One of the main themes of fdom is the concept of the Internet creating a personal branding effect. By using social media, one is posting clips of their core ideologies online and any like-minded business representative could potentially run across the public site and proceed to offer the site administrator a job, freelance work, etc.
This concept is extremely irksome to me for many reasons, [see chapter 1] one being that this type of thinking automatically throws everyone into the marketing field and rules out the possibility of public space being used for pure information/entertainment purposes. Opposers would argue that as long as others see one’s site, they are going to make judgements and inevitably build a brand around whatever information they have gathered. I see two solutions that poke holes in this logic: the first is the thousands of troll accounts that exist for the sole purpose of stirring up controversy among those who are (lets face it) either Internet illiterate or far too invested in comment box theories. These accounts contain no “real names” or motive (outside of chaos) and therefore have no marketability outside of the almost solely negative reputation they receive (or are they just going for that Bill Hicks non-marketing dollar?).
To paint the other scenario, I picture a homeless man surfing from a public library computer. Today is his lucky day, an HR exec from XYZ Media was recently told at a party about this man’s social media content that contained so much insight into the human condition that one simply couldn’t look away. Naturally, Monday rolled around and the exec messaged the homeless man’s page offering him a job writing a weekly article; complete with full benefits, a steady paycheck, and an enhanced reputation that would get the man off the streets and into proper society. The homeless man, stunned, promptly replied, “Fuck off stalker.” and then left to take a nap under a bridge somewhere. The point of this (unlikely?) story is that a brand is only a brand if one is using it for business purposes. Content is only as significant as one’s perspective allows. Media types saying otherwise do so to convince others to buy into the idea of “personal branding,” and ultimately expand their own entrepreneurship by fragmenting their ideas into different revenue streams. “Do you want to be richer/have more friends? Find me on social media for tips! Follow my blog advice! Read my oh-so original ebook explaining the magic of it all!” Content stacked on content stacked on content- we might as well call social media marketing the pyramid scheme of the 2010’s.
Conversely, everyone (not homeless) needs to pay the bills and one could do worse than to become recognized as an industry expert. And when one stops and thinks about it, isn’t branding really just about recognition? Wino Gary Vaynerchuk says in his blog (and outlines in his book) that legacy is more important than currency. His point is that he is willing to lose on the bottom dollar by being a loyal servant to his customers (sometimes giving away wine cases for free) and sacrificing company opportunity cost to continue his social media avenues. This customer intimate model is a proven business strategy and has been around long before the internet. It is why Nordstrom will accept any return without a receipt, why Fossil replaces all watches defected from wear and tear, and even how Apple shaped such a loyal following in the wake of launching colored PC’s. Vaynerchuk calls his marketing strategy “legacy” but what he means is prepping the foundation for added revenue (speaking events/book sales/etc). Some significant thoughts he emphasizes are the importance of designating a niche and his superior knowledge of the wine industry itself.
Innovation thrives through originality; without one’s own vision, one is just promoting the back cover of someone else’s book.
3 Things I Can Do To Improve My Own Brand
- Carve a niche- niche’s are like goals; without a clear direction of where expertise lies, the message is too broad and often scattered aimlessly through the net-space.
- Harp originality- one original idea can cut through noise more effective than any other technique media could ever offer. Also, a verifiable uniqueness creates an unbreakable copyright infringement when others try to talk/act like your personal character.
- Design a process- it is one thing to have ideas, it is a far greater thing to physically recreate them. This is by far the most important step to gaining any recognition either from customers or peers.
“If you ever have the good fortune to create a great advertising campaign, you will soon see another agency steal it. This is irritating, but don’t let it worry you; nobody has ever built a brand by imitating somebody else’s advertising.”