What are you known for?

talk to the experts by Mai Le is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday serves as a great day to ask yourself, “what are you known for?”

No, we won’t all move mountains. We won’t all change the course of human history. We won’t all make it into the history books, but we all have the opportunity to make a change in the world. It can be something small, something big, or something that only affects a single person.

Regardless of what you want to be in the world or what you want to do, people will always associate you with certain things. If you work with them, they might just see you as a co-worker, if you bowl with them, they might just see you as a bowling partner, if you do great things though, they might see you for your accomplishments.

One of my biggest struggles as I have created my personal brand identity, is to figure out exactly what I want people to think of me as. Do I want to be a SEO expert? Nah. A community management expert? Maybe. A social media guru? Definitely not. A storyteller? Probably.

The challenge of trying to define yourself as a topical expert of one particular niche is important if you want to be a known authority for that particular subject. But, what if you’re like me and you’re interests are all over the place? What if you love consumer electronics, but also have advice for how small businesses can better use social media to attract new customers? What if you like debating issues like social media platform design and application user experience?

Can you truly be the master of anything if you enjoy so many different things?

I have been watching quite a few characters on Google+ recently, and I’m starting to notice a trend. The people that are regarded as topical experts post a lot about their given topic. However, a large number of them seem to cross over, post and comment on things that might be tangential to their focus, but not necessarily their blockbuster topic.

The bottom line, though is these people always return to what they do best, and because of that, they are known for that. +Mark Traphagen is on top of everything related to Authorship in SERPs. +Ronnie Bincer knows every technical aspect of Google+ Hangouts, Hangouts on Air and YouTube interface. +David Amerland has established himself as an expert on semantic search while +Dustin W. Stout  is leading the wave on fresh, purposeful content and engagement. Need to know anything about Google+ on the whole? +Denis Labelle and a slew of others likely have you covered. Android news? +Derek Ross is all over it.

These examples are people that have chosen to focus, and because of their focus, they are rewarded with being known for their focus. Those of us that chose to be interdisciplinary won’t achieve the same recognition of these individuals, and won’t stand out in a crowd for being the best at any one particular thing.

By diversifying your interests, you have the ability to learn so much about so many different things. However, in doing so, you can sometimes sacrifice the opportunity to be known as an expert. Regardless, though, how important is it to be known as an expert of one particular thing?

As I look to shift my career, I’m learning that ambition is no match for hard work and years of experience. Hiring managers and companies looking for consultants don’t just want someone that knows what they’re talking about, they want someone that can prove that they have consistently performed. These individuals, by choosing their focus and continuing to teach and share have done exactly that.

For the rest of the year, I am going to be asking myself, “what am I known as?” But until I figure it out, maybe you can help, what do you know me as?

2 thoughts on “What are you known for?”

  1. Great stuff Peter! It really does take intentionality to create a voice that people recognize and become invested in. So much of social media is just regurgitation and shallow fluff. Those who want to cut through the crowd must think deeply about the story that is uniquely theirs.

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