No One Knows Who You Are

It’s funny how some people feel an online profile is the most important part of their career today. Building a business or a career based on an online reputation instead of an the actual product or service can only lead to difficulties.

As shocking as it may be to many big online influencers, a lot of people don’t know who they are. Even if they have heard their names, they don’t care about someone’s big blog or Instagram profile. I don’t care how big you are online — in your community or nationally — you have to assume no one knows who you are.

A nice online profile built around some subject matter expertise might get you a listen, but you still need to allay fears. Then once you get the sale you need to meet the promise you are building.

That’s why I found Gary Vaynerchuk’s post last week on personal branding versus old fashioned work ethic so refreshing. It got back to brass tacks: Do the work, refine your skills, then build the reputation.

I know someone who has a brilliant online persona, but person X takes credit for other people’s work and often throws them under the bus in the process. Every time I have seen Person X get an opportunity to excel as a star performer, he/she fails.

Too many Internet-based reputations are like the one built by Person X. These personal brands revolve around reciprocated sharing, social media talk and no walk. Is it any wonder social media experts and to a lesser extent marketing bloggers aren’t taken seriously in the CMO office?

Unsolicited Advice for Younger Professionals

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If you are eager to build your online profile to become successful, be careful. It can get you some opportunities, but success is built on fulfilling your commitment to customers. Make sure you are busting your ass on the back channel, too. You can’t afford to lose opportunities. Do the work, build things, prove yourself.

Further, yesterday’s successes don’t mean much to people. So in my mind, relying on a reputation for past works done is dangerous. It’s the current work that matters. We all have to work like no one knows who we are.

I don’t think people give a crap about what I did in the 2000s. That was a long time ago. The media have changed significantly since then. Any remaining hubris that I may carry doesn’t mean jack-shit if I can’t deliver TODAY. I need to kick ass on every new project like no one knows who I am. If I am not hungry enough to do that, then I can expect to struggle and at times to fail.

What about the effort you ask? Isn’t it too much?

I hear all sorts of things about work life balance, and God knows I put my family first and try to keep myself well-rested. But make no bones about it I hustle. Everyone who succeeds busts their butt and works hard. I drafted this on Friday night from 9:00-10:20 p.m. I edited it on Sunday night at roughly the same time. AFTER I fed my daughter, put her to bed, and AFTER I finished my client work. The promo came last.

No matter what, you can’t shortchange the work.


  • I’m dealing with this sort of conundrum now. It’s like you wrote this for me, thank you! But what’s funny is when I speak of my shortcomings in a post or crowdsource ideas, I’m told behind closed doors I shouldn’t do that either because I seem too much like an amateur. It’s a fine line these days between being a pre-madonna and a Napoleon Dynamite

    • I think if you do great work, people may or may not judge you, but you will be loved for your own humanity. Many people say these things but ignore their own advice when it comes to hiring someone they like who will make them successful.

  • Absolutely, “yesterday’s successes don’t mean much to people.” It is what you can do for other’s today and then again tomorrow that is held in the short term memory.

    I learned this lesson in the yesteryear of my career when the general counsel of my employer said to me “You think the CEO cares that you saved his arse yesterday. That was yesterday and it’s back in the line of fire today. What are you going to do for him today? It was crushing to the ego at the time as I felt deflated in value but it taught me to manage expectations outside my own pride.

    • Very good example, thanks for sharing this!

      We see it all the time in business. People who were once great producers are forced out, they have to retire, etc. Youth and past success are not excuses for failing to deliver today.

  • True true. Absolutely. I’m living proof. No one knows me outside our little bubble and I have to work for every dollar I make. It’s always about producing results and when there aren’t the right results, I don’t get to play on.

    Great piece.

    • What I like most about you, Chris, is your tenacity. You never gave up and you always experimented until you found niches that suited you well. I think that demonstrates real character. Cheers.

  • Excellent piece, but it does make me chuckle a bit that the gurus are coming to this realization all at once.
    Wait, do I know you? Have we ever worked together? (Hope our paths cross again in 2015!)

  • So many people these days expect to leverage the internet and social media to “get rich quick,” and it creates a very disillusioned and lazy generation of “entrepreneurs” who are immune to building things, creating value, and working hard. This is an important piece. Well written as usual, Geoff.

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