go mingle.
Besides, your new digital self needs to stretch its legs. This is where you can really take your persona for a test drive. Do you have what it takes to keep up with your gang? Go find out.
Get in their faces.
No. Not like that. Turn your hat back around. I mean go out and actually meet people face to face.
Remember, there are human beings behind the avatars, so why not meet them? I’ve spent the last part of 2010 doing this and will be doing much more of it in 2011. Getting out there to actually experience what it’s like to be with your audience in person can quickly make them your biggest fans.
Here’s the most common fear about meeting people face to face – maybe it’s yours:
“But… But what if they turn on me? What if they don’t like the real me? What if I don’t come off the same face-to-face as I do online? What if they drag me across the bar and toss me out the window, western saloon style?”
Well, if that happens, call me. Breaking up saloon fights is on my bucket list.
But okay, let’s look at your questions – what if? What if the person you are isn’t to people’s liking? What if their expectations are dashed at first sight? Those are genuine concerns, but they’re only warranted if the digital persona you’ve presented is a complete and total fallacy when compared to who you really are at the core of yourself.
Ahhhh… Now there’s the key.
Your core values helped you bring your tribe together. They allow you to genuinely connect with readers, clients, prospects and people in a personal way. They also help you serve them in superior fashion.
You just might discover that your digital persona’s raving fans are actually fans of YOU. The value system you have at your core is what helps bring that digital self to life, and it’s what keeps people hanging with you.
In other words… Be the real you. You’ll be just fine.
For the ultimate digital persona working from the very core of her humanity, look no further than the head arc welder of words at Men With Pens. For years, James Chartrand has operated through a well-constructed digital self that built a six-figure copy writing business with a worldwide stellar reputation.
Now James is taking the next step and revealing more.
If you’re going to SXSW this March, you won’t want to miss the historical Men with Pens Meetup Event. You’ll get the chance to meet fantastic special guests, the entire MwP staff and rub elbows with James Chartrand herself.
It’s a once in a lifetime event, and it’s happening March 11 in Austin. RSVP today.