What Kind of Brand Are You?

Thu, Mar 5, 2009, by Udi Oz


Social media has turned every one of us into a brand. What does it mean and what can we do with it?

A few days ago I was attending one of Jeff Pulver’s Breakfasts. At some point, Jeff stood up and said a few words. He talked about how today in the social media era, each and every one of us is actually a brand. Yes, a brand.

Long gone are the days when the term “brand” was associated only with a company, product or  celebrity. Today, everyone of us can be and actually is a brand. Social media gives the individual the right tools to create and build his or her own identity and message. Facebook, Twitter, FriendFeed, Digg, StumbleUpon, and LinkedIn are just few examples of the many services that enable people to create profiles and connect with each other. And when we use these tools, we can have people following us, tracking what we say, do, love and share.

Why do you need to care about this? Because as you read, all kinds of people are looking for you and trying to get information about you. It can be friends, colleagues, customers, users, the HR manager that is going to interview you tomorrow or a someone who is considering doing business with you. You can easily be found, and the way that you choose to position yourself will determine the impressions that others will get.

Brand Equals Money

Building a strong brand has another aspect that makes it even more interesting: it’s becoming a target for advertisers, thus allowing you to monetize your brand. For example, Michael Phelps became an Olympic champion and as a result many people became his fans. All of a sudden advertisers were chasing after him to advertise their products. Phelps became a lucrative brand – at least until recently. The same thing will happen to those who become an online brand, only building an online brand does not require any superhuman skills, just a good utilization of those online social tools. The choice is in your hands and it is accessible and possible today more than ever. If you’re smart enough to build a strong brand that will reach and influence a lot of people and position you higher in the social graph, sooner or later there will be a monetary value to your brand.

An example of a social network diagram. The node with the highest betweenness centrality is marked in yellow

What Kind of Brand Are You?

Now that we understand that building a strong brand is important and can be very rewarding, what are we going to do with it? How do you build a good brand? Where does one start and what is the right thing to do?

Actually most of us already have a brand. First, your name can most likely be found on Google. Your own search result will probably show the tip of the iceberg that is your brand. Next, you have accounts all over, in social networks like Facebook or MySpace. You may have a twitter account where you can share short messages. You may be blogging and creating content. You comment on other people’s posts. You have a Digg or Reddit account and you rate content that you like. You have a LinkedIn account where you can present your professional self. And these are just few options from the sea of options lying ahead of each individual.

When I say you have accounts, I assume that you have accounts. If you don’t use these social tools you are probably not being part of this game. In addition, if you do have these accounts and you are not active enough, this is also like being out of the game. Back to Pulver’s speech, Jeff asked that all attendees with Facebook accounts raise their hands. Of course, almost everyone raised their hands. He then asked only those who update their status in Facebook more than twice a day to leave their hands up – only a few people still had their hands raised.

The idea is simple: if you are updating your status more than twice a day, people will remember you and notice you. You are being heard much more than someone who does not update. The chances that people will connect with you and follow you are increasing, assuming that you are not spamming of course. After all, updating your Facebook status is a form of communication. When you communicate, it’s more likely that others will feel free to communicate with you. It’s the same as going to a party. Who has a better chance of talking with someone he does not know? The one who just stands there, or the one who is all smiles and dares to throw in a sentence here and there?

Being active is important. You need to operate your social accounts and you need to be smart about it. Every tool has its own unique communication method and you should be familiar with the purpose of each communication tool and how to properly operate it. A few examples of how I use them: My Linkedin profile is my pure professional presence. It is my online resume and I use it when I need to contact someone for business purposes. I use twitter for sending messages, but I keep them relevant to the masses, and I never use it for personal messaging. Twitter is a close cousin of IM and it could be very tempting to chat there. I personally think it is a mistake since it generates a lot of noise and eventually people become very tired of following a noisy person. Facebook is something that has a more personal touch and this is the place that I allow myself to expose more of my personal life.

This is just my interpretation of how to use these tools. This is what works for me in achieving my branding goals. Of course, everyone can see it from other perspectives and use then to achieve different branding goals. The important thing, in my opinion, is that as long you are aware of the consequences of your actions in the social media world, and as long as it takes you to the place you want to be, that’s fine.  I would be happy to hear your different uses of the social media tools in the comments down below.

Who Are You?

How many people are following you? Who are these people? How often do you tweet? What kind of messages are you spreading? Are they ordinary day-to-day updates or are they messages that add value? Same for comments: when you leave a comment, are you just saying if you liked or disliked the post, or are you maybe adding value by mentioning an idea that hasn’t yet been raised? When you post content, what are the topics that you are writing about? Writing on a certain topic will position yourself as an expert in that area. What kind of language are you using? Street language? Academic? Simple? Sophisticated? Where are you getting published? Is it a respectable online property or is a self-made blog where you do your online experiments? And perhaps most important of all, what kind of feelings does your online presence generate inside the people who get exposed to it?

The answers to those questions are the essence of your brand. It tells a lot about who you are, at least online. When someone will be looking for you or accidentally find you, this is the impression that he or she will get. This is what they will know about you. You can decide today how are you going to be branded.

People-oriented advertising is just one step around the corner. Soon advertisers will look for those people who play a major role in this social graph and offer them benefits for marketing their services and products. After all, what is stronger than a recommendation from someone you know and trust? Where will you be when this happens? Will you be ready?

We are living in exciting times where the individual has more power than ever to be seen and be heard. Without even leaving our houses, we have the ability and the right tools to become an online celebrity, an online brand. Use it wisely and this will happen.

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34 Comments For This Post
  1. Louie Jerome Says:

    Makes sense! Too many people try to ‘game’ these social networks to get traffic and fall flat after a short time. Using them fully and working at building a branded network does work for long term traffic to articles, blogs and websites.

  2. Jo Oliver Says:

    I never thought of it like this, but yeah its true. Thank you for an interesting and thought provoking article.

  3. j.ajahbad Says:

    I agree with Louie. I have both a myspace & a facebook and use them equally to “promote” my artwork & my site, though currently down. I’m definetly going to work much harder on soical networking. It’s an obvious must. LOL!BTW thanks 4 writing this article. Sometimes were r too busy with our lives to grasp the obvious!

  4. Angie Says:

    Nice article

  5. revivor Says:

    Thanks for this – the concept is one I had starting churning around in my mind, but this fleshes it out. Any more thoughts when you have time would be welcome – revivor

  6. Manyfacets2 Says:

    Your article is very imbuing; the concept adds
    a new dimension to our on-line habits.

  7. Stacey T Pollock Says:

    Wow very interesting concept!

  8. nutuba Says:

    Nicely written — insightful and thought-provoking. Besides being a useful medium for carrying the brand, the internet forces an accountability on the brand bearer.

  9. Iphie Peters Says:

    This is a real eyeopener. Just what I needed to hear. This is a superb article. A must read for any contemproary person.

  10. Leanna C. Rose Says:

    Tell me what kind of brand am I.

  11. Kathryn Newman Says:

    I’m excited to find. I have invited you as a friend. Your articles are very informative. Thank You. KN

  12. skylite Says:

    Informative and well written !

  13. NathanHardman Says:

    Very True! I agree with you whole heartedly. These are exciting time that we live in and the means that companies are going to look to will be those who are familiar to the social network.

  14. sonamine Says:

    How would a brand start to analyze the social network of fans or followers on their FB or twitter pages?


  15. alvinbsamuel Says:

    Hi Udi Oz, I’m alvinbsamuel!

    Nicely written…I bet that you can’t tell what type of person I am by reading my articles…if you can, then you can, if can’t, then you can’t


  16. alvinbsamuel Says:

    You’re right Udi oz, once we start something like facebook, we want people to follow us and keep up with us. I really like your last two lines about how if we use this wisely, we can become internet celebrities and stuff….keep writing stuff like this!!! :D

  17. Raj the Tora Says:

    excellent information Udi. Keep up the good work. Expecting more such informative articles from you.

  18. Roe2115 Says:

    Hi, Udi Oz. Excellent article. Very infomative.

  19. pensive13 Says:

    yeah, very infornative. and that person with the yellow point up there is called the hub, right? :-)

  20. denmangu Says:

    very informative.how to bookmark an article? i like this

  21. beall.thomas Says:

    Good Job! Keep up the good work!

  22. PaulB Says:

    Interesting. Like you I use Facebook mainly for relatives and close friends. I post every day there. Just joined some Linkedin groups and had some fruitful conversations. Been posting links etc onto the others you mention.

    Am working on defining my personal brand – see myself as a writer but not a high flyer at 58 having retired from careers work. It worries me that it is all SEO writing, promoting etc these days. I just Love Writing. I am sure you do too.

  23. Erin Allison Says:

    Great post… it reminds me to be careful what I post where and which pieces of my identiy get the most screen-time. Like most people (hopefully) there are many sides to who I am. Identifying myself as a brand makes sense in the modern internet marketing world, but seems far too 1-dimentional and (I believe) is part of the disconnect from humanity that our younger generations are delving deeper and deeper into.

  24. dloriginal Says:

    So much information to take in. Very interesting. Thank you

  25. New Ideas Says:

    I am a Triond and a Google Search Engine brand.

  26. JesusLoveU Says:

    Nice article very interesting thanks for sharing

  27. shujaktk Says:

    great article
    kindly say something about it because i like it very much
    thank you

  28. mphsglo Says:

    Very good information, Thanks.

  29. shilylyn Says:

    wow,it’s really a piece of work!

  30. susandudzinski Says:

    I am new to online communication and to the idea of “branding” myself, but this is a feat I desire to accomplish. The ideas and infomation presented in this article were most instrumental in opening my mind. Now I know that I must find my “voice,” find a direction and determine which tools would be most useful in helping me to meet my goals. The first thing on the agenda is to do a little more research along these lines before I begin my journey. Thank you for your thoughts; this was a great starting point! Susan.

  31. Patrick von Stutenzee Says:

    very perceptive, I immediately implemented some of the conclusions that can be drawn from what you say

  32. A Bromley Says:

    Great article and I agree with you. I use Linkedin and have a large following there. I sometimes use my Facebook but had some problems with a stalker for a little while and haven’t got quite brave enough to go back but do send private messages with links from there. Promoting our self and our work is a good thing. Thanks for a great share with some important advice to all of us.

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