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Social Media, PETE, and Personal Branding

Physical Education Teacher Education students, this one’s for you. Everyone else, you’ll probably get something out of it too, so feel free to keep reading.

Let’s take a second to think of a brand, say McDonald’s.

McD's

What comes to mind when you think of McDonald’s? Probably things like food, fries, birthdays, toys, junk food, and maybe even the Olympics (which is interesting, but we’ll get to that later).

Ok, let’s think of another brand, say Nike.

Nike

What comes to mind now? Maybe words such as sports, performance, athleticism, sweat, technology, and maybe even child labour (though not so much anymore, which is also interesting).

Now think of me.

Me

You might not know me very well, but this is my site and, just by looking at it, it might make you think of things like physical education, educational technology, PE pedagogy, social media, and maybe even Canada.

Now let’s talk about you.

You

You might not realize this, but with every tweet, every Facebook update, every blog post, every Instagram picture, and every YouTube clip, you’re successfully contributing to your personal brand. This might seem like a crazy idea, but with every post that you share with the world, you’re shaping the way that people perceive you.

Think about it. If I were to Google your name, what judgements would I make based on the content I would find there? What’s does your online self-portrait look like? Is it something positive; something that will make people want to connect with you and hear your thoughts? Or is it something negative; something that will turn everyone but your closest friends off?

Whatever it is, it’s happening, and it’s time you become aware of it.

With an online personal brand, you can create a professional reputation for yourself much faster than ever before and with a greater reach than it’s ever been possible. However, it takes time to craft a personal brand, and it takes a conscious effort to create the image of yourself that you want people to have of you (think about why McDonald’s is always one of the main sponsors of the Olympics. Why do you think they do that?) That being said it takes much more time to try and go back and fix any negative personal branding (ask Nike). Remember: the Internet never forgets.

So why am I saying this to you? First of all, I want you to know that I am not in any way, shape, or form telling you to stop sharing on social media. Social media has had a huge impact on my teaching, my learning, and my life. All I’m asking of you is to think before you post. Really ask yourself how what you’re about to share will affect your personal brand. If it will have a negative impact, maybe it’s not worth it. If you just really can’t help yourself, maybe choose a less public forum to post it on (somewhere like Path, iMessage, or the ever-anonymous Reddit).

Second, take the time to learn about the privacy settings of the platforms you use. Many social media sites now let you select who you want to share with. Although there are advantages to keeping a public profile (if it’s taken care of, it can do wonders for your personal brand), sometimes a little online privacy is a nice thing.

Lastly, keep tomorrow in mind. I know it can be difficult to balance your multiple lives (professional, personal, social) online, especially in college, but the sooner you start being purposeful about it, the better. Decide what you want your personal brand to be and start developing it today. Always be yourself, but be mindful in your sharing, and be careful when you’re posting (no one wants to be the next Chrysler Twitter fail)

Having spent a wild four years in university, I wish someone back then had talked to me about all this. The truth is that, back then, Facebook wasn’t open to everyone yet and Twitter was still the butt of every joke. The times are different now, and whenever I hear of a teacher friend getting in trouble for a tweet they sent out two years ago (true story), I think of all you.

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Joey Feith is the founder of ThePhysicalEducator.com. He currently teaches elementary physical education at St. George’s School of Montreal in Quebec, Canada.