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Brand Building: Personal, Business, or Both?

“Branding.”

Between my personal and business Twitter accounts, I follow thousands of people on that platform.

If I take a quick snapshot of my own stream, I can see that I mostly follow people who tweet using their personal handles.

When I take look closer at their profiles, many include information about their employment. Some of them even tweet on behalf of their companies through their own personal accounts.

For the most part, people proudly proclaim to be associated with “@ABCCompany,” but nearly always include the caveat: “Opinions are my own.” The mixed messages may seem confusing to some people, and make you wonder whether they are focused on brand building for themselves or for their organizations. From my own personal experience, I sincerely think most of these folks set out with good intentions and seek to build good reputations for both brands – their company’s and their own.

Businesses of all sizes are becoming more aware of how important their brand building activities are in helping them create their online reputations. Savvy brands understand the risks involved with being so ubiquitous online. For example, they now have more opportunities to “fail” in front of a worldwide audience.

In this day and age, one mishap on social media can easily destroy a company’s reputation within minutes – or even seconds. For reasons such as this, the executives at the top levels of their organizations must use caution when deciding: (1) what they post online and (2) who posts for them online.

More and more businesses are moving away from prohibiting their employees to participate in social media in the workplace. It turns out there are actually many benefits for companies and their employees when they are allowed to grow their personal brands while still working for their companies. The key is ensuring that personal and company brand building activities align and complement one another.

Some thoughts to consider about aligning personal and company brand building online:

1. Successful brand building as a business can include employees who are active on social media

As I mentioned above, some larger brands have already embraced the concept of growing their business’ reputation and presence by allowing all their employees to become more active on social media.

The premise behind this decision comes from the fact that its those employees in “the trenches,” so to speak, are the ones who understand their company’s culture the best. They gain credibility with their own and their company’s followers as they become involved in both their personal brand building. As a result, they are also helping to grow their company’s reputation and online presence.

2. Employees with great online reputations can help generate leads and help boost their company’s growth with demand generation

A recent article on About.com infers that employees who focus on personal brand building attract new followers and generate leads in the following ways:

You are able to

  • “Establish yourself as an expert in your chosen field.”

  • “Build a solid reputation within your industry.”

  • “Increase your notoriety and improve your perceived value in the marketplace.”

Very fortunate are those businesses whose employees also act as brand ambassadors for them by representing and/or marketing their companies in positive ways. As these employees become more active and popular on social media, they may help spread the message about their company even farther than the company could ever do by itself.

3. But of course, there’s the downside to personal brand building

I’m not talking about the social media “fails” or “trash talking” in this case. I refer to instances when a company’s employees or customer representatives have done such amazingly stellar jobs in online brand building for their employers. The problem? These people can sometimes run into issues because they have personally become the brand.

This challenge becomes an even larger issue when employees choose to make a career change, or they decide to leave the company for a new endeavor. He or she has probably spent a lot of time involved in the brand building for their company. Through the process though, their personal brand has become rather integrated with that of the company’s. As the employee who has chosen to move on, you can easily transfer the company’s online brand “ownership” to another employee. This person will then become responsible for building and maintaining the presence you started.

In regards to your own personal brand building after separating from a company, a good solution might be to simply start over again. In fact, it is often easier the second (or third, etc) time around since people already know you and your reputation.

So, are you responsible for all or at least part of your company’s brand building efforts? How are you approaching it? Please feel free to leave comments below or tweet me at @jennghanford anytime.

Jennifer G. Hanford is the owner and managing director of j+ Media Solutions, which offers social and content services to small B2B companies.

Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG / FreeDigitalPhotos.net