Dynamics of a Personal Brand

Blogging + Twitter = Personal Brand

That about sums it up doesn’t it? Well, almost. It’s a starting point, and I doubt one equation adequately encapsulates the full dynamics of a personal brand.

Now, you ask, “Why would I care about a personal brand?”

The age of online networks
The Internet is growing exponentially. Proliferation of online activities are giving way to highly interactive behaviours, creating many social circles (communities)—circles which in turn affect and influence real life individuals and communities.

Establishing a recognized personal brand permits you to navigate through different communities fluidly. You are easily recognized for who you are and what you represent. Your brand is proven and trusted. In effect, your network expands and your relations and reputation become more robust.

A healthy and extensive network not only bodes well for you, but also for those with whom you are associated.

autom8So what does it take to develop a personal brand? My experience to date tells me a lot of it has to do with staying true to yourself and letting things happen naturally, almost by chance.

Branding your own person not persona
Knowledge, expertise, charisma and useful insights make up a successful personal brand.

Although I would add that a trusted personal brand is organically cultivated—not contrived—and emerges as a result of a fine tuned, transparent voice.

What does that mean? In my view, it means a number of things. And they all occur or come together simultaneously, at times serendipitously, including:

  • producing content that’s largely inspired instead of canned pieces churned out of an editorial calendar
  • inciting productive dialogue through constructive opinions that attempt to examine what’s beyond the obvious
  • sharing a variety of topics and news that reflect your interests and viewpoints, e.g., in what you tweet (granted, I’m a bit biased with my interest in technology..just a bit)
  • conversing with and listening to your online follows; being helpful, encouraging and getting to know their voice (who  are they? what are their interests and concerns?)
  • showing a sense of humour (sometimes sarcastically—yes, marketing snark can be entertaining), at best for comic relief, worse, to express displeasure and/or concern; although I would advise that resorting to wit and intelligence is more effective than the shock value of words fueled by raw emotions
  • being sincere and genuinely interested in the ‘man/woman/logo behind the avatar’; earning their trust/respect and encouraging an opportunity to connect offline
  • staying real and being yourself instead of overworking what it takes to be perceived as unique. The natural development of your voice alone will define your identity.

Your personality, knowledge/expertise, the content you create and critical thinking you offer, are core ingredients that determine the quality of your personal brand.

Blogs should not only serve to be useful to others but also provide a view into a host of personal perspectives including your creative and philosophical predispositions. Concurrently, your tweets should amplify certain tones that echo your personality and reflect whether or not you choose to nurture your identity online and reveal how approachable you are.

How you help connect others online as well as the connections you yourself make offline are proof of your serious investment in online interactions. The success of these interactions and connections close the loop and attest to the effectiveness of your own sociability and the visibility and reach of your personal brand.

This is the stuff of networking today.

Can you imagine how it will further evolve? Do you chase after opportunities or allow your personal brand to draw them out?


25 thoughts on “Dynamics of a Personal Brand

  1. Nice work Autom – I like the emphasis on organic rather than contrived. Having said that I can well imagine a few peeps following your list above as a recipe and out comes the editorial calendar (“Crap, its Friday and I havent said anything funny yet”) . It is a great check list to review current behaviour against if Personal Branding is your thing. Might send it to our political party leaders. We’ve woken up to a hung parliament the day after the election as both had appalling personal blands err ahh personal brands…

  2. I couldn’t agree more, Autom. It’s difficult to define a perfect and balanced personal brand recipe, but without any doubt you have mention the major ingredients: competition, credibility, trust, responsibility and communication. I would add a bit of “courtesy”. Not being polite, respectful and considerate can shatter your personal brand.

    You nailed it in the “staying real” point. In the end, I think it boils down to being yourself.

  3. My favourite part – “a trusted personal brand is organically cultivated—not contrived.” Whether you call it karma, paying it forward or operating under the golden rule of treating people as you would have them treat you, building and maintaining a personal brand starts with blogging+twitter but it is also depends on a rich interaction with others who are like-minded or who enjoy spirited debate. How you engage with them and how they respond to you will depend heavily on your blogging and twitter efforts. The suggestions above provide great guidance on how you can establish and curate your personal brand.

  4. A very sage commentary. I especially like the emphasis on “social” as opposed to “media” and can’t help but think your bullet points are the 7 key lessons to learn for anyone to be successful in social media. Autom, this post is definitely a “keeper”.

  5. Jenn – we all need to be organized to a degree right? (re: calendar). I think the frequency of producing content depends largely on how well you know your audience and *when* (including how often) they would find information timely and useful. I have only been seeing random tweets on the Australian vote. and have not been closely following..best of luck with that

    Pachi – this post is certainly nothing new to you my friend 😉 i hope it serves as a useful reminder and be a form of reference for those just discovering what personal branding entails

    Andrew – i have consistently referred to the term ‘organic’ througout my blog posts..while what it pertains to within the context of my posts is clear to me, i do wonder if others see it the same way: naturally occurring, not forced, takes on a life of its own, not based on gaming a system, etc.

    Michael – thank you. these bullets will be familiar with the four of you who’ve commented to date..articulating this post encouraged me to draw out certain nuances, which i feel have certainly helped define my own personal brand and which i hope will also help others define their own

  6. Excellent post Autom with interesting points of view. Developing a personal brand today is indeed a complex organic process that touches many disciplines that need to be mastered. I personally liked your perspectives on how to brand your own person not persona. As we move into the realm of knowledge management I think personal brand development will become more important to being able to not only identify but also connect with peers to enable real knowledge hubs powered by social dynamics.

  7. Another great post Autom!

    You are definitely the right person to write a post like this. You are a breath of fresh air in how real and true your personal brand is. There is a great deal of important and necessary information here that you kept nice and simple; be yourself. Be genuine, be real, be you. That’s the bottom line.

    “trusted personal brand is organically cultivated—not contrived—and emerges as a result of a fine tuned, transparent voice.” Spot on.

  8. Many good points here, and this topic is definitely going to see a lot more discussion in the upcoming months and year(s), as people increasingly merge their online, offline, personal and professional contacts.

    I agree that the drive for ‘authenticity’ in many ways drives the success, and reach, of social media tools, but I think the equation becomes so much more complicated when people are asked to operate as representatives from more than one organization, or brand, on the same account; what does authenticity mean in these situations, when you’re writing for diverse audiences, with diverse expectations and interests? How can I balance an earnest enthusiasm for my workplace, and the desire to share that follows naturally, with the desire to stay “professional,” ie, to shed some of those same idiosyncrasies that make my personal twitter shine?

    Luckily, the same editing techniques apply – “Your personality, knowledge/expertise, the content you create and critical thinking you offer, are core ingredients that the determine the quality of [ANY!] brand.” Well said!

  9. Ernesto & Char – thanks for stopping by and sharing your respective feedback..your words are most encouraging, very much appreciated.

    Jared – i can always count on you to raise burning issues:

    “people are asked to operate as representatives from more than one organization, or brand, on the same account; what does authenticity mean in these situations, when you’re writing for diverse audiences, with diverse expectations and interests?” – to me, in this case, authenticity means remaining true to your voice..your professional ability to produce content for various audiences should not have to mean that you are limited to producing content without your own signature style, and yes, in some cases, even with a hint or clear flavour of your own personal viewpoint

    “How can I balance an earnest enthusiasm for my workplace, and the desire to share that follows naturally, with the desire to stay “professional,” ie, to shed some of those same idiosyncrasies that make my personal twitter shine? – i think this is where we should take a broader look at what “being professional” means today..that you have to feel compelled to “balance enthusiasm”, to me, indicates that you feel constrained in channeling naturally occurring energy. when applying this energy, you should not only produce satisfying results for others, but also and more importantly, you should feel great about it! why would you want to “shed idiosyncrasies that make your personal twitter shine”? (unless your tweets are gratuitously profane or offensive) evidently you would need to tailor your content so that it compels your audience, but part of what makes content compelling is the unique flair you inject in the way you package and deliver it “Oh, that’s Jared’s voice all right..” isn’t that a far more effective way of reaching out and engaging others?

    So glad you swung by and dropped your 2 cents! 😉

  10. Autom, I agree about the word professional – in fact, I went back and forth a few times with my thesaurus out trying to find a word with a little more appropriate connotation. Unfortunately, part of the problem is these social and technological trends are so new we don’t quite have words to capture the personal-professional relationship, and how it’s changed in the last two decades.

    In any case, I meant not including issues or topics that I might find personally interesting, but would appear awkwardly out of character for an institution to be associated with; for example, I spend a lot of time digesting and editorializing political news, especially the recently hot topic of gay marriage, but I think it wouldn’t be very professional to tie my personal views of these things into the way the company or (in my case, university) I work for is perceived. Which is not to say that I try to “shed those same idiosyncrasies…” but that sometimes it has to happen. And those internal editing algorithms we rely on naturally are just as important, if not moreso, than in a personal branding account.

    It’s all about knowing who your audience is, and tailoring your messages and curation for that audience – but, damn, it gets much harder when the delineation between personal and professional is so increasingly blurred!

  11. Jared – this is why it’s not a crime to have your own personal Twitter account and yet be able to tweet for an another organization who does not necessarily advocate what’s reflected on your tweets. Clearly, you would not freely tweet the histrionics and misadventures of Sarah Palin on the university’s Twitter account (it would be hilarious of course but thoroughly inappropriate)…but to your point, i think we have traditionally and for a quite some time now, all been so hung up about delineating between our personal and professional roles and ensuring that these roles remain separate—which is fine and in some cases absolutely necessary..but it does make for an awfully de-constructed profile, a one-dimensional (boring) representation of who we are and not a fair holistic sum of our talents and capabilities

    The way we are passionate about certain personal interests should serve to inspire how we engage with others. But we are not (and should not have to feel) obliged to share what we are passionate about. It would be a mistake to assume everyone will want to know our various political, sexual or religious preferences just so they can appreciate the way we draw their interest. So, yes, certain personal perspectives should and must be held back for private consumption. But i think what you seem to be grappling with has more to do with the notion of transparency versus the “personal and professional voices” that are blurring. And you already know what i think about transparency 😉

  12. In the spirit of transparency, I have two Twitter handles…one personal, one professional. Not for the sake of distinctly separating the two, but more to Jared’s comment about “knowing who your audience is”. Most of my personal network doesn’t care about social media marketing, org design for social media at large orgs, and most of the other content I tweet about as it relates to my job. They want pics & vids of my kids, results of my beer-league hockey games, where I’m eating, and what bands I listen to. Sure I sprinkle some of that into my professional account too but if my professional network cares, I ask them to follow my personal account. As a brand marketer, I’ve always been a strong believer in being audience-centric and providing value accordingly. If we’re talking about building personal brands, the same rules apply imho.

  13. Bill – thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. you mentioned in your tweet that you were relieved i noted the need for a bit of snark and sarcasm. it’s curious to me why a healthy dose of this type of humour—while most of us enjoy and often appreciate—is almost immediately perceived as taboo. i think the ability to impart a sense of humour offers a personal touch that makes your own person more tangible, more real

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  15. Great work Autom! Once again you’ve managed to clarify a foggy situation. I think you are spot on with your dissection of personal branding. But the very idea of personal brands has never sat well with me. Your post got me thinking about it, hence my delay in posting here. At a base level I think we are all talking about character, personality and behavior — the core elements that define us as humans. It scares me to think that we may be diminishing something so important by labeling it with a marketing term. I just finished a more detailed discussion of my thoughts on http://SPURspectives.com with this post: http://spurspectives.com/the-danger-of-personal-branding/

    Please don’t see this as a personal attack. I agree with everything you’ve said. My fear is about the bigger issue of labeling. I’m very curious what everyone else thinks.

  16. Dave – at all! You raise a valid concern with a potential tendency to label and in effect ‘commoditize’ a social media trend, which in my view is more an evolving state or process than say a quantifiable product or service offering. I have long avoided blogging on this topic since in my mind the phenomenon seems self-evident and self-explanatory on many levels. However, in articulating my own observations, the aim is to share my interpretations and obtain feedback and reaction like yours!..will check out your post shortly Thanks for swinging by and sharing your thoughts on this..and yes, it would be curious to see what others think about the potential ‘labeling’ tendency

  17. Great stuff, Autom! Disappointed I missed this post before my presentation today. Some nice points I would have included. But, I will include your ideas in my posts with the slides over the next few days!

    Also, my formula is twitter + blog + bit.ly. Utilizing the 90-9-1 principle, it is important to remember not everyone will engage all the time, but that doesn’t mean they are not reading or not finding what you are sharing useful. Adding a URL shortener that gives you some analytics, allows you to see if your community is opening your links. This is useful in assessing if you are keeping the conversation relevant to the your community for each of your topic spheres. Look forward to continuing the conversation when I post my slides from my presentation. 🙂

  18. Autom, not much to add here. I think you’ve covered the crux of it. For a length of time it takes an individual to establish their brand through twitter and blogs, building voice is probably the biggest hurdle. Determining the “point” at which your voice is heard, acknowledged and people say, “hey this guy/gal has some pretty good insight” — takes time. The frequency of posts just to show your personal brand is visibility is a constant “hear me please” plea to the twitterverse. But when you do reach that point when those posts turn into conversations and a true value exchange ….. it’s pure bliss:)

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