Jul 29, 2010

Brand You is about Content and Community - Thoughts on Personal Branding and Social Media

Today I had a conversation with a journalist who's doing a story on how people can get career success by building their personal brand. I have earlier blogged on personal branding here and here

I believe that the essence of building your personal brand (whether internally in an organization or externally) is Content and Community.

  1. Content - refers to the expertise you build - it is the sum of your intellectual and emotional quotient. It is not just what you know - but also how you do. To build a really distinct personal brand - answer this question "What do I want to be known for" In most cases you will find the answer in a T-shaped expertise - a broad expertise of an area - and a deep expertise of one specific niche. In your organization - are you the "go-to guy" for any aspect? If you are not - then build a niche that's purely your own. Remember deep expertise requires deliberate practice. There's no shortcut to it.
  2. Community - refers to the relationship capital you build with people who know and trust your Content expertise. In an organization these would be seniors, supervisors, CXOs across functions. They will know and trust you if you demonstrate (a.) Visibility - being seen at group events, volunteering for cross functional projects, taking on "above and beyond" challenges that others are not - and (b.) Credibility - showcased in you keeping your commitments and delivering above and beyond. Remember, visibility or popularity alone will not be enough to develop your personal brand. Also, be sure that your community comprises of a diverse group of people (best explained in this article)
When you have a community and have built a trustworthy relationship with them - you will give insights that will feed your Content bucket - and the secret is to continually keep growing both of them - as and when your career evolves (an make no mistake - it will evolve) you will be poised to grab opportunities before others.

So what does this have to do with Social Media?

When you want to build your brand externally - social media is the tool you use to showcase your content and build your community. As Michael Brenner posts:

I am an advocate for social media marketing and personal branding which I believe can help to benefit both your company and your career. And so I am often asked why I tweet, why I blog and why I participate in both online and offline social communities and events.

Despite the huge press coverage around social media, I am still surprised at how many marketers and other market-facing professionals resist the call to participate in social media and to be brand ambassadors. To me, social media is all about personal branding. Grow your personal brand, with respect and proper attribution to your company as an ambassador, and the company benefits through the greater exposure of a positive voice out to the market it serves.

As a marketer, I feel compelled to participate as an individual voice in my company ecosystem. Companies are a collection of individuals with all the diversity that is inherent in its employees. A company brand is directly impacted by the voice of its employees, along with customers, partners and the larger community and ecosystem in which it participates. I actively and passionately participate in social media conversations with authenticity and I do it because I want to. But I also believe success in building my personal brand is direct evidence of my abilities to execute an overall marketing strategy for the company – in essence to build the company brand.