Personal brand or company brand? The new realities of life online


personal brand

It seems like in the past week I’ve been deluged with questions like this:

  • I cover the news. I’m not supposed to be part of the news story so how do I build a personal brand?
  • I work for a non-profit and I am essentially the face of the organization. I want to build awareness for what we do but my interests are so eclectic. Am I a personal brand or a company brand?
  • I’m a musician and I have more then a million followers on Google+. I thought I would be able to monetize this audience but nothing has happened. Isn’t that what is supposed to happen when you build a brand?
  • I don’t want my employees to build a brand on social media. What happens if they get more popular than the product? And besides, they should do that on their own time.

So it appears personal branding is in the air these days!  Here are a few thoughts on the perils and promise of building a personal brand.

The transferrable asset

I believe it is an imperative for everybody to work on their online presence and networking, even if you are happily employed. Why? If everything goes upside down, this is the only asset you have today that is transferrable!

In today’s legal environment, you probably can’t take your customers, your ideas, your software or anything else with you if your employment would end. But you can take your online friends with you.

I cannot tell you how many people I know got new jobs from their online connections. Here are some ideas on how to build a strong personal brand and a few more on self-promotion.

Employers, set your people free

I recently saw a stat that 50 percent of employers still block employees from the Internet. The main reason is they don’t want them wasting time on stuff like Farmville and Grumpy Cat.

Are you going to collect their smart phones too? Are you going to shake them down for that Sudoku puzzle book?

Look, there is no way to keep people off social media,. And at the same time there are powerful BENEFITS to setting your people free:

  1. The other day, I was facing a puzzling marketing problem. I had worked on the thing for four days and was at a dead end. I posted the problem on Facebook and had the solution in 10 minutes. I will bet on the productivity of a connected employee versus a non-connected employee every time.
  2. Letting employees enjoy a social media break is a quiet, low-cost way to give them a way to relax and refresh.
  3. Today, access to social media isn’t just a way to waste time, it is place to learn new skills and connect with inspiring new ideas.
  4. Finally, what about the potential power of creating an employee advocacy network? Establishing a “social organization” is a long-term aspirational goal for many companies, but there’s no reason you can’t ask enthusiastic employees to help spread interesting, relevant content on their social networks. The amplification effect can be significant—much greater than traditional distribution through the logo-infused company sites.

The ultimate promise of reach

It used to be, you would get a book contract or a record deal and the publisher would help you build an audience. Today, it’s the other way around. You must HAVE the audience before you ever have a shot at that deal … or maybe even a job.

Now, that does not mean your one million followers on Google+ are going to buy one million record albums. These social media connections are merely weak relational links that open a door for you. But let’s face it … all things being equal, are you going to hire the musician/writer/speaker with 1,000 connections or 1 million connections?

Now … should you be concerned about building the brand for your company or yourself? Why not a bit of both? You will be a boring personality indeed if all you do is is post about your company. Why not add a human face and post about your travels, the music you love, and the interesting ideas and people you’re connecting with?

Certainly there is a balance but I think the most effective company representatives are people, too.

Why personal branding is more important than ever

We are on the cusp of a scary time for content creators. Perhaps a cataclysmic time.

Last year, for the first time in history, a computer-generated news story ran in the Los Angeles Times. By 2020, it is projected that 75 percent of the news will be computer-generated. I have seen poetry and song lyrics written by a computer that were beautiful and profound. I have seen a computer-written blog post.

The point is, a lot of jobs are vulnerable out there, but the one thing they can’t take away is the fans that we earn through our brand. Those fans are not going to love a computer, but they may just love you and consume your content because it is YOU.

So in almost any profession, it makes sense to extend your reach and build your connections by patiently building your online presence.

Now it’s your turn. What are your thoughts about personal branding today?

Illustration courtesy Flickr CC and Vinoth Chandar

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The Realities of Scaling and the Unintended Consequences of Habits


Slack_One Year Growth_Feb2015
Making Sense:

From learning to pay it, to trying to get it, attention has been the “it” concept of marketing and business. How will technology be the answer?

  • Attention: A Muscle to Strengthen. The Atlantic: Sood is a physician, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic, no less. There he recently founded the Global Center for Resiliency and Wellbeing and is now taking to the Internet to teach people how to train their minds for a better life. One of the core elements of Sood’s practice is helping people to “create intentionality.” He describes the approach plainly: choosing where you deploy your attention and how you process information.
  • How consumer habits are subject to the law of unintended consequences. The Spectator: The conventional explanation for the decline of Tesco (beloved of accountants, city analysts and other members of the economic autisto-cracy) holds that cheap shops such as Lidl and Aldi undercut Tesco’s prices and so people deserted Tesco to save money (yawn). A more interesting explanation takes a complex view of human behaviour.

Making Do:

From scaling data in the physical world to scaling speed and effectiveness in product development, we are wrestling with the limitations of what we can do, and the constrains of what we know so far.

  • The Realities of Installing iBeacon to Scale. Brooklyn MuseumWe are using beacons from Estimote; we selected these units because the developer community is strong and we received consistently good customer service and communication from the Estimote team. Estimote has a standout SDK, too, which means we can develop tools to help us—the ability to create our own tools and fully integrate into ASK was critical.  In a market with many players, what we gained in these regards is unparalleled and we’d make the same choice today—both vendor and technology—even knowing the headaches we’ve been facing.
  • Lessons Learned from Scaling a Product Team. Intercom: We believe you achieve greatness in 1,000 small steps. Therefore we always optimise for shipping the fastest, smallest, simplest thing that will get us closer to our objective and help us learn what works. All our projects are scoped into small independent releases that add value to customers. Everyone should push everyone else to reduce scope and simplify, in order to move faster and not spend time on things that turn out not to be important.

Making It:

Blazing trails in digital is something we see in retrospect when we try new things – examples from going web-first with a show to identifying the three things your product is extremely good at doing.

  • How ‘The Daily Show with Jon Stewart’ conquered the social web. Mashable: By being forced to go digital when it did, Comedy Central was poised to benefit from another growing trend that was just starting to take off at this time: the modern age of social media. […] Within a few years, every major TV show — especially late-night entities — would take advantage of the social web. Videos started to get created with the web in mind. Share buttons got prominent placement in video players and brand and network accounts popped-up specifically to help the shows go viral and become discussed.
  • From 0 to $ 1B – Slack’s Founder Shares Their Epic Launch Strategy. First Round: Make Active Listening Your Core Competency As much information as Slack put out to customers, they learned even more themselves. Butterfield and his cofounders are voracious readers of user feedback, and they attribute much of the company’s rapid traction to this skill. From the get-go, Slack made sure that users could respond to every email they received, and approached every help ticket as an opportunity to solidify loyalty and improve the service. As they listened to their ever-growing flock of users, the Slack team iterated accordingly.

Conversation Agent – Valeria Maltoni