Privacy vs The Social Web

Dec 30, 2009

A few days ago I asked what you are hiding. And suitably, I just came across this story about Eric Shmidt saying that “secrets are for filthy people”.

I know this is going to spark some huge disagreement, but I can’t say I completely disagree with him. But that’s besides the point. What I want to bring attention to is how everyone seems to be protesting vehemently and insisting on their privacy.

Yes, I do understand where they are coming from, but the fact of the matter is this. Privacy as we know it is a thing of the past, and that trend is not likely to stop. These people insisting on their privacy sound very much to me like Tiger Woods’ request last month for “some privacy” after his accident.

It may seem like a reasonable request, but like it or not, it was never going to happen. We all know how that turned out for him, and how he’s suffering from it now. The basic fact is, as a celebrity, people are always going to be “intrusive”, and having privacy is almost impossible. He can’t have it both ways – he can’t be in the limelight and make millions while he’s doing well, and ask to slink into the shadows when things don’t go his way.

And neither can we. We can’t say we want the benefits of micro-celebrity and the value of social interactions that come with the web, but refuse the intrusion of privacy that comes with it. It’s tough, but that’s the way it is.

So what can you do? You are left with one of two choices, in my opinion.

  1. Refuse anything that comes with branding yourself/getting known on the web, and get your privacy with it. This means minimal or no Facebook or social networking, no blogs, etc. You lose the huge opportunity the web gives you to stand out, but you gain your privacy. Some people are perfectly happy with this option, like my mother, and manage it quite well.
  2. Embrace the social web, and everything that comes with it. Make use of it to develop your personal brand and build connections. Try to be as authentic as you can, and with nothing to hide, of course. But be prepared that if you have secrets (and face it, we all do), they might easily come back to haunt you. And learn to manage that scenario accordingly.

I think it’s obvious that I’m in camp number 2. What about you? Are you ready to accept that you have little (or no) privacy, as a trade-off to the benefits of the social web? Or do you think there’s a middle ground?

Photo by stevendepolo

3 Stories, and 2 Lessons

Dec 24, 2009

First, let’s go back to 2007, before I even started blogging. I had been reading Seth Godin’s blog and was really inspired by his writings. I emailed him a couple of random thoughts (as a completely unknown 16 year old). And he replied, giving me encouragement and saying that my thoughts weren’t all bad. That encouragement was what spurred me on to this blog, and one of the reasons why I admire him so much.

When I first started blogging, I reached out to Chris Brogan, asking him for advice and suggestions on how to improve my blog. He not only replied and gave me good advice, he even made a post about my blog, giving me my first boost of subscribers. Since then, he’s continued to be really helpful in everything.

Just last week, I finally got a hold of Trey Lockerbie‘s EP. How did I get it? I emailed him asking him for it, basically saying that I wanted his EP, but it’s only available on the iTunes music store which is inaccessible from Singapore. Long story short, he left a copy of the CD at the hotel’s front desk last week when he stopped by Singapore for a show. I’ve always really loved Trey’s music since I first heard him a couple of years ago, but this brought my appreciation  (and fanhood) of him to a whole new level.

What am I getting at? Firstly, from an individual’s perspective. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. Your heroes are not always really that out of reach. More often than not, they’re happy to hear from you. Even business owners have said that what matters most to them is “customers who appreciate what we do.” Reach out, ask for what you need, and you never know, you might just get it.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, for brands (both personal and corporate). How open are you to your customers? How approachable are you? Do you communicate with your customers, are you willing to help them when they reach out to you? Because you should. That little bit of approachability goes a long way.

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In the News

Nov 11, 2008

I have the huge pleasure and honor of being featured in Today (a local mainstream newspaper). You can check out the article here (pdf).

Yes, I’ll admit, it feels really good to get featured. It’s a huge step forward for my personal brand, that’s for sure. But more than anything, it’s great to be able to share my thoughts, and get my message out to a whole new audience.

To those of you who have been reading my blog for a while now, thank you, you are why I love blogging, and why I keep doing this. And for those of you who are new here (maybe you came here because of the article), thanks for dropping by, and I hope you’ll find value here.

Oh, and one final thing. If I can do this, so can you. I’m nothing that special, I’m just a kid from Singapore.

It’s easier than ever to build your personal brand. What’s stopping you?