With #TweetupYYC Moderators Shannon Bowen-Kelsick and Marc Binkley

The Western Sponsorship Congress hosted a #TweetupYYC last week focused on Personal Branding (thank you Shannon @sbKelsick, Marc Binkley and Donna McTaggart @donnamct). We must have said something interesting as we trended in Calgary that night.

Kudos to a great venue as well appropriately named @Venu1008YYC – more Calgary firms should host here given their great sightlines, central location, easy-going nature and their cause motivation helping abused women.

I topped my stay in Calgary off by also talking to a number of aspiring professionals at Mount Royal University (courtesy Karen Richards @socialgrrrl) and keynoting the WSC event on “Wikibrands, Wikisponsorships” with a finale of eating in Calgary’s finest pizza place UNA @unacalgary) . Nice trip out West and I look forward to coming out again.

So personal branding, it’s certainly an interesting topic – one I am exceptionally curious about  and disdain almost at the same time. I looked at the top 100 twitter accounts (as ranked by number of followers – a sad metric but an easily accessible proxy for popularity). Do you want to know how many of the top 100 are people as opposed to company/media/tech brands? A full 80%. And as much as I bemoan the fact that all 3 Kardashian sisters being part of that number, it does signal that we are living in different times.

We don’t  hear radio ads about people, taking a print ad promoting yourself would be considered gauche, nearly all people can’t afford TV ads promoting themselves but on the web, everybody has the potential to thrive as a brand, yes even you!

Why have I jumped in the deep end of open and transparent branding of myself.  The good stuff is fed by curiosity – it makes me ponder what makes some people popular, connected and credible vs. their other peers who toil away in virtual obscurity.  On a personal front, if I looked at my top 7 social media/networks I participate in – my two level connection number is 8.6 million people (formula = how many people I’m connected to X how many people they’re connected to). That is a buzz conveyor belt. I would have been lucky 20 years ago if I could push past 2,000 people on that same scale. That ability to connect so readily is profound to me.  It’s also true that the business world is changing from a company-connected one to an employee and people-connected one – I’ve simply realized this earlier than many. Lucky me – as the social web always rewards first movers disproportionately.

The bad stuff is that the social media world is full of narcissists who believe the entire world is Twitter (or Facebook, or LinkedIn or whatever the platform church they worship at).  They spend way too much time consciously or subconsciously (I know some who spend 40+ hours per week building their personal glory) trying to game the system in an attempt to build their followers and Klout score. Sometimes these social gadflies will self-deprecating say they aren’t interested in fame or followers and act in the very same moment paradoxically – tweeting for love, blogging for controversy and lifestreaming on tumblr. Get a life (or at least admit this is the one you care about the most). These are the worst.

Like it or not, we live in a connected world and as business ethics author Dov Seidman intimates “in a connected world, power shifts to those best able to connect.” It’s an axiom you would be wise to follow for your career, lifestyle, business and personal life. Connection is now key.  Chances are your next job will not be found resume peddling, job site scrounging or even cajoling friends willing to hire. It will more likely be the friends and colleagues of your friends that will be your most successful port of call. ask yourself the question – how healthy is that network?

In fact, as I consider the friendships made online over the last 6-7 years social networking, I would venture to guess 1/4 of my close friends, 1/3 of my good friends, 1/2 of my business dealings and 4/5ths of my colleagues have all been attributable to people I met through digital media first.

So when you consider building, improving and/or entrenching your personal branding, don’t be “that guy” (or girl). Branding is what they say about you when you’re not in the room, and you can’t always be in the  room online (as much as some people try). Follow these 7 Golden Rules of Branding and you may sacrifice a bit of follower count for the greater good of likeability, credibility and sustainability of your personal brand, I call them the REHAHAs (please come up with a better acronym if you can):

Reciprocity – somebody makes a recommendation or follows you,  provide some laurels in return or follow back quickly unless you have just cause to do differently.  Avoid anybody who has legions of followers and follow only a few back – they are one of three things – aloof, arrogant or selfish.

Ethical – if what you are posting or tweeting gives you the slightest cringe, do not press enter or click, you know it’s probably wrong (I wish more celeb, CEO and sports personalities had the 30 second delay on sending stuff out for this very reason).  Use the generally accepted decorum of the digital platform you’re participating in – slang is OK on Facebook, generally frowned upon in LinkedIn.

Human – if you wouldn’t say it in real life, don’t say it on the web. For some of my PR and tech friends, that might be challenging given their penchant for geek-ease or spinning a message. Perhaps a different rule – at a party of 50 people, be the 3-4 people that are interesting enough or compelling enough personally that people want to seek you out post-party.

Awesomeness – I may sound like a California surfer dude using the word “awesome” as much as I do,  but take this stat to heart – 1.5% of the stuff that gets tweeted ever gets retweeted twice. That is an awfully big gauntlet to run to get any type of traction. Make sure your content and brand image is so interesting, provocative, insightful or helpful that people can’t help but notice and talk about it. That also means having an interesting picture that supports your profile and conjures up the image you want to present of yourself to the world (no missing photos or year round zombie pictures is advisable) – because people do judge a book by its cover.

Helpful – share stuff that’s helpful to others. I’m not too sure there is some magic ratio – on the low end I’ve seen people advocate for a 1:1 “dialogue/self-promotion”  ratio or a 9:1 “friend praise/your stuff” ratio. I can’t tell you what the right mix is for you, but we sure don’t need to here about your amazing life or name dropping all the time. They may not tell you but people will hate you for doing it. Credit people all the time; the twitter page with no other @ signs except for themselves is a beacon for “blowhard-ness”.

Authentic – be yourself, in general, people can smell a rat that is faking their social presence.  Share stuff from your first life online. I find the most interesting people are people doing brave great things in the real world and subsequently sharing their experience online.  And if you can’t be yourself, decouple your social brand from your personal brand, don’t forcefit it (for the record I have 12 twitter accounts for every facet or my business and personal life).

Social – don’t make this your entire life but be on as many platforms as you can possibly support and meet people in real life too. The best people I know on the web, I’ve met or tried to meet in real life. That rounds out the full person. Also, have a gut check – participate in networks not because you have to, do it because you want to. For my money, the top 9 networks and platforms  in order of priority for personal branding (and it’s a generalization list I know) – Facebook (for social/scale), Twitter (for links/recency), Blogging (for substance/expertise leadership), Email (for action/core fans or customers), YouTube (for stories/substance), LinkedIn (for networking and career stuff), Google + (for social integration and the 7up to Facebook’s cola), Slideshare (for thought leadership and contacts) and Fourquare (for local connections and events). And as always, these are subject to change on a monthly basis.

Thanks to my fellow speakers at #TweetupYYC for inspiring me:

@jocelynedaw for such a great conversation about what’s stopping companies from being great and sharing authorly wisdom

@buzzbishop for being such a friendly contrarian and offering the line of the night “you are the CEO of you” (and also telling me his real name – I had no idea Jeff)

Kathryn Bechthold (@alchemygirl) for being so candid and being the living embodiment of what a genuine personal brand should be, and also warning me about “The Shining”-like state of a Calgary winter


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