When reading and talking about Social Media I see a lot of conversations about Personal Brand. Discussion about strategies, building and maintaining your ‘PB’, of who you should try to be, who defines your PB (is it you, your audience, your company?), when, in real life, whisper it quietly, the aspiration for most people I talk to is, “Not wanting to looking like a total c**k”.

Using that phrase does rather alienate half the population and maybe doesn’t even translate that well into US English but, forgive me, you know what I mean – it’s the most basic, fundamental fear of most normal people in most social situations, and social media is the most extreme of social situations.

I thought for a bit that this was a peculiarly English trait, that we are slow to embrace the ‘paradigm shifts’ of ‘Personal Brand’, we have a terribly over acute sense of… well.. being British about the whole thing and “after you, no.. after you”, a debilitating cynicism and apologizing for being in the way, but it transpires that my modest US colleagues feel it too.

Take Twitter for example, here you are in 140 characters or less trying to be interesting, whilst negotiating the subtle niceties of ‘twittiquette’. One chap who confidently writes excellent, witty, entertaining blog posts was agonising over whether he should tweet them twice, for the UK and US time zones of his followers – or if double tweeting made him look like “a douche bag”. I’ve met the fella, he doesn’t seem to be a douche bag.

I’ve agonised over it in a couple of blogs posts, I’ve tried to figure out who ‘I’ am and who the ‘you’ should be when representing your companies – heck, I may not even publish this post as the mortal fear of ‘cockness’ overcomes me.

But, the fact is, I think you need to be yourself, as Oscar Wilde said:

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

Alright so sometimes that needs to be corporate you, but you none the less, the ‘you-ness’ is important. (For more on this, Chris Brogan makes a great point in his post about being aways ‘on‘).

I can’t believe that anyone can maintain a Personal Brand for long; people are not products. Nestle can reinvent their chocolate and make it tasty with two glasses of milk and make that their thing, their brand. Toyota can make owning a car cool for Californians again with the Prius, by adding a slightly more efficient engine. But surely we are eventually going to come unstuck, by making promises our talent, knowledge, coolness – whatever – can’t keep?

(Sorry to keep throwing links at you, but there’s a great discussion on that here, on David Spinks’ blog)

Surely your personal brand is your aspiration to be good at what you do, but recognising that you aren’t quite there yet? By trying too hard to be cool, by subtracting the real ‘you’ out of your social media persona – you’ll really end up looking more of a cock? Or way worse, bland and uninteresting – part of the echo chamber, rather than saying something new.

Lets look at the superstars of this stuff – take for example Seth Godin – in this inteview with Josh Berhoff he talks about his secret – which is to love what you do and write about it. It’s effortless for him, as he’s found that magic formula. Seth can write freely and without shame, galvanised by the love and enjoyment of the thing.

Someone once said to me after I came off stage at a conference, “You looked like you enjoyed that, you didn’t care if anyone else was watching”. I took that as a compliment, I do deeply care about the audience, but any nervousness or anxiety was carried away by enthusiasm for the subject and the opportunity to spend half an hour talking about it.

So maybe it’s time we all just relaxed, admitted that being a bit of cock sometimes is actually part of our personal brand. Yes, maybe I’ll commit some sort of embarrassing Twitter faux pas, but surely if I admit my mistakes and come over all human – my little community will forgive me?