Saturday, 9 July 2011

#cpd23, Thing 3: does my brand look big in this?

It's taken me a long time to get round to writing this post.  Unlike many others, I'm not too uncomfortable with having a 'personal brand' that I take into account when presenting myself online.  But I am fairly uncertain of quite what my brand is, what is should be, and how I should best be communicating that.
'Luna navideña' by nomenombres on Flickr'
What do you think about the Girl in the Moon?

I've written before about my changing opinions regarding my own anonymity (or otherwise) online. When I started this blog and first signed up to Twitter, I was only using a pseudonym.  I'd vaguely thought of having 'The Man in the Moon' as a stand-by pseudonym for a while - based on an in-joke from years ago - but when it came down to it, I thought I ought to at least have something that reflected by actual gender.  Thus Girl in the Moon.  I don't know what I'll do if I ever decide I want to sound more grown up than a girl...  And I really have no idea what sort of image that the name projects. Whimsical? Astronomical? Probably, I fear, astrological, even though I don't hold with that bunkum at all.  It doesn't overtly link to libraries, but I don't know if that matters.  I've tried for consistently across platforms, but girlinthemoon is fairly popular as a username, so often I've used maedchenimmond (German for Girl in the Moon) with the English as a display name.  I like to hope that isn't confusing - I do try to use other means to unify all my presences.

I'm a bit squeamish about using a photograph of me, even though I well recognise the benefits of being identifiable.  It's not because I'm particularly concerned about privacy, I think I honestly think a picture of something else is probably more aesthetically pleasing and distinctive.  If you really want to know what I look like, most of the first image results for my name are pictures of me (except the ones that are my avatar!).  As I've changed the design of various profiles and of this blog over time, I've retained the same avatar so that there is some consistency.  I worry (probably unduly) about changing things too much and people being confused.  Equally, I am starting to wonder whether I shouldn't more often include an actual photograph of me so that finding people at conferences would be easier.

Profersonal identity
I don't worry unduly about this.  I do tend to think before I tweet - generally I don't talk about personal stuff, anniversaries, domestic disasters, what I'm having for dinner.  But I do talk about hobbies - music and knitting - not least because a lot of the library folk I interact with professionally online also share these interests.  I'm comfortable with that, and I think my general rule is that I don't talk about online things that I wouldn't talk about to general colleagues (not friends) in the office at work.

Visual brand
I'm definitely someone who's interested in design, although you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise when considering the various iterations of this blog.  I do try to maintain a consistent, though not slavishly identical, design (colours, images) across various platforms.  I wonder if my avatar image is a wise choice - it's a book (what a stereotype!), it's brown-ish (pretty dull), it's not very striking.  But ultimately I am a slightly dull lass, who is interested in physical books, so maybe it's OK?

The Google/Bing/search engine of choice Challenge
I opened a difference browser (yes, yes, it's IE, I only use it for emergencies!) and checked I was logged out from everything.  Here are some results pages:

Screenshot of a Google search for Katie Birkwood.

Firstly, Google. This is all pretty good.  I have a very distinctive name, so there's little question of it not being about me. It's just about which bits of me turn up. Google does well: Twitter and this blog are the first two, then references to various things I've presented at and written about professionally and recently.  A profile page from an online network, and my Guardian article. Hurrah!

Screenshot of a Bing search for Katie Birkwood

Bing is a little less satisfactory.  The first two results are fine: my Ignite London talk and this blog.  But then lots of minutes from committees I was on as a student.  Oh dear.  I wonder how to make this better?  It's not as if my names isn't all over the place for library things these days.  And I can't imagine that College Music Society minutes are frequently linked to.

Overall, there's nothing too alarming there. Phew. But I'm not sure that any of the above actually comes together to form a cohesive image.  I worry that I rely on design because I haven't got anything more substantial to fall back on - I don't talk either mainly or knowledgeably about any particular topics, I'm not sure I have a distinctive writing style... These I things I notice about other people's brands, but fear they may be lacking from how I present myself?  Tom Roper has indeed already commented that he thinks my brand is design-based, though I don't know that he meant that as a criticism (and he did say some other nice things, phew).

A second opinion
If, dear reader, you aren't exhausted from doing this for all the other CPD23 participants already, I'd like to hear your views.
  • What does 'Girl in the Moon' say to you?
  • Do you think I have a 'brand'? If yes, what does it say about me? If no, what am I doing wrong?
  • Should I be using a photograph of myself instead of an anonymous avatar?
  • Am I all style and no substance? Should I be focussing my efforts more narrowly (in terms of topic)?
  • Any other thoughts?
I've a thick skin, so don't hold back if there's something you've been dying to point out...

P.S. Multicolor Search Lab is a really cool search tool that lets you find Creative Commons images of Flickr based on their colour(s).  That's where I found the lovely purple moon (above) for this post.


  1. Aha, so it's Maedchen Im Mond *lightbulb flashes above head*. I had the idea that Maedchen Immond was some sort of random alias. I guess this means that a. I am an idiot; b. my GCSE in German is clearly worthless.

    I like Girl in the Moon. It's unusual and it stands out. It's quite a dreamy sounding name (which is not a criticism, and could hardly be coming from someone who calls her blog Palely Loitering). I love your logo and colour scheme and general consistent design.

  2. Girl in the Moon - thoughtful, aspirational. You might have to change it to Old Woman in a Basket in 40 years time though.

    Nice as a photo of you would be, your avatar is fine, as is the consistent and unfussy design. I think you've got a great visual brand.

    All style and no substance? Nothing could be further from the truth. I always open your new posts in the expectation of something worth reading, and I'm never disappointed.

    Only one thought: do you find it easy having several activities on one blog (CPD23, Cam23)and do your followers from the various communities get confused?

  3. Laura,

    You're not the only person to have said that: you're definitely not an idiot! It's a prime example of 'what's obvious to me isn't obvious to you'.


    'Old Woman in a Basket' is brill. I'm keeping it for future reference! And thanks for your kind words.

    I made a conscious decision to stick to one blog for everything I'm doing, as I value having everything findable above keeping different things separate. I am thinking of going back and adding a header line to the cam23/cpd23 posts to explain what they are ('This post is part of cam23 + link', or similar) so that people who aren't 'in the know' have more idea what's what.


  4. I am actually a fan of photos; even though I find it embarrassing having photos of myself up, I think it is a necessary evil. Let me tell you a story...

    Years ago when I was a newbie here, my boss asked me to contact ..let's call him Steve Smith about some items for a Web page. I sent him a very formal email "Dear Steve, my boss X X, has asked me to contact you regarding...etc etc". 10 minutes later, at tea time, the bloke called Steve I had had coffee with every afternoon for 2 weeks said "I'll send you that stuff as soon as I get back to the office". I felt like a prize idiot.

    Soon after that, I created a staff directory in which the majority of staff have pictures listed next to contact details, so that it wouldn't happen to me again. I always look at pictures when about to meet someone new.

    Having a photo makes it much easier for those who are about to meet you in "real life".

    Right, off my hobby horse now.

  5. I think your online presence is perfect for you, you are very clearly Girl in the Moon (I had always wondered what Maedchenimmond meant!). But that is probably down to the the fact that you have built up that presence over time, and most people know who Girl in the Moon is in real life. I wonder if you were starting from scratch you would use a pseudonym or your real name?

    Your definitely more substance (though the style is all good) and I think it would be a bit wrong to fragment your thoughts and what you write about into other blogs as I think it would water down your online presence/brand.

    A picture would be helpful for people being able to recognise you at conferences, but only you can really assess if a lack of a picture is holding you back, or if a picture would mean to many people wanting to talk to you :)


  6. Laura W,

    You're responsible for the staff directory? You're a saint! It makes life so much easier round here. And, now I'm thinking about it in those terms, I'm considering using a picture of actual me at least in some places. Maybe a profile pic on the blog, but not my ugle mug staring at people all over Twitter? Am tinkering with images and will see what turns up.


    I think if I were starting again now I'd be less circumspect about using my real name. The fact that cam23 explicitly said you could be anonymous meant that I really felt I could tip my toes in the water without revealing my identity. But all the best stuff happens when people know who you are, so I think I'd always end up using my full name.


  7. Although new to the world of blogging (thanks cpd23 for giving me the push), I was aware of your blog/name beforehand - so your brand is out there. I like the name, it feels individual and isn't boring. Although I appreciate the comment about photos made by Laura W above, I too am currently lurking without. If you avatar is across your online presences (and I see you use it for twitter), then I think that's fine too!

  8. I know I'm a couple weeks late in replying to this, but I meant to after I read it so I am doing it now so I can cross it off my list.

    I used to use librarygirl - I had the domain and everything. I gave it up because I don't really want to be identified solely as a librarian (especially since I think I'm not a good one in terms of passion). Also the girl bit did feel a bit immature. However, I think Girl in the moon is more poetic versus sounding like a superhero.

    And it's funny about the visual brand. I use that picture of me in striped tights just because I didn't really want a picture of my face on Twitter (like most people, I'm usually pretty unhappy with how I look in pictures). I felt like the tights picture was representative of me if you know me. (I like stripes. A lot.) I've only recently started wearing tights with any frequency because I've started wearing more skirts. I wore tights frequently in high school and wore all sorts of crazy ones. So it was funny when I went to a small NE CILIP event and there were only a few of us using Twitter. The speaker said 'Oh, this person isn't here yet' indicating me. Someone piped up 'Yes she is, you just need to look at the legs'. I was wearing bright pink tights that day! So I have inadvertantly become 'The girl with the crazy tights' even though it's not my normal attire. Girl with the stripes, OK, but girl with the crazy tights?! Now I feel I have to live up to it!

  9. srobalino,

    Late comments are very welcome! It's an interesting point about not wanting to be identified solely as a librarian - I guess that's all a part of the personal/professional balance. Being a librarian is an important part of what I do/who I am, but it's not the only part - that's partly why I have the bio/tagline that I do. Mind you, that's not a straight forward business, deciding which bits do get a mention there and which bits don't.

    I love your stripes picture! I think a hook like that is a great way of being remembered - and it means people will still know who you are even if you cut/dye your hair! And stripey tights are very cool, too. Don't forget that. (And you probably don't need crazy tights all the time - just often enough to maintain the reputation.)

  10. Hi Katie,
    I did notice that your blog title Girl in the Moon was different from the Maedchen im Mond URL. With German as my mother tongue, I wondered why you have used the German title for the URL but not the actual blog. Thanks for clarifying.
    I like the layout of your blog and am rather impressed by the size of your tag cloud!