Facts first! The following data points collected from leading global providers of information and insights deftly reveal the efficacy of personal branding in today’s world -
- 77% of buyers are more likely to buy from a company whose CEO uses social media (Source: MSL Group)
- 92% of employees’ Twitter followers are new to the brand (Source: Cisco)
- Only 33% of buyers trust the brand whilst 90% of customers trust product or service recommendations from people they know (Source: Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey)
- Brand messages reached 561% further when shared by employees vs the same messages shared via official brand social channels (Source: MSL Group)
- Brand messages are re-shared 24x more frequently when distributed by employees vs brand (Source: MSL Group)
Expressing the self, a euphemism for personal branding, is an age old practise. Earlier it was mastered by men to attract women; today both do it with flair for career success and social causes including dating, making friends or just for self-expression.
Promotion of any kind needs the mettle and mojo to stand apart – here comes the role of branding. While USP or unique selling proposition is a prerequisite for promoting products, individuals must sport a UPV or unique promise of value to create immediate and inimitable brand recognition or personal branding.
However, unbridled zest for attention can damage one’s brand, especially in today’s multi-channel digital reality which makes it easy to spread canards. One wrong move can potentially damage user reputation and networking platforms like Twitter and Facebook only accelerate the process. Many also find personal branding exercises tedious or consider it aggressive and exaggerating. Applying marketing strategies to individuals are also seen as loss of individuality, as the methods are often believed to be deceptive and garish.
Availability of data leads to groundless assumptions and judgements
Personal branding involves distinct challenges which primarily spring from complications innate to the digital space. It is now improbable to disengage ourselves from online activities – exercises that leave footprints of our virtual identities and give access to personal data. This availability of data automatically creates a brand identity which, if not steered carefully, gets misdirected or end up as inadequate. Unattended and flawed branding(s) have deeper professional and social ramifications.
Added to this, are the arbitrary comments which can tarnish a personal brand if the user is not watchful. Every time a user is providing personal details on the digital space, assumptions are being made and brand descriptions, often far removed from the user identity, are created.
Moreover, sites today permit profuse plug-ins which in turn prompts users to disclose additional personal details. This excess information can make one vulnerable and dilute the brand identity. Same is true for insufficient information as well; if one fails to make a point, false opinions will involuntarily be formed.
Feedback on the online space also poses unique challenges. While some consider feedback interesting as it adds validation, for many feedback is disconcerting as it prods knee-jerk modifications to evade further hostile opinions. Misdirected branding is also the aftermath of others’ activity on user-account. This includes posts and comments which stand out as incoherent from the brand identity and can have serious consequences if accessed by the wrong groups. A carefully constructed brand image or profile can be potentially ruined by external plug-ins and taking responsibility of others remarks is highly disagreeable.
In another scenario, a picture posted by a friend showing the user getting drunk at a private party can end up being the deciding factor in the latter’s hiring or employment. This is especially true for the millennials setting forth on their professional journeys. Information lifted randomly, misread or misapprehended facilitate judgments that results in inadequate and misplaced online personal branding.
Managing multiple brand identities and audiences
Users often create different identities to separate their personal and professional worlds, more so as employers tend to explore employees' engagements in social media. According to The Recruiter Nation Survey, 2015, by Jobvite, only 4% of recruiters do not use social media in the recruiting process. 4% aren’t sure, but the 92% of recruiters that do use social media. 72% of recruiters say data analytics is somewhat or very important in the hiring process, 19% of recruiters find quality hires via mobile career sites. Personal branding challenge takes a new dimension when an employee’s strong brand leads to conflict of interest between the individual’s and the organisation’s growth.
Users who need to create multiple profiles for professional reasons also must be careful and specific. Being seen as phoney may be an upshot of failed segmentation where diverse brand identities collide and create an ambiguous message. For the same reason it is also critical to have social media profiles across platforms synchronised in their basic content and messages.
However, thanks to the growing demand for legitimacy, users now shy away from creating separate accounts. Upcoming apps that link multiple profiles make it further difficult to separate profiles.
Efforts for isolating brand identities are also proving lesser useful with the latest tech-innovations like Facebook's friend-suggestion feature. By providing suggestions for adding work acquaintances to a non-work profile, it exposes identities which do not gel and are targeted at distinctly different audiences.
Control of content a myth
New age innovations have thrown up distinct challenges for users in monitoring online presence and protecting personal brands. With unlimited access to social networking spaces, complete control of content is now a myth. Personal profiles being exposed to friends and also at times to public in general, data is constantly added, often without the user's open consent.
With online fast becoming the way of life, having a personal online presence and brand is now a compulsion, to remain socially relevant. This is especially true for the introverts who love to stay away from socialising and sharing personal content – online or otherwise.
Once online, all information is extensively accessible while the right to online information still remains confusing. Added to this, are the upcoming norms on posting content – rules that further complicate the users’ roles and responsibilities. This adds to the intricacy of the setting and raise concerns about safety of personal information.
Mention must also be made about the issue of security. While promoting a brand identity as a professional, the need to disclose personal information including address and contact details stands directly in conflict with safeguarding one’s personal safety.
In their zest to engage in personal branding users also get misdirected, resulting in faulty branding which is also unsafe. Here is a simple rule to avoid this -- accounts with exceptional names should be observant as they are easily reachable through a simple SEO search. On the other hand those with familiar names should also monitor their brand as the probability of mistaken identity is high in their cases. Feedback on a mistaken identity may have damaging effect on the branding strategy, career prospects and social image.
Another major challenge is settling on the right kind of information – one that aligns with the branding strategy - before posting it online. There is no denying that professional and personal realities are intricate affairs and expressing complex stuff laconically while preserving the essence is a tricky trade.
Industry experts want personal branding to be unambiguous and reliable - building an atmosphere of genuineness. To achieve this one must avoid details that dilute the brand identity and lead to brand failure. For a personal brand to have recognition it needs to create a distinctive voice, have gripping content and garner a reliable repute.
Personal brand building – an ongoing process
Personal brand building is a continuous process and the exercise should attempt at crafting uniqueness and creating value for the target audience. Blatant self-promotion and multiple social-media profiles are of no value unless the brand image is bona fide across platforms.
Reckoning the significance of personal brands, business organisations now offer strategic advice on building ideal self branding. Unfortunately, these advises are often in conflict with each other and do not demonstrate any set path. In fact, there is no particular way to achieve a flawless personal branding -- what works well for some may not do so for others.
The beauty and essence of a ‘brand’ is its highly nebulous and extremely fluid nature which needs constant attention to grow and thrive.