A few months ago, I was asked something to the effect of “Doesn’t having a personal brand limit you?”, to which, my reply at the time was basically that your personal brand is as limiting as your personal abilities. In other words, if you can’t do very much, your personal brand isn’t going to be very valuable. Your name won’t ring any bells. People won’t associate ANYTHING with your “brand”.
For instance, there is no such thing as a “Frisbee”. Frisbee is a BRAND NAME that was made up and applied to the actual item, which is a Flying Disc. There are lots of companies that make flying discs, but we call every single flying disc in existence a Frisbee. THAT’S “Your name ringing bells”.
Same thing for “Band Aid”… No such thing. It’s an Adhesive Bandage. However, we call every single adhesive bandage in existence a Band Aid. I’ve never asked ANYONE for an adhesive bandage in my entire life.
So, think about what people associate with YOUR name… YOUR “personal brand”. Even if you haven’t tried to cultivate one, you have one. It’s merely a question of how weak or strong it is. Interestingly enough, you don’t even necessarily KNOW what your own personal brand actually is, because you might attempt to cultivate one thing, but what people take away from your internet presence is something entirely different.
At this point, I think the strongest aspect of my personal brand is “Knows a lot of chicks”.
This is kind of funny, because I didn’t set out to brand that. It just so happens that I DO know literally hundreds of women and I also happen to take a lot of pictures of myself with them (the ladies I’m still local to / in contact with).
To a lesser degree, I’m known for my dating blog. This was more calculated than the picture-thing, because I write my blog so other people can read it… and then laugh, or cry, or get upset at somebody, or learn something…
To a STILL lesser degree, I’m known a connector. I utilize my 406 Linkedin connections to introduce people to others so they can make business deals. Also, there’s no telling how many people I’ve introduced to other people IRL, because I typically go to parties where I know ~70 people on the Facebook “definite” list.
For all of these reasons and more, I’m still a top-10 Google search result for the word “Bill” (or ‘bill’), and have been for more than a year now.
The reason I bring all this stuff up isn’t because I’m personally impressed with any of it. Actually, I’m completely BORED with it and I’m looking for a new challenge. The point is that through my daily utilization of Social Media, I’ve crafted several options for ways that people can perceive me. Some of those were on purpose, and some of them (interestingly enough, my STRONGEST brands) were completely by accident, being that I didn’t attempt to make myself known for these things, but it’s what people latched onto, discuss amongst each other and recognize me for the most.
This is what got me thinking about what people are doing (or not doing) with their own personal brands. When I meet people and they mostly say “I recognize you from all your pictures!” as opposed to “I’ve seen your video editing work… Excellent!”, something’s jacked up about my personal brand, right?… Or is it?
When someone that knows me for my dating blog finds out from someone that walks up to us at a party that I’m an accomplished video editor and they’re completely shocked to learn this after hanging out with me for months on the circuit, that’s poor “personal branding”, isn’t it? 🙂
I think it all depends on “who you are” vs “what you do”.
Interestingly enough, my personal brand is perfectly accurate for the person that I am. It’s not good for the work that I do, but was that ever my real goal? Was my goal to present myself as a video editor?
It was, when I first started billcammack.com, because all I needed for my website to do was hold my demo reel and resume for me so I didn’t have to bring actual tapes with me to meet new clients.
I get my work through word of mouth, so when people contacted me, I could just point them to my site and if they liked what they saw, they could hire me.
That’s all well and good, except if I had branded myself (intentionally or otherwise) as a video editor, that’s how people would approach me, which would be excellent for business, and horrible for socializing. The reason I say my personal brand is perfect for me is that I would much rather hang out with chicks and drink beer than edit your video for you. I would much rather blog about dating than Social Media. It turns out that my internet presence is actually a function of the things I enjoy doing.. which makes perfect sense. The more I enjoy things, the more often I do them and the more likely they are to show up in my media, whether that’s on my own site, Facebook, Twitter, wherever.
Once I figured out that I liked and was/am extremely comfortable with my own personal brand, I started thinking about other people’s brands. Specifically, I started thinking about people who trade in their PERSONAL brands to be a shill for a company.. even if it’s their own company:
Shill (intransitive verb)
- to act as a shill
- to act as a spokesperson or promoter [the eminent Shakespearean producerâ€¦is now shilling for a brokerage house â€” Andy Rooney]
It’s extremely easy to spot someone shilling. They’re normally telling you something you never asked them about, and it’s always about the same company or topic.
Basically, their goal is to leverage your association with them in order to draw your attention, and hopefully clicks, and hopefully sales, to a company’s products or services. In the short term, this is good for their pockets. Long-term, they become “that guy” or “that gal”. You know… The guy that every time you see him, he’s going to try to sell you something. That gal that everything she says or does is a commercial. It’ll be interesting to see down the line how that works out for people who do this.
What happens when the company you’re currently shilling for goes under or lays you off? Who are you now? What do you have to say for yourself now? Who wants to hear what you have to say now?
What happens when the focus of attention goes somewhere else, like how it used to be on forums and newsgroups, but now it’s on Twitter and Facebook. When you sign up for that new app/site, who’s going to “friend you” so that you can try to sell them stuff on this new site? Who’s going to avoid you because you have NOTHING to contribute to their lives other than posts with ulterior motives and affiliate links?
What happens when you meet people IRL and they see you as the spokesperson for some company, as opposed to an unique individual with something interesting to say?
What happens when you consecutively shill for sites that consecutively FAIL because you have no talent whatsoever, yet people keep hiring you because you SHILL, SO, MUCH, that you have large numbers of people that follow you wherever you go and never tell you that your media SUCKS and that you need to stick to audio or text-blogging?
In the long run, what’s it worth to shill away your personal brand? I guess it depends on what you were going to do with it otherwise. What would your brand be if it you weren’t Twittering about your business all day, every day? How would people perceive you? How would your IRL interactions be different?
Some people avoid this by intelligently having several accounts. Have one for your dot-com and have one for your personal use. This way, when you stop selling widgets and start selling water coolers, you don’t lose your entire readership, because they were only interested in your for your widget-based posts.
IRL Shilling is just as bad for your image, if not worse. If every time someone runs into you they have to hear “Vote for my X” or “Can you get me some business in Y” or “Have you been to Z.com to see the latest [item you never asked them about]”, those people are going to start avoiding you… IRL, *AND* online.
In these times, when people are getting laid off left and right, Social Capital is becoming increasingly important, as well as critical for viability & longevity. If you get fired from your widget-sales job, you want the people you’ve been in contact with to rally beside you to help you find gainful employment.
If people see you merely as an agent of the company, that’s not going to happen. If your only-good-for-widget-sales lifestream becomes a please-find-me-a-job stream, people are going to tune out, because nobody cares about you.
Nobody cares about you because you didn’t care about yourself while you were shilling away your Social Capital. Think about it.