Are you LinkedIn Typecast?

A common piece of advice for building an online brand is to find a niche and dive deep into it. The idea is simple: by focusing on a specialized area and consistently generating content around it, you increase the likelihood of popping up in search results, optimizing the algorithm in your favor. This strategy can significantly drive up your subscriber count and boost viewer engagement.

I see this frequently on platforms like LinkedIn–your friend is a realtor, and everything they post on LinkedIn screams “Real Estate Man!”

Take, for instance, a software engineer who decides to concentrate on a specific programming language. They regularly share tips, tutorials, problem-solving strategies, and updates about the programming language. As they continue to post and engage with this niche community, they start to rank higher in search results, attracting a more significant following. The audience begins to associate them with Python programming, enhancing their credibility and solidifying their position as an authority in the field.

This approach isn’t restricted to professional or technical domains. It manifests itself across various areas on social media like Facebook/Instagram/TikTok–people find a certain niche like personal anecdotes, family life updates, or posting jokes or intriguing questions. By sticking to a particular theme or style, people create distinct online personas – a typecast that followers expect and often appreciate. It turns into a role they play, not a real reflection of who they are.

The downside is that your niche, once a means of establishing a strong online presence, can become a digital straitjacket. What happens when chosen programming language becomes less relevant, or you develop a new interest in another language or something totally different? Or suppose your regular updates about your children no longer make sense as they’ve grown up and moved out? Or what if your tastes evolve, and you want to share something different?

The challenge lies in breaking out of this digital mold, especially when your online persona is closely tied to a specific topic or style. Shifting gears to a new topic or introducing a new hobby might be met with indifference or even annoyance by your followers. Your audience, nurtured on your staple content, may not react positively to this change.

So you want to build a personal brand and attract a huge following–why do you want to do that? What if you are successful only to find yourself constrained to only being able to talk about one narrow set of topics? Being restricted to a single brand or online identity can be very constraining and curb our ability to explore and share our diverse interests.

We are not our online profiles or niche brands. I want to bring my whole self to work and to my life online and in real life.

Scott Hanselman, a technologist known for his tech-centric content, provides an example of this phenomenon. While his typical content is about technology and Microsoft, he occasionally deviates from his main theme, sharing posts about personal life and other hobbies. Some of his followers, who primarily engage with his technical posts, sometimes voice their complaints about this shift. Yet, he continues to share these different aspects of his life.

So, if you find yourself confined by your digital typecast, remember that breaking the mold is not only possible but also liberating. The transition might be met with resistance, and it might feel uncomfortable at first. You might lose followers that looked to you for your technology advice but don’t care about your gardening. However, the freedom to express your multifaceted interests, the chance to evolve your digital persona, and the ability to be yourself online outweighs the downside.

Why do I want a bunch of people to follow me? Why would I want to be an influencer–what do I want to influence them to do?

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