In his book Tweet Naked, online marketing expert Scott Levy provides the critical information entrepreneurs need to craft a social media strategy that will boost their brand and their business. In this edited excerpt, the author discusses how to choose which is best for you, a personal or a business brand.
Before you can launch your brand, or take your current brand onto social media, you need to determine which direction you want to take; a personal brand or a corporate image. In some cases, you'll have both. If you have the opportunity to build a personal brand, you should do it. A lot of businesses fail for reasons beyond their control; people sell or move on to new projects or companies. If you have a personal brand, your followers will be with you, eager to see what you do next. Your personal brand follows you to your next endeavor.
That's not to say a personal brand is for everyone. Many large, established companies do very well without their founder having a strong personal brand. Selling products to a mass market doesn't require it. You buy many products simply because you like them and what the company is all about without knowing anything about the face behind the business. However, like Ray Kroc of McDonald's fame, or Lee Iacocca, who launched the Ford Mustang before becoming well-known for turning General Motors around, major corporate leaders often have their own personal brand.
For authors, speakers, celebrities and service professionals who run their own practices, a personal brand is essential. You're the brand, and people want to engage with you. Those people who own several businesses also benefit from having a personal brand. Jay-Z is an example of someone who owns a number of businesses but is better known and has a larger following than the individual businesses he owns. Martha Stewart is the perfect example of another personal brand that outshines her business enterprises. And while the Dallas Mavericks of the NBA have a strong fan base, more people know team owner Mark Cuban than are fans of the ball club.
Among the benefits of having a personal brand is that you can more easily connect with people who'll relate to you as an individual. They can empathize with you, agree with you and gain insight into what makes you tick. People root for individuals they like and admire. As a result, you can gain fans more easily as an individual simply by being transparent and putting yourself out there. You can then use your fan base to support all of your endeavors, which may mean your next book, a new clothing line or any other enterprise you may start up.
On the other side of the coin, you also fall under a lot of scrutiny when you have a personal brand. People watch your every move very closely, which means your privacy may take a hit. In addition, if you screw up, you're on your own, naked before your fans, having to answer tough questions and bail yourself out. Tiger Woods had no one to help him when his personal brand took a huge hit after his extramarital affairs began to surface. It's easier to screw up a personal brand than a corporate one--and harder to make amends.
Corporate brands have an identity as a company, which usually takes some of the pressure and responsibility off of any one individual. One goal is obviously to build brand awareness of products and/or services. The other objective, which is so important in social media, is that the corporate brand must make a commitment to stand for something. In this regard, corporate brands may have greater resources to make good on such promises. They can sponsor events and activities with a large employee base more easily than personal brands (unless the latter are celebrities).
Corporate brands also are less likely to fall under the microscope and can rebound more easily from negative publicity because the relationship with their followers is less personal. While this may not be the case after a major oil spill, companies are more easily forgiven after they make blunders. While someone may no longer be a fan of Tiger Woods, they're still likely to buy a product that he formerly endorsed because they still support the product maker's corporate brand, the products it makes and what the company and its brand stand for.
Having both a personal and corporate brand can be the best of both worlds. This allows you to let people know who's behind the company while also building product awareness. But be careful not to dilute your message, visibility and brand-building efforts. You can certainly mention cool new products or services, changes you've made in the company, new investments or projects, etc. when communicating as part of your personal brand. But it's a balancing act. You can play the brands off each other once in a blue moon for sure, but don't overdo it. You are you, and your persona and personal brand are just that: yours. Your company has its own branding, persona and methods.
Here are a few tips and rules for having a personal and a business brand:
- Be sure you have a reason for and strategy behind using both.
- Be sure to have unique content and thoughts to share on each.
- If one brand is already established--either your personal or corporate brand--don't try to establish the other at the exact same time.
- Let the business be business and your personal brand be personal.
- Never post personal brand content on the business brand.