Remember Linden Labs? They're the company behind Second Life, which is still around and now has over a million members. Still, the service is not exactly a buzzword anymore. In fact, I haven't even thought about it in years.
The original vision for Second Life was that there would be a version of you that exists online. The concept of this being true in only one product sounds comical now. At the time, it was as though we were trying to create this avatar as a future endeavor. We were laying the foundation. We didn't know what it would be like at the time. Some days, it looked like a bobble-head. At other times, it looked like Darth Vadar. It was a cartoon representation and nothing more. And, it was not that important.
Today, this "second person" actually exists. You tweet, post on Facebook, share photos on Instagram, and you have a massive Internet history. (If you turned this feature off in Google, good for you-but advertisers have been happy to maintain it for you.) It's more than just a personal brand. It's a thinking version of you with a personality, likes and dislikes, opinions about politics, and a buying history.
Here's the really interesting part. This second version of you is still a child. I started getting into Twitter only a few years ago, in 2010. That Twitter "me" is only five-years-old. He's barely ready for elementary school. In the future, this "you" will be much more mature. It's a good thing your online presence is a bit less developed today than the physical "you"...and not nearly as important. However, in the future, companies will not just hire you. They will also hire the Virtual You.
The question is: How will this "you" develop?
I'm talking partly about your connections on social media. Companies already hire people with many strong influencer connections (especially if you have a ton of them on LinkedIn), people who will be able to strengthen the brand and help the sales channel. The Virtual You needs to have many strong connections. The number should be always growing but also expanding beyond your market segment.
The strength of the Virtual You is measured by the strength of your connections. There's a good way to test this. You can go on social networks and post a question and see how many people respond with good information. Recently, I noticed how a PR rep posted a question on Facebook and dozens of people responded in just one afternoon. That person has a strong Virtual You. It's like having your own personal Quora. It's amazing that this is such an undiscovered benefit of social nets.
Your online presence is also measured by your strength of insight. I spoke with a LinkedIn employee recently who has found how important it is to post articles. (I had to laugh a little about this discovery for obvious reason.) What I realized is that she was strengthening her Virtual You. After a few years of posting, she will be known as someone who is more insightful and even worth promoting. She'll garner more respect from people she has never met in person and probably never will meet.
The Virtual You will grow in terms of your Facebook Groups, your impact on Reddit, and your comments online. While your Klout score (remember that?) is just a measure of your followers, the Virtual You will exist as a persona that almost has voting rights.
Where could this lead? I've already attended a conference once using a telepresence robot. Maybe your Virtual You will do the same. The question isn't whether you're active on social media and trying to form connections. It's how much you realize that the Virtual You is in Kindergarten right now and is slowly inching toward much greater importance.