As kids we’re taught to disregard what others say about us. It’s a defense mechanism that your parents pass to you because quite frankly, you’re weird or awkward and the feedback you’ll likely get from others will be negative.
I was weird and awkward, but as I grew into a confident teenager I held onto this disregard for feedback. It meant I was an arrogant jerk.
FEEDBACK IS POWER
Getting feedback means you’ve got the info to help you learn and improve. Giving feedback means you can help others improve and ask for the information you think is most useful to you.
Nielsen recently reported that 92% of consumers trust earned media (friend recommendations and expert reviews) over standard brand advertising. In this case, feedback is even more powerful because you are a brand. And instead of advertising for yourself, the most trustworthy case to be made for you is clearly made by other people.
THE MAKEUP OF YOU:
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos once said, “Your brand is what others say about you when you leave the room.” Sure, you choose your own interests, but as far as your brand is concerned it’s as much your content as it is about other people’s reactions to you.
Let me give you an example. A few years ago I wrote a story about Chinese internet service bans. Admittedly, it wasn’t my best work and like many of the stories I wrote at that time, I rushed to publish it and then went off to bed. The next morning I was astounded to look at the feedback I’d received. People were saying things like “Think before speak Dana Oshiro” and “Racist”. It was the first time I thought about how my identity was being defined by others. And clearly, how I viewed myself was very different from how others saw me.
YOU DON’T GET TO SAY YOU’RE AN EXPERT
The public defines your reputation. Mother Teresa never called herself a saint, Ray Kurzweil never called himself an industry luminary and Anthony Weiner never called himself a pervert — but this is how they’re defined online and that makes it true. This makes those reputations and brands true.
I used to think that being an expert was about conjuring up academic research and knowledge. But you don’t get to call yourself an expert, expertise is earned.
ARE YOU CONNECTING?
Here are a couple of ways to track your own identity and topics:
- Track yourself and the tags, key terms, comments and Google search results to find out if who you think you are and how others see you are a match.
- Track your areas of expertise — Find out if the first page of search results is relevant info. If yes — vote it up and cite it. You want the best bubbling to the top. If not, fix it.
MUTUAL RESPECT FOR EXPERTISE SOLVES PROBLEMS
In 2009, during the height of the Swine Flu epidemic, Wikipedia was the top result in Google Search. A lot of people would see this as a threat because Wikipedia is not a medical community. Nevertheless, the National Institute of Health saw this as an opportunity and trained a number of professionals to contribute to the community. It was fantastic. Rather than trying to drive readers to a proprietary page buried in search, the NIH saw the distribution of Wikipedia and collaborated to dispel medical myths. True experts put the cause over their brand.
But a few days ago, Google’s Director of Search Products recently said, “We actually think our ads can be as helpful as the search results.” This pissed me off. We know for a fact, that ads aren’t as trustworthy as earned media. And we know that ads aren’t usually vetted by a larger democratic web. Ads tend to come from one group who has a monetary tie to the message distributing. How can this be as useful to the reader as the information that is vetted and vouched for?
BEING A PROPRIETARY EXPERT SUCKS
We see it with NGOs and partisan political efforts. Unfortunately there are a lot of great organizations out there who feel that the need to compete for grant money or votes trumps collaboration towards an end goal. If the point of an organization is to move a larger agenda — like eliminating homelessness, curing cancer or serving the people — then why is it so important who the message comes from? We have to put greater solutions above our personal brands.
PEOPLE OF TED POSSE UP
We’re a community of “Ideas Worth Spreading” — this is about lifting up not just our own ideas, but other people’s ideas as well. Again, FEEDBACK IS POWER. We’ve got to iterate off other people’s feedback and give validation in order to lift up our solutions. I’m asking you to cite colleagues even if you don’t like them, offer karma to unknown leaders and vote each other up through links, comments, shares etc. When we pool our expertise, networks and ideas we can solve for the world’s toughest problems.
In 1964, the Civil Rights Act didn’t happen because one faction worked on behalf of its own brand. It wasn’t Martin Luther King Jr, JFK, the hippies, the yippies, the Black Panthers or the feminists that enacted this change alone. Instead it was a diverse range of groups working together to ensure a greater goal of a more just society.
As experts we need to think of ourselves, not as a web of siloed brands — but rather, a network that can link for good.