New Fodder for the Personal Branding Debate

Cattle BrandAccording to Wikipedia, the term “personal branding” has been around since 1980, but it seems to have really taken off in recent years as social media has seeped into our everyday lives and made it that much easier.

Dan Schawbel rode the wave with the launch of his Personal Branding Blog and Personal Branding Magazine, and has leveraged it all to write a book and become a Businessweek columnist – just four years after graduating from college!

But, Geoff Livingston has long argued against personal brands  and was recently again blogging about it referring to it as a “pop ethos” that organizations need to be wary of “harpooning their social media efforts.”

Two recent high-profile career changes make for good real-life examples of what happens when someone with a personal brand leaves an organization. One I’ve had the privilege to meet in person, the other I only know by his online reputation.

Shiv Shingh, author of “Social Media Marketing For Dummies,” left digital agency Razorfish to join PepsiCo Inc. (Say “hi” to Lynn Tyson for me Shiv!) As someone who used to work for a division of that company (while hiding my lifelong Coca-Cola addiction) I know he’s now part of another excellent organization. Both will benefit from this new venture.

Frank Eliason is best known as the voice of Comcast on Twitter. While his work in customer service for the company was primarly conducted under the @ComcastCares name, it  has brought him much personal attention in print and online media circles. Frank recently announced that he is leaving the company for a position he has only described as in the financial services industry (sounds on Twitter like he’s still transitioning away from the old job and to the new).

Both Razorfish and Comcast existed before Shiv and Frank came to them, and both will continue without them. Whether their departures hurt either organization remains to be seen at this point, but I suspect new stars will rise to continue their work and possibly take it to new levels.

That’s not meant as a disrepect to either of them, just as an observation that new people bring new enthusiasum to the roles – just in the same way Shiv and Frank take new enthusiasum into their new roles.

I love the way Shiv’s old boss David Deal positioned it on his blog:

“Employees are not indentured servants. The days when employees sustained lifetime employment at one company ended a long time ago. Rather than fear the inevitability of losing talent at some point, employers should embrace the reality of the employee as free agent. Employers should maximize the  value of an employee’s brand while the opportunity exists. With an active social voice, a strong thought leaders can generate business leads and goodwill for your company brand. If you fail to empower a thought leader, you’re just going to leave brand-building opportunities on the table.”

In that respect, I’d say that the two camps for and against personal branding are not that far apart. Geoff’s latest post encourages organizations to build teams of voices, and David’s post says rather than fret over the loss of superstars, employers should build a network of them.

All of this is from the point of view of a large organization, though. Personal branding at small businesses where you don’t have a team of voices presents a different set of challenges. For a good thought starter on that, check out Copyblogger’s “Are You in Personal Branding Prison?

Image Credit: glimpsekeeper/Grant Lau via Creative Commons

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Is LinkedIn Chasing Facebook or Innovating Group Conversations?

In my recent post about why businesses should consider Facebook for B2B marketing, I alluded to some new things coming in LinkedIn. Yesterday, we announced them on the Direct2Dell blog. And while I don’t often cross-post from there to here, it seems the thing to do this time.

New Group Look from LinkedIn, New LinkedIn Group from Dell

Wed, Jul 14 2010 4:13 PM

Recently, LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network with over 70 million members, announced the roll out of a new look for its Groups feature. eWEEK Europe described it as a “Facebook makeover.” But, Mashable noted that with the new design “strong emphasis has been placed on starting conversations.”

It’s the same emphasis we are placing on the launch of our first LinkedIn custom group, providing business owners with a platform to network, discuss IT issues and better understand how technology can help their businesses grow and thrive.  We want to help connect business professionals with trusted Dell contacts, while providing a forum for the exchange of knowledge, ideas and opportunities.

Dell is one of five companies to launch a custom LinkedIn group, but we’re the first to offer video content.   In addition to video, the new group offers discussion threads, white papers and articles related to technologies such as data storage, virtualization, systems management, mobility, security and cloud computing. 

The group supports our global Take Your Own Path campaign, which celebrates the Dell customer as a hero and features entrepreneurial personalities such as Reid Hoffman, co-founder and executive chairman of LinkedIn and Warren Brown, attorney-turned-celebrity-baker and owner of CakeLove.  Each month, the LinkedIn group will showcase inspiring video testimonial from Dell heroes regarding how technology has helped them achieve success in business. 

Additional enhancements we’re already working on include the launch of related subgroups focused on issues specific to audiences such as “women in business,” C-level executives and industry verticals. 

Dell’s vision is to eventually have thousands of members worldwide engaging in technology-oriented conversations with each other. 

Come join the group and join in the technology discussions!

What I Learned from my Tech Fast

Eight days off the Internet wasn’t as hard as I’d thought it would be. No shakes or cold sweats. No panic attacks over disconnection. No hallucinations. (At least I think everyone else saw the rat wearing a chef’s hat in the French restaurant.)

But, I do think I cheated a little bit.

Not because I used my Hazel Mail app to send Mom a postcard, but rather because of the fact that I did this fast while at Disney World where I was too busy having “a magical day” to miss being online. 
That’s not to say I didn’t have the occasional urge to share a photo on Facebook, or tweet something funny I saw or overheard. But, when you’re sitting on your hotel balcony with your kid watching giraffes have their afternoon bamboo snack, it’s not so hard to let it pass.
Watching giraffe

So what did my tech fast accomplish?

I must admit I didn’t experience a great spiritual awakening. But one of the functions of fasting has traditionally been a show of devotion, and I do believe my family felt it meant a devotion to them.

I asked them about it on the next-to-the-last day while we were relaxing around the pool, half expecting them to say it was no big deal, since it hadn’t seemed like one to me. But their answers showed that it did have an impact.  My daughter said she liked that I “stopped working and [she] could spend more time with [me].” My husband said it made me more “present” and “in the moment” than I am when I’m sending updates to my social networks.

And what did I learn?

I learned a deeper respect for my family. I learned that I can step away from the Internet, and that the time I spend on it is a choice I make. I also learned that Internet-enabled technology is here to stay as an integrated part of our lives – and it’s mobile.

It was evident in the electronic glow on faces staring down at their smartphones while riding a dark bus back to their hotel after a day at the park. You could see it when people in Tomorrowland were checking their phones for wait times at Splash Mountain over in Frontierland – just like Internet celeb Robert Scoble who tweeted about his Disney app usage.

You heard it when the cast members leading a kid’s pirate cruise told them to smile for the pictures their parents were taking “because you know they’re gonna end up on Facebook!” And they did – but not until vacation was over for us.

Was it worth it?

Definitely. I had hoped this fast would leave me recharged and it did. The common refrain after a Disney vacation is that you need another vacation to recover, but I’ve not been feeling it. After three days back at the office, I was still de-stressed (which is a new record for me).

However, it didn’t take me long to slip back into old habits. The first night back I was online uploading the photos, which is not so bad. But, the second night back brought a familiar scenario – me on the couch in front of the TV with my laptop, not really watching TV, not really working online, not totally “present” with my family.

Philosopher William James said “my experience is what I agree to attend to” and I want to attend to what is going to have the longest term return. That means I’m going to have to get more disciplined about how I spend my time – something that can’t be fixed with just one week of fasting.