A few weeks ago, I wrote about the rise of digital avatars, and the consequences they might have for how we perceive ourselves, both physically and digitally. In that text, I recreated a scene where my daughter, completely natural, talked about her Roblox avatar as herself.
This scene is still lingering in my mind, and I’ve come to realise just how early we are in thinking about our digital selves.
A couple of days ago, I held my seasonal lecture at Berghs School of Communication, talking about the need for creating strong communication platforms around any brand, product, or personality. In the beginning of the lecture, held via Zoom this time, I repurposed the story about my daughter and her Roblox avatar, and asked the students to start reflecting on their own digital outputs.
Did they have a Linkedin account? (Most did.) Were they aware of what kind of personality their Instagram history projected to the world, and more important, future employers? (Most didn’t.) Did they have a separate account, blog, Youtube channel, or any other outlet conveying their interest in the visual communications field. (Almost no one did.)
As someone who is regularly screening potential contributors and interns, checking out a potential recruit’s social pages is my first order of business. Now, I’m not here to judge Gen Z:ers social habits. If anything, that’s why I’m there to give them advice (”Start a blog!”). But I do reflect on how unaware most were about their digital bread crumbs.
The fact of the matter is, they are not alone.
One part of the Scandinavian MIND business model is doing work as an editorial branding agency. And one of the services that we are spearheading, is helping brands with their content strategy. Basically, we are taking all the learnings, tools, and tactics from building our own editorial platform, and transforming that into advice for both small and big brands. We call it Content Machine Design. (Yes, that was a shameless plug.)
One thing I’ve learned while doing this, is how so much today is focused around KPIs. Companies measure a piece of content by its Click Through Rate (CTR). Storytelling has become a performance act. What gets easily lost in that process is that everything we put out becomes part of our personality, both as brands and individuals.
To put it another way:
When a company posts a campaign photo on social media, they think of it as a message from the brand. A piece of content separate from the operation itself.
When I post a selfie on Instagram, I also think of it as an externality. A carefully curated image of myself that hopefully enhances my status in the circles I care about.
But when my daughter shows me her Roblox character, she makes no such distinction. She is the avatar, because the avatar is what enables her to meet her friends — as avatars.
For better or for worse, this is where I think we are headed, as brands, students, and professionals working in a specific industry. And while we still don’t fully comprehend what that means in the long run, we better be paying close attention to what our digital selves are projecting to the world around us.
Because — whether we like it or not — our content is us.