Why Your Digital Persona Begins with Humanity

Why Your Digital Persona Begins with Humanity

“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.

Post by Adam King

Adam King is a man of many personas, from the fat shy kid in school to the starving homeless 20-something artist to the current leading game changer in several fields. His latest persona is all about helping you build success through the human side of your digital self.

Join the Discussion. Click Here to Leave a Comment.

  1. Hi Adam,

    Timely topic on being your real self wherever you are.

    It seems to me that a lot of the angst in the world comes from folks being directed away from their real, exuberant selves. The molding starts young and picks up steam. Seems to reach its heightened frenzy in the 30-40s when folks suddenly start wondering who the hell they are. Those of us with any fight left in us, spend the next half of our lives taking our real selves back.

    That part of our personality which we spend the most time trying to hide, once released usually ends up being our most attractive and alluring feature. My theory? Whatever makes you come alive will be beaten back because our world appears to be frightened by alive people.

    Can you imagine how vibrant the planet would be if folks spent their lives awake?

    Great post! Giulietta

    • Thanks, and yes you’re right. I spent a good part of my 20’s molding myself into some else’s image. The result? Absolute despair. Coming back to the core of who I am and have always been was liberation.

      And that’s really the secret sauce to achieve anything worthy whether it’s digital or not – create from the value system you possess. That’s why a digital self built around those values does so much work for you. People resonate with it instantly.

      Great thoughts.

  2. James, I still think they should let you do the keynote at the conference. Your loyal supporters will be the most lively group there. Have a blast.

    Adam, you are right suggesting we think of our readers: heads, spaces and faces. We need all three to create human experiences. I think the direct contact (faces) is currently the most difficult.

    Last year, Seth Godin set aside a global day for people to meet in their own cities to talk about his book Linchpin. It was amazing to be part of a group who followed Seth’s words every day, read his book and yet we met for the first time. Many of us lived in the same city our whole lives and may have passed each other on the street–yet it took a digital guru to bring us together. And the reason it all worked was because (IMHO) Seth’s work is grounded in humanity.

    James’ work is also grounded in humanity. She cares and it shows in her work. It is the reason her party will rock the conference–and change lives.

    • You got it!

      It’s amazing how much the digital world is crossing over to real life, like the Linchpin event.
      Is there something of the sorts that you could organize for your area clients and also fellow freelancers to allow everyone access to each other?

      • The only thing I can think of, two university classes have been told to read my blog. Then, before the semester is over, I will meet with the classes to meet with them.

        That’s kind-of-like a digital to “face”.

  3. ps. the above picture is amazing!

  4. Adam,

    So nice to see you here…and what a fantastic post.

    Sometimes I think our digital persona makes us seem unapproachable – like we’re so much farther ahead than our people. Meeting them in person shows not only our human side but also our humanity – that, like our people, we have real lives, responsibilities, fears, challenges, quirks.

    Thanks for making revealing our real selves less scary. 🙂

    I hope to meet you, James, Jeff and many others this year.

    • I hope we meet too.

      And yeah, our digital persona can intimidate others, especially if you have that subconsciously programed into the way you use it.

      How we’re perceived is simply a matter of what we subconsciously think we lack in our success, so we make a digital self that tries to get it. And that’s usually where the disconnect happens and we forget who it is we’re really working with.

      First bottle of Kombucha is on me!!

  5. Patrick Vuleta says:

    It’s a paradox. The most successful personas are very real depictions of your own personality. But writing as a personality is trained out of us, and people are quick to adopt the behaviour and ‘persona’ of people they look up to, even if they’re unaware it’s happening.

    The result is people act like everyone else, and no one trusts them, because readers can sense that it’s not real. Sounds kooky, but I think it’s why people don’t trust corporate jargon. People instinctively know others are unique and when people come across as not unique… something sounds wrong.

    The persona I use in my own business is actually something that’s been part of me since I was about 12. It just happens by some luck to be ultra-relevant to my current situation, and something no one has done online. That combination is when you know you’ve got it right.

  6. I wonder sometimes if there are other ‘real’ human beings that I’m talking to on the other side of the computer! The fact that I don’t personally know anyone who subscribes or comments on my posts makes me a little concerned occasionally. Perhaps I should get out more 😉

    Great read Adam, anything that helps to make the online world a more transparent place is cool with me 🙂

  7. Oh man I’ve been preaching this for years.

    Well, more like a few weeks.

    But seriously, yeah. Be yourself. If you’re trying to be something you’re not, you’re going to stink.

    Ok, this post said that a lot prettierly than I did, so I’m going to shut up.

    The point is, great job at a guest post Adam.

    And I love the introductory story. That’s happened to me and my friend more than once. He invariably wins. But sometimes he loses too.

    Digital butts. I’ll have to remember that one.

  8. I love this topic of… who are you?

    It’s very easy to sleep on in this question in the quest to provide valuable content. But luckily we have great people in the interwebz space to model.

    Some of my favorites are:

    Erika Napoletano over at redheadwritingdizotcom…

    Johnny B. Truant over at johnnybtruantdizotcom…

    And Pat Flynn over at smartpassiveincomedizotcom

    Their persona’s absolutely shine in their writing and never gets in the way of their delivering awesome content.

    As for people who are excellent at coaching this topic, outside of Adam, who’s done a marvelous job here… you’ll want to look up Shaune Clarke and his 2008 copywriting coaching program – specifically the writers USP section and Dan Kennedy’s “Influential Writing” seminar that a small group of 12 people each ponied up over $10K to attend.

    Thanks James for pushing Adam. You see something in him that he hadn’t unleashed on the world yet and everyone here is better off now that he has. I look forward to hearing more from him.

  9. Yes, I use a digital persona. In fact I use more than one, albeit the main one is only a little different to my real name. I think the real me comes out in what I write. A name or persona is not as important as who I am in what I write, so I believe anyway.
    Interesting post.

    Thank you.

  10. I created two separate online persona’s out of the necessity to separate my two inner writers. Me, the real me, I’m known for technical and web non-fiction. When I decided to finally split my time between my two passions, the world of technical writing and the world of fiction novels, I not only had to separate one from the other because they serve two entirely different audiences, but because a search on M. Derr would turn up web stuff galore. So how to pursue my fiction career and have my separate audience trust and identify with me? I reinvented myself using a pen name, or an online persona of LL Derr.

    And it works, really well. I am able to be myself in both cases, yet move out of the technical space and into the more creative space by simply becoming one or the other as I work.

    I know that isn’t exactly what this article was about. But it hit home, knowing that I made the right decision a year ago.

  11. It is how much love you give your digital persona. It is always similar to building a clone of yourself which you are adorning with elements of your like and skipping out the not so good details. The more love and care one puts in its creation the more feel it would emanate 🙂

  12. I’m a little confused. How does the advice to be the “real you” square with the someone representing themselves online as being a different gender?

    When I discovered that i was being lied to (and really that’s what it was), I felt stupid and upped and stopped reading. I just happened by this post in a google search.

    I’m not trying to be snarky or accusatory – I’m honestly trying to reconcile the advice with the evidence.

    • Well, theoretically speaking, the “real you” is your personality, not your gender identity. Gender shouldn’t define who you are – sadly, it seems to!

  13. This is some good advice. In the beginning, I didn’t realize the importance of doing this as an author. But as time continued to pass, I came to understand it more and more. And I’m still learning. Thanks for this article! It’s given me more food for thought.


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