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Being a Personal Brand

Posted on : 26-02-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Business, Social Media


Groundswell can be positive or negative for any organization, or for that matter an individual.  This is what makes social media so unique, and in my opinion so special.  Over the past few weeks I have seen a swell of discussion regarding my friend Scott Monty.  There were some critical of Scott, but to me it was a good chance to have further conversation on the topic.  First of all we all represent our employers whether we are at work at the time or on Twitter.  If you were a sales person, and you made a comment that was questionable, and a client saw it, do you think anyone would say oh he was on twitter at home so that is ok?  Another aspect to this discussion, as David Armano pointed out in his post, is the fact that Scott Monty already had a personal brand prior to joining the Ford team.  It is probably part of the reason why they selected him to lead their social media effort.  Beyond all this, I thought I might be able to add some personal perspective to the conversation.

Over the past year I have developed a personal brand , not intentially but it has still happened.  I have been weirded out by all the discussion over doing what seemed to be natural;  helping people who were looking for assistance.  A side effect was being a part of the conversation of businesses in social media.  Throughout the process of learning about social media, I was provided feedback.  I utilized this feedback when I could.  One piece of that feedback suggested using my own picture instead of the Comcast symbol.  This made sense to me, because when I service Customers via the phone I always strive to add a personal touch.  Why would I not do the same in social media?  This was really common sense.  Some people may have difficulty with this, and for that matter businesses too.  Now the brand and the individual are tied together in many ways.  Scott Monty and Ford are closely connected in the same way that I am connected to Comcast.  This changes the playing field a bit.  A true partnership develops that strengthens both the organization and the individual.

This may cause organizations to try to remove some of the personalization with their social media efforts.  I would warn against that.  Social media is not about selling, dictating, or marketing.  It is really a great place to build a relationship and participate in a conversation.  Relationships are better 1 to 1.  The best approach in my opinion is to educate all your employees on using social media.  This is what I like to refer to as the Zappos model, mainly because they have made this a standard for others to live up to.   Lately you may have noticed that I have not been on Twitter as much during the day.  This is because I have elected to build a team structure.  I want to provide @ComcastBonnie, @ComcastGeorge and @ComcastBill the opportunity to build their brand and demonstrate that this is not a one person effort.  My goal, similar to many, is to continue to grow in my career and continue to challenge myself.  I also want to build something that will live on and continually evolve in this ever changing world.  There is nothing more special than building something that is sustainable for the long haul.  My team is doing just that.

There is another side to being a personal brand associated to a business that is not always seen, and one of the reasons it is not for everyone.  I have had great success that has been recognized by numerous social media websites and traditional media.  How many people have the opportunity to be in articles like “Comcast’s Twitter Man” for Business Week online?  At the same time, what I do not discuss as much is the personal attacks that sometimes happen.  These occur in comments for articles, blogs or directly to me on Twitter.  Now I understand most of the time it is really meant for the company but that is not how they are worded.  How would you feel if you did a google search and you found a story that you have a small penis?  Well this has happened to me.  A Customer posted a blog that he could not do something on the Comcast DVR.  I wrote a response explaining how to do what he was trying to do.  The next day he did another post saying I was right, but you cannot do something else.   I responded with directions on how to do it.  The next day he followed it up with a post titled “Frank Eliason Probably has a Small Penis.”  This post was explaining I was right.  If this happened to an individual they might post a reponse that attacks the writer, but since I am associated with a brand, I posted a response thanking them for the feedback.  I remember the first time I saw this post on a Google search, my first thought was “I do not get paid enough to deal with this!”  As we all know the web is a permanent place.

The groundswell has been good to me, and generated a lot of positive discussion.  Many aspects contribute to thus.  First and foremost I think it is the outstanding work of my team.  Without them I would not be writing this today.  It also has to do with the friendships in social media, including Customers that I have helped.  At the same time, it also comes down to hard work.  Gary Vanderchuk has talked about passion and hard work to achieve his status in social media and the business world.  I am not sure if the countless hours I have spent helping Customers, even at night or the weekends, are even recognized.   In contrast, this hard work is respected in the world of social media and has contributed to the groundswell of support.  If I did the basics, I am not sure it would have been noticed.   Working hard always has the long term benefits.  Passion is another key ingredient.  My passion is creating the right experience for Customers.

Is the personal brand a bad thing?  In my opinion, no.  In fact it is really priceless recognition.  I know Scott Monty has lived up to this recognition, I just hope I can too!

P.S.  Here is a great example for a business in how not to handle social media:  Consumerist:  “Ryan Air Employee Calls Blogger “Idiot” and Their Spokesperson Publicly Agrees”