Chickens and eggs of personal branding

9 Jun

Carrie name necklace as seen on Sex and the CityThe other day, while at the Association for Accounting Marketing (AAM) conference, I met a communications/ social media marketing consultant who was wearing a Carrie necklace. (Don’t know what I’m talking about? You obviously don’t watch Sex and the City.) Instead of the necklace having her name, it had her Twitter account name, @ sign and all. Normally, you see people bringing their physical self to their online identity. She’s bringing her online identity to her physical self. (Offline social media marketing, who knew!) Some people may think it’s a bit over the top – I think it’s brilliant example of personal branding.  (As she’s a communications and social media marketing consultant, proving that she’s got a successful social media presence/online identity and an active Twitter account are important to her personal brand.)

Sara Jessica Parker as Carrie on Sex and the City wearing the Carrie necklace.  An exmaple of personal branding.But, aside from the brilliance of the necklace, I noticed that many of the other people at the conference, especially those that work in social media marketing, are clearly working on personal branding and developing their online identity. Business cards direct people to visit them on social media platforms and have more to say about thier online identity than their jobs — they have Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn contact information and blog addresses. Meeting these young social media marketers in person, they ask you to connect with them online and invite you to learn, not about them, but about their social media presence.  It seems like they may have forgotten that personal branding is just that — personal branding.

For a lot of young social media strategists, it seems that social media isn’t a means to an end (such as personal branding ), but is an end in itself. Sure we use social media tools for our businesses as a way of generating new clients, but we also do it for ourselves in our personal branding efforts to promote ourselves as thought leaders and social media strategists (and to up our Google rankings, of course). We’re promoting our ability to promote – it’s all a bit meta. (But I guess sometimes I blog about my ability to blog and I am working on developing my personal brand in the world of social media marketing, so who am I to talk?)

Speaking with some people this week, I’ve felt a bit like I was speaking with representatives of their social media presences rather than to the people themselves. I know that’s confusing, but it’s like the person is a manifestation of their personal brand/online identity rather than that identity being a manifestation of the person. (Instead of being “Hi, I’m Maggie and I blog at MaggieCakes”, it’s “Hi, I’m the social media strategist for the blog MaggieCakes, by the way my name is Maggie.”) Part of it is maybe an (lack of) ego issue. It’s a lot easier to say “my brand/social media presence is cutting edge, smart, and valuable” than to say “I am cutting edge, smart, and valuable”. But when you and your brand/social media presence are one in the same, those statements mean the same thing.

I want to be me, not the social media strategist of Maggie’s blog and social media presence. When I meet you, I want to meet you, not you blog or Twitter account’s social media strategist. Oh, you are a social media strategist? That’s great. I’m working on becoming one, too and I’d love to talk to you about your blog and the social media strategy that you’re using. I want to hear about your Twitter account and how you’re getting followers and how you’ve optimized your LinkIn profile. (Really, you can’t find an audience more interested in your social media strategy than I am. I’ll even take your card and follow up by connecting with you on LinkedIn.) But I want to talk you about all that. I don’t want to talk to your brand.

Questions of the day: Do you have a personal brand and social media strategy? Do you work to make the brand fit your writing, speech, physical presence, etc? Or, do you make to fit your writing, speech, and physical presence fit the brand and social media presence?

MaggieCakes is a blog about culture, social media, and what’s new on the Internet culture. Every day (okay, I try for every day) I comb blogs and news outlets for the news about Internet culture and social media to bring them to you (with my commentary, of course) here on MaggieCakes. MaggieCakes is hosted by WordPress and often draws upon Slate, Jezebel, The Hair Pin, and SocialTimes for links and inspiration. My post Social Media and the Art of Storytelling was featured on Freshly Pressed, bringing a whole new readership to my blog. Find anything interesting in the worlds of culture or social media that you’d like to see a post on? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail at

3 Responses to “Chickens and eggs of personal branding”

  1. Brian Swanson June 13, 2011 at 9:22 pm #

    The good news is I did not have this experience. Remember there is a difference between someone who wants to personally brand and someone who is just there to be there.

    • Maggie June 14, 2011 at 8:20 pm #

      You’re probably right. But, I’m working on this personal branding thing. So, what do you think? Should I get a MaggieCakes necklace?

  2. sally July 21, 2011 at 2:59 am #

    A nice necklace.I think the necklace is too expensive, we should have memorable necklace.

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