You are a “Niche”
What you Need to Understand About the “Long Tail” and Your Personal Brand.
“Branding” is not just the mark on the cow; it’s the reputation of the rancher. Perception is reality. If our neighbors think we’re saintly or snarky, we are. People may never remember what we say — they’ll never forget how we made them feel.
-FamilySearch.org Brand Standards
The days of jumping through hoops is no longer the only way to get things to go your way.
Despite what you might think, you can be in charge of how you are perceived. It wasn’t always the case, with the cost to produce content too expensive, the limitations on distribution limited (as well as expensive), and and the thought leaders too few to have your voice be heard.
This is how the internet fixes the above problem.
In Richard Koch and Greg Lockwood’s book Superconnect, they explain in simple terms how networks work. Essentially, networks consists of two parts. nodes, links and hubs.
Nodes are vertices between links, links connect the nodes and hubs are nodes with a greater than average amount of links. Before the internet (and still in effect today to a degree) if you wanted to be around more of media professionals, you had to head to a physical hub like Manhattan where there was an above average amount of media companies. If you wanted to get into entertainment, you went to the hub in Hollywood. Nodes for entertainment might be the local improv class. You may still be able to connect with other actors but your options are limited.
That was how big media was able to control the image of anybody and held so much more power until now. All the big media companies live in the hubs of industry where they have the resources, distribution, and PR to shape the public conversation. You just live in a node so what do you know? Turns out quite a lot, you just don’t talk about it. Why is that?
Because the internet smashes conventional geographic barriers. If you are on the internet, people and (and will) find you. Andy Samberg did it, heck most mainstream comedians these days did through internet distribution. Childish Gambino anyone?
If you are privileged enough to own a smartphone with wifi, you have the same ability to reach as many people as a news anchor in the 1970’s. Even now you have more opportunity than Andy Samberg or Donald Glover did because of how much mobile technology has improved. Yet you do not produce content.
This is how people object to creating media.
“Well Caden,” you might say “The internet is oversaturated with content, I’d just be a blip on the radar! It isn’t worth the effort!”
Well skeptical bystander, here is how you are right and wrong.
Yes, it is very crowded because of the ease of creation and distribution, but it is worth the effort.
The answer to your concerns is in the Long Tail.
How Long Tail Economics Smashes Objections.
The long tail is an economic theory that because of a distributed network afforded by the internet the limitless choices offered creates a large market of niches. On the X axis, Products and the Y axis measures popularity.
As you can see by this curb, twenty percent of the products in the market make most of the revenue. But what we don’t see at a high level is the that in every section of the long tail there are “tiny” long tails that represent popularity in niches.
You are a niche
Look at it this way, in any field you are in, there will be the 20% that are the most popular overall. When you go into the niches you will find yourself.
The most popular niches are hubs that have all the contacts and links, but you can be a node. And in that node you can be the author of all the content that is available about you. For example. in my niche, I am in the twenty percent of anything on Caden Damiano the individual. I may not be the most popular designer in the whole industry but if a future employer or client wants to look into me, they are going to find my work because I worked to dominate my niche. Any links to “Caden Damiano” are connected to me and my content.
Rest assured, I have the confidence that anyone who comes across me will have everything they need to know if I am a good fit for them or not because there are articles that show how I think, VLOGs to show my personality/sense of humor, a portfolio to show my design process, and testimonials from people I worked with that let people know that I am a great guy to work with.
If you don’t dominate your niche, it can look like this:
What do you think a hiring manager is going to decide after looking into you?
Own that 20%
Many people wonder why it is so hard to network, but what makes it hard is not having a strong personal brand. If there is nothing for people to discover you by, you are a weak node in the industry because there is nothing to remember you by except a handshake and a name the other person likely forgot.
To be memorable, you need to have more touch-points that people can come in contact with. That doesn’t mean you have to be popular. It means you need to be discoverable. If people can find you, and you have great artifacts for them to get to know you, that creates a moment where they can consider getting to know you better.
So instead of trying to be popular, focus on dominating your niche in the industry. And I mean dominating you as an individual. If you are a graphic designer name Kathy Smith, you should author all the content or at least the most popular content in the “Kathy Smith Graphic Design” Niche.
What do you write, vlog, or post about?
I forgot who said it, but in a webinar by this one independent designer he gave a good rule of thumb when deciding what to share with the world.
Share the Work You Want to Do
So for me, I want to do pure UX, I don’t want to be a hired Sketch Monkey, so I share case studies of me influencing growth to websites, and driving up conversions by improving the User Experience of the company I worked for.
I share my thoughts on design and it’s place in the organization to show how I think about inevitable office politics and showcase my soft skills. I write tutorials on how to strategically apply UX to real business problems and showcase my technical ability.
I write about the theory behind design, business and economics like in this article to show I understand how my role as a UX designer or PM effects the bottom line of an organization.
I vlog my internship experiences and document events that showcase my personality and the opportunities I have had to give an idea of what it is like to work with me.
I comment on LinkedIn and Twitter posts to show that I have something to say.
I don’t write or share anything about visual design, UI or graphic design because I don’t have those strengths or find visual design something that I want to work on every day.
That is how commerce works today. Every individual has the capacity to be their own media company because they have a smartphone. The cool thing is, you don’t have to be huge or get a bunch of likes to get an ROI. Your content will always be online. So when you get someones attention and they look you up, you’ll be good to go.