On Being John Welsh: why you need to change your social media identity to remain authentic

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I’ve done it. I’ve changed the design of my blog. Out has gone the masthead that has loyally followed me for the first tempestuous 11 months in the blogosphere. And in comes a new one by Claudia Moeller (who Tweets @ludg8cre8ive).

Why did I do it? 

I loved my original social media identity, used on my blog’s masthead (above) and as an avatar. The photograph that I used was taken during UBM Live’s first ever Digital Achievement Day.  I got a call to go down to another floor of our office and everyone (I mean everyone!) was wearing a paper mask of my face. I am the digital director so it showed that “we are all digital now”.

Very On Being John Malkovich.

I loved that photo. My reason for plunging into the social web in the first place was to find out what our company needed to know and work with my colleagues to make the social web fun and profitable. The photo made me feel that my colleagues were holding my hand in what was, at first a pretty, lonely place.

Then a month ago, I attended the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco. It was the first time I had had the opportunity to transform many online relationships into face-to-face. One of the people I met up with was Hollis Thomases (who Tweets @hollisthomases) who just could not see the similarity between my social media identity and myself in person. Peter Kim has recently given this phenomenon a name and a definition:

Headfake, noun.  A situation in which you are familiar with a person’s avatar picture, which gives you an inaccurate idea of how that person appears in real life.

Luckily Hollis grabbed her iPhone, took a picture and my new social media identity was formed. My social media avatars now look like me and, finally, so does the masthead of this blog.

The strange this is, I should have worked this out for myself. I have spent 14 years as an editor of three different B2B magazines. Each one bore a photo of myself as editor. Every time I attended an industry event people would come up and start speaking as if they had known me for years. In a way, they did know me. For, just like social media, the repetition of my photo and my weekly or monthly leader plus personable, if not personal, words made them own a little of me. 

So why should you change your design? Not because it might attract more readers (they probably read you in RSS). Certainly not for vanity. But for what we are all looking for on the social web – authenticity.

I must just make sure I do not have a haircut anytime soon.

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2 Responses to On Being John Welsh: why you need to change your social media identity to remain authentic

  1. Julius says:

    Fantastic makeover John.

    I think it reflects the developments and achievements of the blog.


  2. I have to admit, when I met you in person it was so different than what I imagined. The new photo is definitely YOU! Now I need to get one of myself … =)

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