Balancing Your Morals with Personas and Aliases

by Peter Attia on August 29, 2012

Personas are a common tactic in the online marketing community. They work well and are a legitimate way to grow your social presence. However, most people refer to persona when they actually mean alias.

These are two very different things.

What is a Persona?

Hulk Persona

The aspect of someone’s character that is presented to or perceived by others.

To give an example, on this blog I’m known as an SEO and little else. This is my persona for this blog.

My college peers on the other hand, know me as a gamer, banjo player, and a techie. They most likely have no clue I even dabble in marketing unless they’ve stalked me on Facebook.

If I regularly wrote game reviews on a gaming blog, that would be another persona. I would still use my real name. I would still be me. I’m merely showing another side of me.

What is an Alias?

Batman Alias

A false or assumed identity.

An alias is something else entirely. Say I reached out to a person who runs a farming blog and I noticed they used to live in Alabama. I could approach them as “Amber”, a recent LSU agriculture grad who grew up in Mobile, Alabama.

I could then guest post on their blog about farming. Something I knew nothing about until researching it the day before.

This is an alias. It is obviously not me, but only I know that.

What’s OK and What Isn’t?

For the most part, personas are always OK. I can’t think of a situation where using a persona would be a bad thing.

Aliases on the other hand… You really need to find a balance. I will admit, that I’ve used some very elaborate lies to get a link. It’s worked very well, it’s also bit me in the ass. I’m completely unashamed to admit this, because I learned a valuable lesson from it.

Instead of using a full blown alias, find what you can relate to and expand upon it. As an example for outreach, I always check what city a blogger is located. I’ve moved around a lot, so I can usually find a way to relate. By doing this, I’m able to communicate with a blogger in a much more natural way.

Now, say I noticed a blogger was an aviation expert. I could say I am as well, however if they start getting into specific detail, I’ll be spending too much time on research. Not only does this become unproductive, you can also be caught in a lie. Your verbiage will become distant, because you’re trying to avoid detail.

The Balancing Act

Iron Man Persona Alias

Even though I’m explaining the downside of aliases, there are ways to make it work. You can use subtle untruths that won’t backfire while still being yourself.

Say I reached out to someone that plays a cello. Instead of claiming I play cello too, I could say that it’s an instrument I’ve always wanted to learn. This still creates a connection with the blogger and even though it’s a false statement, there’s no real way to be caught in a lie. I’m not claiming knowledge I don’t know and since I also play music, my correspondence still sounds legitimate and natural. I’m not acting out of “character”.

Again however, this is still a lie. This is where it really boils down to what you are comfortable with morally. Don’t force yourself to mislead people if you’re not ok with it. Your correspondence will sound distant and you’ll become unmotivated. Do what works for you and what you enjoy doing.

If you get motivated by making elaborate aliases to achieve a goal, go for it. Furthermore, don’t judge anyone that does something you don’t agree with. Instead try learning from them. Someone that’s willing to stretch their moral boundaries, also knows how to protect themselves from it.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

JulieChrisHume August 30, 2012 at 3:08 am

Good article, Peter. I guess few of my friends know or care about my dabbling either. :) I have used aliases myself in the past out of a shyness really. Not wanting to put myself out there. I still have alias run websites that I keep as a hobby and enjoy getting into the role-playing. It’s a game.

But aliases for seo and marketing, I have always been terrible at it. Too uncomfortable. I don’t moralize though. I really would love someone to show me how they keep all their aliases straight.


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