Imagine you and I have never met, but we share a mutual friend. Let’s say our friend’s name is Jim. Jim and you walk into Starbucks at 9:00a.m. on any given weekday. It’s crowded, but not chaotic inside as patrons place their “grande with an extra shot” orders at the counter. While your brain buzzes from people coming, going, and staying, you begin to scan the room. While scanning, something catches your attention. Against the wall sits a patron (e.g. me) who now becomes the focus of your attention. Your eyes are drawn to the one accessory that makes me stand out from all the other patrons, the bow tie centered between my shirt collar. Jim turns to you and says, “I’d like to introduce you to my friend, Steve.” As you make your way over, I notice the two of you walking over and stand up to greet you both. Jim introduces us and we each reach out to shake hands. As we’re shaking hands I say, “Hi! I’m Bow Tie Steve.” A memorable impression is made.
Before we proceed, there are a few questions I would ask you to consider. How is it that out of this entire room of coffee patrons, I was able to garner your attention without so much as shared eye contact? How likely are you to remember this introduction? What techniques did I employ to reinforce the memorable impression you now have?
Bow ties are my occupational signature. My line of work demands a certain standard of dress. My work requires me to make sales calls on medical providers, hospitals, and other medical facilities. The common vocational mantra comes from the title of a book by Currier and Frost titled, “Be brief, be bright, be gone” (2001). The time my customers afford me is often limited. I need to cut through the noise around them, grab their attention, and be memorable.
Maybe you are currently, or have been at one time, in a similar situation as I was in 2005. There were nationwide over 100,000 others in my profession all competing for the medical providers’ attention. One Family Practice Physician might see anywhere from eight to twelve sales reps a day on top of an extensive patient load. I needed to distinguish myself from the pack. I needed a signature.
I decided to do something none of my peers, or really anyone else who I knew at that time, were doing. I started wearing bow ties every day. What is interesting about bow ties is everyone knows what they are, but due to the difficulty of tying them, very few people wear them. Those that do wear them are quite memorable. Here’s just a few that are top of mind: Former Dr. Who star Matt Smith, James Bond, Frank Sinatra, Winston Churchill, and Orville Redenbacher.
The consistent knotted visual stimulus developed into my signature. Dr. Christopher Peterson, PhD, a psychology professor at University of Michigan, wrote, “A good signature, besides being fun, starts a conversation, not ends it. It allows someone to learn that you are interesting, and not just because of your signature” (2011). [<Click here> to learn more about the role signatures play from Dr. Peterson.]
As I continued wearing my signature bow ties, I began to realize that several offices (independent of one another) began referring to me as “Bow Tie Steve.” That gave me an idea. Once I consistently began introducing myself as “Bow Tie Steve” and reinforcing it through my e-mail signage, name tag, etc., that signature developed into a personal brand. Just last week at my company’s national meeting, the VP of Sales and Marketing incorporated me into his company address and from the podium referred to me as “Bow Tie Steve” to the crowd of approximately 750 people. My signature. My brand. My story.
Let’s now shift our focus to you. What do you want to accomplish? How do you plan to grab the attention of those around you? What is your signature, brand, and story? What role does social media play in helping you reach your goals?
Social media is a powerful tool that has vast application not just for large businesses, but for individuals who seek to connect to a larger audience. It’s a way to connect, and share your story. In fact Lipschultz stated, “Social media content involves human storytelling with a foundation within informational and persuasive communication” (2018, p. 11). While the task of developing your own signature, and eventually your own brand and story, may sound overwhelming, I propose a six step process to guide you along your journey:
1) Know who you are
No one knows you better than you. Research conducted by Kietzmann, Silvestre, McCarthy and Pitt evaluated social media functionality using a honeycomb model (2012). It really is no wonder that at the center of that honeycomb contained Identity. Before you engage with others through social media, you need to know who you are, your values, and what you represent online. Life is filled with experiences and we all change over time. You will likely revisit this specific area as you delve further into your social media presence.
2) Know who you are trying to reach
You need to know who you are wanting to connect with. It’s been said that, “Online community emerges from the development of individual social identities and realistic relationships between people” (Lipschultz, 2018, p.52). Once you’ve identified who you’re wanting to reach, resources (i.e. Social Media Marketing Industry Report, etc.) are available to help guide you to the most appropriate platforms (Stelzner, 2017). [<Click here> to learn more about appropriate platforms.]
3) Create S.M.A.R.T. goals
Goals for your social media efforts should be established in the S.M.A.R.T. format: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time Bound. [<Click here> to watch a short YouTube on creating S.M.A.R.T. goals (DecisionSkills, 2014)]
4) Establish a signature
A signature is something that you are associated with. It helps grab the attention of those who you are trying to engage. Ideally your signature should be something that is somewhat unique and that a brand can be built around. Think of your signature as a seed that will eventually grow into something that will produce much fruit. [<Click here> to learn more about the role signatures play from Dr. Peterson.]
5) Develop a brand
Once your signature seed is planted, begin creating your desired brand. The brand will begin to develop its own personality, reputation and character traits. The marketing techniques you use to establish the brand is referred to as branding. This includes consistent reinforcement (i.e. visual, auditory, etc.) to shared communities and to the public. Listen to the input of others. They can be your greatest assets in establishing your brand. Connecting through social media can expand your influence.
6) Routinely evaluate efforts
There are numerous measurement tools available (i.e. Google Analytics, Hootsuite, Sprout Social, etc.) Much can be learned from both quantitative data as well as quantitative data. Measuring your efforts through thoughtful and specific ROI metrics can not only measure past success, but can be used for future guidance. [<Click here> to learn to access my “8 Resources for Understanding Social Media ROI listicle.]
Signatures come in many forms. Pick something that represents you, yet be mindful about how it may be perceived by others. Use your signature to cut through the noise surrounding those who you wish to engage. The idea is to grab their attention. Remember that your signature should be designed to start the conversation. Ideally, your signature will lead to brand creation. As you begin to think about creating your own signature, just remember the iconic catch phrase of Matt Smith’s character in Dr. Who, “Bow ties (i.e. signatures) are cool.”
Thanks for reading!
Bow Tie Steve
Currier, D., & Frost, J. (2001). Be brief, be bright, be gone : Career essentials for pharmaceutical representatives. New York: Writers Club Press.
DecisionSkills. (2014, May 22). SMART Goals – Quick Overview. Retrieved March 24, 2019, from https://youtu.be/1-SvuFIQjK8
Kietzmann, J. H., Silvestre, B. S., McCarthy, I. P., & Pitt, L. F. (2012) Unpacking the social media phenomenon: towards a research agenda. Journal of Public Affairs, 12(2), 109-119.
Peterson, C. (2011, September 9). Bow Ties and Other Signatures. Retrieved March 24, 2019, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-good-life/201109/bow-ties-and-other-signatures
Stelzner, M. (2019, January 16). 2017 Social Media Marketing Industry Report. Retrieved March 24, 2019, from https://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/social-media-marketing-industry-report-2017/