Want to Get Hired? T-Pain Says You Need a Personal Website

Want to Get Hired? T-Pain Says You Need a Personal Website

I never imagined that my blog would have not one but two posts inspired by hip-hop artist, T-Pain, but this man is more influential than we may give him credit for. 
 
My original post about T-Pain talked about his masterful use of autotune and how it helped put him on the map and stand out among every other hip-hop artist of the late 2000s and early 2010s. 
 
With that in mind, it turns out that T-Pain knows a thing or two about personal branding. Aside from establishing a unique and authentic brand voice, T-Pain understands the importance of a personal website.
 

 
In January 2022, T-Pain took to Twitter to announce he was hiring several positions for his company, Nappy Boy Entertainment, ranging from videographers, photographers, and editors. Twitter is such an incredible place to find talent, so why not open it up to his fans and followers who may be qualified?
 
His call for applicants had very specific instructions, asking them to send in resumes, reels, a website, and portfolio. And when he says, reels, he doesn’t mean an Instagram Reel. He means a highlight reel showcasing your work.
 
T-Pain was then flooded with replies from interested people who sent in links to their Instagram profiles and social media accounts to demonstrate their work, which didn’t sit well with him.
 
A follow-up tweet said: 

 
 
 
This then sparked a debate about whether a website is necessary when we have social media, with many followers poking fun at T-Pain saying he is showing his age with this old school mentality. 
 
But T-Pain doubled down and said:</spa

 
 
 

Do You Need a Personal Website?

Can you get by showcasing your work on social media? Sure, but it won’t be an ideal experience for the hiring manager. Sifting through Instagram content to understand what you’re all about can be clunky. And as one applicant of many, don’t you want to make it as easy as possible for the hiring manager to choose you?
 
This probably isn’t the advice you want to hear, but the answer is, you should have both. 
 
A personal website is your own slice of the internet that you can tailor exactly to your goals. It puts your work on a bigger stage, and does your skills justice. You can organize the site strategically with categories and sections that are easy to navigate and let people know your main objectives. It’s an investment in yourself, and one you never have to worry about potentially disappearing one day.
 
The other strength of a personal website is that you are in control. There are few content limitations. You have the flexibility to tell your story seamlessly, vs. in a series of posts that may lack continuity or consistency. Your blog section is a surefire way to demonstrate your expertise, even in the absence of workplace experience. 
 

How Your Personal Website Gives You a Competitive Advantage

I preach this idea to my students all the time. Our channels empower us to prove what we’re capable of. You may not have the picture-perfect credentials a recruiter is looking for on paper. But if you intentionally build your personal website to illustrate what you can do and how you think, they’ll evaluate you a lot longer than if you had nothing to show.
 
And for the entry-level applicants, or those who are returning to the workforce in hopes of pivoting to a new industry, your personal website can help you do this. If you’re a recent college graduate with a degree in communications, and you REALLY want to get into the competitive field of sports marketing, dedicate your website to this craft. Write about the recent rebrand of the Washington Commanders, or the most inspiring storytelling moments from the Olympics. 
 
If you have a mid-life realization that you want to switch your career path from nursing to becoming an author, build your personal website about being an author. Share excerpts of the drafts you’ve scribbled in your notebook, or blog about your writing process and challenges.
 
Ultimately, your personal website allows you to focus your goals with more organization and flexibility than your Instagram profile would. And as long as job applications are still asking for links to your personal website (spoiler alert— they are), don’t let that be a box that goes unchecked. Never miss an opportunity to make an amazing impression. 
 
From a more tactical standpoint, a personal website is key to growing and scaling your brand for the future. Social media isn’t where people go with a main intention to shop. They’re there to scroll and pass the time. Your website sets yourself up for the long-term if you ever need a marketplace to sell products, services, courses, or anything that suits your niche. Even if you go viral on TikTok, the next place you want to direct people is to your website to buy your offering.
 
Then, the gift keeps on giving. Your website gives you a chance to gather email addresses and create a list of qualified contacts that you own. When you have an email list, those are people who have willingly signed up and said “Yes! I want to hear from you!” You can create tailored emails with more of what your audience is looking for, and send them knowing delivery is guaranteed. Unless you have a misspelled email address, or you get caught by a spam filter, you can guarantee your email is hitting the recipient’s inbox. You no longer have to rely on dubious social media algorithms and hope your audience gets your message. 
 
As if these weren’t enough reasons to put together a personal website, another is that it simply couldn’t be easier to do in this day and age. You no longer need to know how to code, or even how to design. Platforms like Wix, SquareSpace, Weebly, and WordPress have gorgeous layouts that are entirely customizable. You can choose a simple portfolio or resume template, or go for a more robust business-oriented site. The point is, you have options, and it’s something that can totally be done in just a few days.
 
I’ll end with a main point that has a double meaning. Something I always say is, you become known for what you own. This applies to the fact that you literally will own your website. If an algorithm makes you pay to play, or if a social platform fizzles in popularity, you can rest easy with your site and list of contacts you’ve built. 
 
But more figuratively, you become known for what you own — the skills, talents, and knowledge you have. Own them and shout them proudly. Demonstrate them confidently. Declare who you are and what you can do, and believe it. Paint that picture for your audience so you become top-of-mind for what you do best. 
 
 
 
All the Small Things Content Creators Need to Remember

All the Small Things Content Creators Need to Remember

It’s no secret that my love of teenybopper boy bands is a big part of my personality. And while I was never the girl at the rock show, I still had love in my heart for Blink-182. 
 
I was driving in my car the other day and “All the Small Things” by Blink-182 was playing. You may remember that Blink-182 was in their prime during the Y2K boy band era, and that this music video actually mocks the Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC, 98 Degrees, Britney Spears, and Christina Aguilera. 
 
 

 
It actually won an MTV Video Music Award in the year 2000, beating out Destiny’s Child, the Foo Fighters, *NSYNC, and Red Hot Chilli Peppers. 
 
But the song got me thinking about all the small things marketers and content creators have to worry about. It’s one of those fields where you really have to sweat the small stuff. (Work sucks, I know). 
 
all the small things screen grab 'Work sucks, I know'
 
But this is because the small details are the difference makers. They determine if that big piece of content you spent forever on actually gets seen. 
 
You could have the best, more informative email, but it’s pointless if nobody opens it. 

You could spend hours and hours making an incredible video, but what if nobody watches it?

Or you could write the most helpful blog post that never gets read. What a shame that would be, not only for you who spent time on it, but for the person who is now missing out on the value you could have provided. 
 

All the Small Things Content Creators Need to Optimize

 

Blog Posts

Blog posts are so powerful and can be huge traffic sources for your website!
 
As you write your blog posts, you first need a title that is compelling. If your title doesn’t interest the reader and inspire them to click, your blog post will never get read. 
 
A good rule of thumb is to always incorporate what’s in it for your audience. How will this blog post help them? Does it solve a problem? Is it something they can relate to? 
 
A common format is listicles, but even those need a bit more information to be successful.
 
For example, something like “5 Best Travel Destinations” is decent, but too broad. Narrow this post so it calls out something specific that make resonate with your audience. Something like “5 Honeymoon Destinations That Won’t Break the Bank” or “5 Unique Cities to Explore on Your Next Girls Trip”. These are specific enough that it allows someone in your audience to clearly identify with them. 
 
Once you compel someone to click, you also have to compel them to stick around. Write a powerful first paragraph that confirms your content is worth reading. 
 
Your blog posts also need to be rich with relevant keywords. Incorporate these in subheadings and throughout the post, but don’t overdo it. Create a customized URL that features the keyword, instead of something like blogpost-november.html. The keywords are the cues Google needs to serve your post to your audience.
 
The goal of a blog post is to build your audience, right? In that case, your blog should also feature opt-in forms, at least on the sidebar. You also can offer a lead magnet or content upgrade, such as a free download, to capture an email address. Put a sign-up form at the end of the post, or even as a pop-up! You might think pop-ups seem spammy, but they work well if you offer something your audience will actually want.
 
Want to keep people on your site longer? Recommend related posts or pages for them to check out. “If you liked this, you’ll also like this” kinda thing. This is called interlinking and helps your audience move through the site, nurturing them along the way. 
 

 

Long-Form Video

Content creators understand the importance of video! The first thing I’ll say about video is that your video’s audio quality is actually more important than video quality. Your audience will still watch if your lighting isn’t perfect, if your room is messy, or if you’re wearing sweats. But if your audio is bad, it makes the video unwatchable. To instantly elevate your videos, invest in a decent microphone. You can find some good ones on Amazon for less than $150. If you’re big into video, a great mic will be the gift that keeps on giving. 
 
You’ll have the biggest chance of success with video if you don’t waste a second of your audience’s time. The worst is to click a video and the entire time your audience is thinking “get on with it already!”. Incorporate a strong hook, get straight to the point, and cut out the fluff. You can do this and still incorporate your personality through your expressions and overall delivery.
 
That’s all part of creating the video, but there are several housekeeping items you must complete to optimize it on YouTube. Like blog posts, your video also needs to have a detailed title and description that is rich with relevant keywords. Remember, YouTube is a search engine! 
 
The most common, heartbreaking mistake I see on YouTube is when a video doesn’t have a custom thumbnail. Your thumbnail is an opportunity to attract a viewer. Rather than using a default thumbnail that’s just a still from the video, design something strategic. Make it informative and eye-catching, with bold fonts and a helpful or humanizing image. Uploading a video without customizing a thumbnail is a huge missed opportunity. 
 
Also remember that if you share your videos outside of YouTube, such as on Twitter or Instagram, you should absolutely include captions. This makes your video accessible to the hearing impaired and is the considerate and inclusive thing to do. As content creators, this needs to be a priority.
 
The same goes for Instagram Stories. Keep in mind that many people watch Instagram Stories without sound. Use the captions sticker or add descriptive text overlays to make your story effective with or without sound. 
 

Instagram

While on the subject of Instagram Stories, enhance your engagement by looking for more opportunities to include engagement stickers. Can you add a questions sticker or relevant poll? In my book, the idea is to make social media a two-way conversation every chance you get! Also, don’t forget to include hashtags on your feed posts if you want to increase your reach, just make sure they aren’t too broad. 
 
If you want more eyes on your Instagram content, you’ll need more followers, and much of that starts with having a bio that compels people to follow you. You’d think it would go without saying, but make sure you have a clear profile picture, whether it’s a photo or your brand’s logo. Spend time writing a bio that with endear your audience and inform them of exactly what content they can expect. You want to make them feel like they’re in the right place when they land on your profile, and that your content will help them in some way. 
 
Include a link to your website or a lead magnet that will interest your audience. The worst thing you can do is include a LinkTree link with 17 different options. This is overwhelming. You’re better off directing them to your website’s homepage where they have a clear navigation, or to a simplified LinkTree.
 

Email

Lastly, let’s cover email. If you think email is dead, you’re mistaken. It’s still one of the best ways to reach for content creators to reach their audience, and is where you can find your warmest audience. If someone has willingly subscribed to your email list, they are way more likely to convert than a passive social media follower. 
 
Aside from writing emails that are packed with value, the main thing I want to remind you is not to overlook your subject line. The success of your email hinges on your subject line. If you rush it and write something that isn’t interesting, the recipient won’t even open the email. 
 
A quick tip I’ve tried to write subject lines is to include the word ‘you’ or ‘your’. It forces you to speak directly to the subscriber, which likely means you’re communicating what’s it in for them. The subject line becomes audience-focused vs. brand-focused, which will increase the chances of your email being opened.
 
 

Small Changes, Big Differences

 
What are some of the other small things content creators should keep in mind to help content perform better? It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of creating, but don’t overlook these little details. They truly can make or break your content. 
 
 
 
 
Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion is about Personal Branding

Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion is about Personal Branding

If Lisa Kudrow only starred in Friends, we could still classify her as a legend. But thankfully, she didn’t stop there. I’m here to talk about her 1997 film with Mira Sorvino, Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion, and how it’s a perfect metaphor for personal branding.
 
 
Since it’s been 24 years, I hope I don’t have to warn you about a spoiler alert, but it’s on Hulu if for some reason you haven’t seen this iconic film.
 

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A Recap of Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion

The movie starts with Romy and Michele freaking out about how they’ve lived such average lives. They worry they won’t impress their old classmates when they return for their high school reunion. 
 
 
Vying for acceptance, Romy and Michele completely reinvent themselves. They look for jobs, join the gym, start diets, and schmooze their way into borrowing a fancy car to pull up to the reunion. 
 
 
But what bothers me most is how they abandoned the eclectic style they’ve had since high school for black blazers and refined updos. My favorite scene is when they walk into a diner while on their road trip, dressed to impress in straight-laced, professional attire, and ask if they offer a businesswoman’s special. 
 
Unfortunately, they don’t, but this should really be a thing. 
 
 
As you know, Romy and Michele end up fabricating their accomplishments and tell their classmates that they invented Post-Its. But this backfires in the best way.
 
Their lie gets blown up and they become the laughing stock of the reunion, thanks to Heather Mooney who somehow knew that Art Frey is the real Post-It phenom. As they wallow in shame for a bit, Romy and Michele soon realize they should just be themselves.
 
By the end of the movie, they ditch their suits for outfits they designed — ones that reflect their true style they’ve had all along.
 
 
 
They end up getting both the last laugh and the last dance at the reunion, and they literally fly away with Sandy Frink in his helicopter. 
 
 
You may recall the happy ending where Romy and Michele open their own fashion boutique! While they were bullied for their unique outfits as teenagers, fashion has always been a constant interest in their lives. This passion was there all along, but it took them a while to tap into it. 
 
 

The Personal Branding Lesson from Romy & Michele

 
We all go through a similar journey when building our personal brand — or at least I did. Rather than reflecting and sharing who we really are, we’re tempted to create a more impressive, yet inauthentic, façade. We ask ourselves what other people want, vs. what we want.
 
I had this challenge when I started prioritizing my online presence as a marketer. I created a polished, stiff online profile complete with buzzwords and corporate headshots with a fake smile.
 
That’s what I thought the industry wanted me to do.
 
It wasn’t working.
 
I didn’t want to critique Fortune 500 campaigns or use showy jargon to share my knowledge or thoughts on marketing. That’s not who I am. I wanted to talk about branding lessons from the Spice Girls, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, or AJ McLean’s nail polish line. That’s me.
 
The first lesson we learn in marketing is to know your audience. But with personal branding, you have to know YOURSELF. I know this sounds like the antithesis to what every marketer has always been taught. But it’s true — with your personal brand, your audience doesn’t come first. You do.
 
If you’re creating content just to look cool for other people, you’re destined to be really unhappy. The foundation of your personal brand should be to express yourself, not to impress others. If you start building for the wrong reasons, you’ll never have the passion to keep going. 
 
Create what you want to create and what makes you feel most like yourself. I doubted this advice at first. I didn’t think you’d care about marketing lessons from an old ’90s film.  I thought I’d never be taken seriously as a marketer by sharing what I truly wanted to share.
 
But trust me, your people will find you. Being yourself is the only way to attract the right audience. And that being said, I’m SO happy you’re here. I hope you’ve learned a thing or two from this silly little blog.
 
 
User-Generated Content isn’t Always Great Content: How to Use It Wisely

User-Generated Content isn’t Always Great Content: How to Use It Wisely

I was going down a YouTube rabbit hole the other day and I ended up watching an old episode of TRL from the year 2000. Melissa Joan Hart and Britney Spears were hosting in Carson Daly’s absence. Besides the fact that Mambo #5 was on the countdown, I was reminded of something even more interesting.
 
Melissa Joan Hart starts talking about a contest TRL is running where audience members can submit original artwork to potentially be featured on TRL merchandise. She and Britney introduce the artists and share the designs on screen — all of which were hand-drawn sketches.
 
But what I found most remarkable was how Melissa and Britney called the audience to action. If others were interested in submitting their artwork to the contest, they couldn’t upload it to social media. They had to FAX it in. I couldn’t help but smile when TRL’s fax line popped on the screen: (212) 258-8719.
 
You can watch around the 3-minute mark here:
 

 
Think about how limiting this was. I imagine there were thousands of people who would’ve wanted to enter their designs, but the barriers to entry were high. They couldn’t fire their work off in an email, submit a form, or upload to social media. They had to have access to a fax machine. 
 
I wonder if marketing and social media managers know how lucky we are today. On a daily basis, our audience gifts us a bank of content we can share from our brand channels, with their permission of course. And on the other side of that, your audience has more opportunities to express themselves and share content that is meaningful to them. 
 
The opportunities for user-generated content are endless. We can receive unlimited content, all in an instant. But just because you could use UGC, doesn’t always mean you should. Let’s discuss some considerations when managing and sharing user-generated content. 
 
 

How to Make the Most of User-Generated Content

 
I’ll start with the hardest, yet most important tip. Screen your UGC! While we love content that is authentic, you should still have a level of standards before reposting a piece of content. Some UGC is good, but not good enough. Look for basic quality guidelines like image clarity, lighting, audio quality, etc. 
 
Ask yourself if you’re sharing this piece of content because it’s helpful, informative, or entertaining to your larger audience, or if you’re only sharing it simply to spotlight the original user. 
 
You can still express gratitude and show appreciation for the user without reposting their content. A simple DM, comment, or like on the post is often enough to make the user feel special. You’re not leaving them out, and they’re just as likely to keep posting just for being acknowledged. 
 
 
Also, remember there are certain etiquette rules when it comes to user-generated content. First of all, always ask permission before resharing it. Just because a user shared it on their own channels, doesn’t necessarily mean they’d like it broadcast to your entire audience. Plus, reaching out to thank them for the content and ask permission only strengthens the relationship. It’s much better than just taking their content without initiating a conversation. 
 
 
Okay, so now you’ve determined the UGC is high enough quality and you have permission to share. But your job goes beyond simply retweeting or reposting. In order for your UGC to have the most impact, you have to give it meaningful context.
 
This is where most UGC, including testimonials, falls flat. Unless the content does a great job storytelling all on its own, you will likely have to provide those additional details. 
 
For instance, let’s say you’re a realtor who is tagged in a photo your clients posted standing in front of their new house you helped sell. Rather than just reposting it, tell us more about the couple and how you met their needs. Give your audience something they can potentially relate to as well. Is this a young couple who is expecting their first child and needed more space? What were they looking for in a home and where did they find it? How desperately were they searching before you were able to help?
 
This added background helps your larger audience see themselves in the content, too, and realize that you have the solution they may need. “If it worked for them, it will work for us.”
 
 
Lastly, remember that attention is scarce. If you reshare every single piece of UGC without context or adding value, you will slowly chip away at your audience’s attention, and they may tune you out for good. 
 
For example, if you run a fitness studio and you often get tagged in your customers’ post-workout mirror selfies, resharing several of these back-to-back, day-after-day is BORING. There are only so many Boomerangs we can take! 
 
We’ve all seen those brands with endless Instagram Stories that don’t hold our attention. And don’t even get me started on those people who tag a friend in a post, then that friend reshares the tag, and then the original tagger reshares the tag! You’re just spamming your audience at that point.

 
 
Don’t just reshare so you have a steady stream of content. Reposting all of your UGC can be tempting, and it surely makes our jobs easier, but it can do more harm than good. 
 
You know how it goes… always make sure your content adds value. It has to be worthwhile. 
 
The Streisand Effect: A Must-Know for Every Marketer or PR Pro

The Streisand Effect: A Must-Know for Every Marketer or PR Pro

You don’t have to be a Barbra Streisand fan or have grown up in her era of music to know just how respected she is. She is known as one of the greatest voices of all time. But beyond her voice and music legacy, we can thank Barbra Streisand for helping create a social phenomenon called ‘The Streisand Effect’. And it’s absolutely something every marketer should know about.
 

 
 

What is The Streisand Effect?

 
Let’s rewind back to 2003. 
 
Long before drones were created, a company called California Coastal Records Project captured an aerial photograph of Barbra Streisand’s sprawling beachfront mansion on the coast of Malibu. Although many photographers in California are known for invading the privacy of celebrities, this case was likely inadvertent. The photo was taken in an effort to create awareness about coastal erosion — not necessarily to reveal Barbra Streisand’s residence. That may have been a coincidence. 
 
The photographer, Kenneth Adelman, published the photos on his website. Barbra Streisand then filed a $50 million lawsuit against him, calling for him to “remove an aerial photograph of Streisand’s mansion from the publicly available collection of 12,000 California coastline photographs.” 
 
Aerial shot of Barbra Streisand's mansion off the coast of Malibu, CA

By Kenneth Adelman

 
At the time she filed the lawsuit, the image had only been downloaded from Adelman’s website six times; two of which were downloads by Streisand’s attorneys. As a result of the case, paired with Barbra Streisand’s celebrity status, public interest in the photograph grew immensely. By the end of the month, 420,000 people visited the site. Boy, did that backfire! 
 
‘The Streisand Effect’ occurs when an attempt to hide, remove, or censor information has the unintended consequence of further publicizing that information, usually via the Internet.
 
It reminds me of the episode of Friends when Ross and Rachel get a new ‘hot nanny’. Ross forbids Joey from pursuing her, which only makes him want her more. 
 
 
Spoiler alert: we later learned she’s a lesbian. Crisis averted! 
 
 

The Streisand Effect in News & Pop Culture

 
We’ve seen examples of The Streisand Effect in play with several headlines over the years. It often comes up when celebrities try to have unflattering photos of themselves removed from the Internet. Both Beyoncé and Khloe Kardashian have tried this. I didn’t think Beyoncé could take an unflattering photo, but her 2013 Super Bowl Halftime Show performance sparked the ‘hulking’ meme. RUDE!
 
Beyonce meme showing her lifting weights with an unflattering expression
 
Other examples have come up more recently amid racial justice reform. ‘Gone With the Wind’ was temporarily removed from streaming platforms, which ignited more interest. When six Dr. Seuss books would no longer be published, it created a frenzy. The attempts to suppress only drew more attention. 
 

The Takeaway for Marketers and PR Professionals

 
Why is this important for marketers or publicities? Because despite your intentions, your messaging may do more harm than good. 
 
I’m currently reading The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone’s Mind by Jonah Berger. He dedicates a chapter to talking about the Tide Pod Challenge from 2017. You may remember the viral meme that encouraged teenagers to ingest laundry detergent. Obviously, not a good idea.
 
Tide tried to do the right thing early on. When they first got wind of the challenge, they released statements and messaging warning their audience that the pods were only to be used to wash clothing. They even tapped Super Bowl champion, Rob Gronkowski, for a commercial about it. 
 

 
 
But, you guessed it… the campaign only drew more attention to the Tide Pod Challenge, inspiring more teens to try it. Boom, ‘The Streisand Effect’.
 
This makes me wonder if public service announcements always have a reverse effect. Jonah Berger’s book indicates that pushing your audience and telling them what not to do, only makes them feel like their freedom, control, or choices are being limited. He says that if you really want to change someone’s mind, find more ways to remove barriers and help them come to a decision themselves.
 
They say some things are better left unsaid, which may also be true in marketing. We often think that over-communicating is what will get the message across, but it may inspire people to do the one thing you’re telling them not to.
 
In Tide’s case, I’m sure there were legal implications to their warning campaigns. But for Barbra Streisand, she probably should have let that photograph go. She unintentionally drew more attention to something she wanted hidden, and now we’ve named a phenomenon after her. 
 
The good news is, she’s safe and living the life just fine in Malibu. But I’ve gotta tell you, if I had a mansion like that, I’m not sure I’d want it hidden. It’s spectacular!’