Professor warns of social media use at Last Lecture

Mind your “digital brand,” one communications professor charged students Tuesday night at an installment of the Last Lecture Series.

Professor Scott Talan said your brand is essentially your online reputation, and represents both your personal and workplace life. He said protecting that image goes beyond untagging inappropriate pictures of yourself on Facebook.

“If you represent yourself a certain way, you want to keep that consistent in your brand,” Talan said.

Brand inconsistency can turn off potential employers and disrupt others’ perceptions of who you are, Talan said. A hypothetical woman, who represents her brand as an author and Harvard graduate, could ruin that brand if she were to suddenly appear on a trashy reality show, Talan said.

He brought up the example of seven-year-old MySpace accounts that users never bothered to delete. Such accounts are dangerous to leave active, Talan said, because it gives people a different and inconsistent version of you. He called this “brand negligence.”

Talan threw out the statistic that 92 percent of toddlers today have some sort of online presence, because their parents post baby pictures and even ultrasound images. These children will need to learn to manage their brands at an earlier age, he said.

Talan also promoted the use of new media tools to increase brand exposure. He suggested blogging about hobbies and utilizing Twitter and LinkedIn profiles to make workplace contacts and boost brand presence.

“The best person to manage your brand is yourself,” Talan said.

His speech was the latest in GW’s “Last Lecture” series, a program based on Carnegie Melon University Professor Randy Pausch’s last lesson to his students before he died of cancer.

Molly Brawer, a junior, said Talan’s lecture reiterated things she had heard about some of the dangers of representing yourself using social media. She said she found his speech very compelling.

“Professor Talan is mesmerizing and captivating and you can’t help but listen,” Brawer said.

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