There is a misconception that, as a business leader, you have to package yourself for the benefit of the consumer. However, when Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg was asked during a recent event about the importance of personal brands, her honest answer surprised the audience. Sandberg, a prominent businesswoman, insisted that personal branding was “ineffective” and “inauthentic,” which is a refreshing perspective. You, as both a leader and a person, are much too complex to be branded.
Forget the Sale
Successful marketing is rarely about the sale of an idea or product. For example, Twitter users can’t get enough of the clapbacks and other witty comments from businesses, such as Wendy’s. This type of engagement promises that while you may lose a few followers, the majority of people are thrilled with such an authentic and relatable approach. You can’t please everyone, and faking a personal brand won’t garner a significant amount of attention.
Consumers are also more interested in the people behind the brand, so it doesn’t make sense to try to turn yourself into a brand, when what people truly want is the real you. Businesses are encouraged to be socially and environmentally aware, and professional and personal lines are increasingly blurred – especially as the political climate gets hotter. A personal brand suggests that you should be willing to sacrifice the self for the sale, but social media users are sensitive to inauthentic attempts to sway them.
Even in the business world, messy is okay. None of us are perfect, and your social media audience will appreciate your honesty. Your business page can reflect your personality, as well as have a personality of its own. Wendy’s shares its latest deals and then takes time to burn McDonalds’. Successful business tactics revolve around developing and maintaining a good relationship with consumers, and consumers want to know the people behind the logo. If you’re a business owner or leader visible on social media, it’s okay to be human, vulnerable, and real. Talk about how you made it to your meeting on time, but only barely, because you locked your keys in the car.
There Is a Difference Between Personal Branding and Credibility
Creating a personal brand is somewhat similar to becoming a thought leader: You can’t create something that isn’t there. Instead of trying to commoditize yourself, focus on improving your visibility in person and on social media. Be an active member of your local and online community. Strive to become more approachable, relatable, and connected. Discover what is important to you, and be a champion in that arena. Don’t be afraid to speak up and speak out when needed.
If you feel like you have to promote yourself as a brand, it may be a sign that something is wrong with your marketing strategy in general. Packaging yourself to always be “on” detracts from the actual work you are trying to accomplish. Communicating your story is essential, but do so under the guise of being willing to put the whole you out there in ways that help you connect to your audience.
Maintaining professionalism is always expected, but a dash of humor or sarcasm brings light into what can essentially be a dull business world. Consumers trust leaders, not businesses, and it is your personal touch, not your brand, that will shine through.