Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Developing a personal brand

I never imagined I would say this, but I have recently been considering my online ‘brand’, prior to my involvement in CPD23. The reason for this being that my use of Twitter has lately both increased, and become more professionally focused. More on Twitter in next week’s ‘thing’, but suffice to say for now that I’ve moved from being a passive follower of comedians, bands and journalists, to a more active engagement with my peers - following and being followed by a merry band of librarians, archivists and other information professionals. As soon as I received my first notifications that VIPs of the library world were following me back, I realised I needed to get my virtual house in order.

I was initially tweeting as @alisonharvey27 – like many Twitter usernames, derived from my gmail address, which was in itself poorly thought through - set up when I was, you guessed it, 27. The address has not aged with me, and (believe it or not), I don’t really want to be perceived as 27. Nor do I want to be perceived as wanting to be perceived as 27, which is worse. The name had to go. At first I changed it to a nickname, an in-joke, which I later decided entirely missed the point of being open and outwardly-connected. When I realised that I should probably use the name to brand all my online activity, including my professional activity, it seemed too frivolous and too inward-looking to keep. So I decided to just use my name, minus any misleading numbers.

I like my name - so much so that when I married I set aside my feminist principles in order to obtain Harvey in exchange for Smith. Well wouldn’t you rather be ‘battle-worthy’ than the guy that makes the horseshoes? Unfortunately, since there’s a few Alison Harveys out there, and I didn’t want the username getting too long, a strategically placed underscores (the only symbol allowed), created @alisonharvey_. Alison Harvey has become my brand, thus also my blog domain name, which was luckily available. And if I write down it enough times, my Google search result position might even improve!

Which leads on nicely to the guilty pleasure of Googling oneself. Searching for just ‘Alison Harvey’ surprisingly finds me on the bottom result of the first page, underneath a chiropractor, business manager, biomedicine research fellow, immigration law practitioner, and a travel writer for the Observer. Unexpectedly, the result found is my Archives and Records Association profile. I only joined this in order to be able to contribute to a discussion, and had not populated it in any way, so I was very surprised at the high ranking of this page. I don’t feature in Google search results again until the bottom of page 4. The ARA profile was registered under the nickname, which was also in the URL, so I deleted it and created a new one registered as, you guessed it, alisonharvey. I also added plenty of detail to it – a photo, my location, position, blog address, and interests. 

A search for ‘Alison Harvey Cardiff’ brings up 9/10 pages related to me. They include, again, my ARA profile, Twitter profile and one post (careful what you say on there!), news articles from my repository’s website about work I've been involved in, a conference programme featuring a paper I'd presented, and my profile on Archivists. This is a social network for archivists, which like ARA I had joined, not populated, then swiftly forgotten about. As with the ARA profile, I added a photo, location, blog address etc. The top seven results for ‘Alison Harvey Archivist’ are all related to me, and along with those listed above, include a teaching profile and my Diigo bookmarks (all work-related). 

So it turns out an employer or colleague could find out a great deal about me via Google, but there is nothing there that I wouldn’t want to be, and in fact I think it makes for quite a rounded portfolio of my professional activities over the last few years. I followed Dave Fleet’s advice and created a LinkedIn profile, as I couldn’t see any argument not too. I’m not job seeking, but you never know who may be a-googling...


  1. Thanks for emailing me about cpd23, so glad I joined up!

    I just googled my name and I was shocked, you can find out quite a lot about me, none of which is very confidential but one site created a word cloud about me and it mentioned tea, books and Morrissey which is pretty accurate.

    Looking forward to reading your blog.

  2. I just what you mean about finding profiles on networks you've never much used - other people will find them even if you're not using them yourself. I'm just off to check my details are up to date around various sites!