Lee Odden

Social Tools to Build Your Brand-ividual

Lee Odden     Online Marketing, Social Media

Social Tools Personal BrandsIn testing out the newer Facebook question feature, I thought it would be interesting to step away from corporate marketing and ask our network about personal brand marketing and the tools that have been the most effective. With hundreds of millions of people active on social networks world wide, there have been more than a few “brandividuals” spawned through the social web.

Some tools are more appropriate than others based on who you’re trying to engage of course, but my question was directed mostly to Marketing and PR professionals.

About 140 people responded and here’s the breakout of tools from most to least voted:

  • Facebook (I asked the question on FB so I suppose it’s a given that FB would be the most popular)
  • Blogging (This was my choice of course)
  • LinkedIn (Logical choice given LI is FOR business social networking)
  • Twitter (I actually thought this would be higher)
  • Real world events & networking (Tied with “Other”)
  • Writing a column, media coverage, contributed articles, PR (For people who can write well, this rocks)
  • Webinars (No votes)
  • Email (Nada)
  • Commenting on other Blogs (Again, nothing)

“Other” suggestions included Podcasting and personal or business websites.

I can’t imagine anyone that took this poll using just one of these tools to promote themselves and engage on the social web. They work together of course, but some work better than others or are “lead” tactics. Think of the hub and spoke model I’ve written about here in the past where a central tactic is the centerpiece surrounded by channels of networking and information distribution.

What initiated an interesting discussion was this comment: “I don’t believe in personal branding…”

My take on that is that if a person is active in their industry, engaging, sharing opinions and promoting themselves/their ideas, that it results in awareness and growing a network. Whether they believe in it or not, the outcome of becoming known and talked about by others is a personal brand.

The ease of publishing and promotion does amplify the amount of noise, unwarranted self promotion and entitlement behavior, making it hard to distinguish one personal brand from another.

By personal brand, I mean: what you stand for, what you’re expertise is and what you’re known for. I don’t even use the terminology “personal brand” when I plan our own marketing but I think people reading this know what I mean.

In an increasingly social world of business, consumers and buyers want to connect with people vs. corporate voices #cluetrain. That means investing in developing content, relationships and engagement between individuals working for a company (or themselves) and the people they want to do business with.

If that sounds reasonable, I’d like to ask you the same question: For growing your personal brand online, what have been the most productive tools or tactics?

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. Avatar Black Seo Guy says

    I try to keep my brand out there for the world to see, I’m doing things to keep the conversations going..the more people that know me..the better..

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  2. Blogging. It has basically gotten me my last two jobs. I’d also say Twitter is working it’s way up but I think it has less credibility.

    • Casie, that’s a great example. I was just explaining to my son that this blog is the reason I’ve been able to grow our business and travel to places like London, New York, Hong Kong and Barcelona. Being able to communicate the value you have to offer is priceless, especially when there’s so much competition and confusion out there.

  3. Being a 1-man show I’ve found that I need to get extremely focused with my marketing or else I don’t get anywhere. I think focusing on one thing for your business, then mastering it is the best way to actually get things done. Trying to do it all just gets too overwhelming (for me anyway)

  4. Facebook wouldn’t let me answer your question from my iPhone, Lee (ugh!), so I got there late. I thought the discussion you reference was fascinating, btw.

    Putting any discussion over the definition of the term aside, I guess for me it’s been a combination of Twitter and blogging. And as you know, I’m relatively new to both. Specifically in response to your question, initially I selected “blogging” as my answer, and then I changed it to “Twitter.” Because I was on Twitter before I started blogging, and I know that helped the blog grow, to whatever extent it has, immensely.

    Over and above that, the number of referrals, speaking inquiries, etc., primarily come to me via Twitter. I think the blog helps support that, but if I weren’t fairly active on Twitter, that network would be much smaller than it is now.

    • Sorry about that Shonali. I wish mobile FB worked better too!

      That’s a great story about Twitter, thank you for sharing. I think it’s an interesting intersection between channels that can amplify a person’s presence. They can feed on each other too as you know. Crowdsourcing content from Twitter to your blog for example.

      Besides blogging and Twitter, what do you see as other emerging channels of participation (for you)?

      • Oh, the FB app issues aren’t your fault!

        That’s a really good point about crowdsourcing content from Twitter – I used to do that quite a bit, and still do, though not as much as I used to. In terms of other channels, I’ve been using Facebook more, though I consider my FB activity more passive in nature. I.e. I may cross-post a few updates from Twitter, and if there’s a response on FB, then I’ll check in. However, I’ve been posting more photos there recently, and that’s been fun and enriching my circle (re: the new food blog, etc.).

        I love Amplify but haven’t used it much recently… I honestly can’t say why. Over the last couple of days, I’ve been playing with Empire Avenue, which I am a little creeped out and strangely fascinated by at the same time. I don’t know as yet if it’ll become my “new Twitter” – or what “good” it’ll be/do for me. Have you looked at that, Lee?

  5. Social media is a phenomenon that will have a huge thing to say in two or three years. I consider this to be the invention that will actually change the world forever.

  6. Avatar Jenny Tsai says

    Great post! I am learning to use those social media to build some value of myself, too. I think they are powerful tools but also can be dangerous if we don’t use them appropriately.

  7. Hmm.. regarding personal branding i’ve followed my own philosophy of separating my personal and possessional personas. I use facebook strictly to stay in touch with my friends and try to leave all work content off ittwitter on the other hand is all work related I build my image by posting thoughts that are all industry related I work for an online marketing company and have found no shortage of interesting and compelling articles to post. I think this balance is healthy for my own sanity, I don’t want one aspect like my professional life dominate my social interactions.

  8. Avatar Blgaskin says

    Interesting article. I am currently a corporate communications student at the College of Charleston in South Carolina studying public relations and personal branding is a subject I’ve heard about several times. Personally, I tackle my personal branding in two different ways which I think is a smart decision for anyone looking to enter the professional world soon. Professors have strongly emphasized the importance of establishing a professional appearance online. So in regards to my professional branding I utilize Twitter and LinkedIn. I post tweets solely about comm and social media related topics and my LinkedIn account is obviously strictly professional. In regards, to how I want to brand myself to peers and friends I use Facebook on a daily basis to keep in touch with friends, add photos from outings, and join networks. It’s an excellent way to put a distinction between the personal and the professional image and brand you want to portray.

  9. Facebook can make or break personal branding, depending on how you filter the content that goes on it. Late-night drinking pictures and statuses about office spats can break any corporate career.

  10. Avatar Matt Keller says

    Twitter #1, LinkedIn #2 and creating/contributing to a blog.

  11. “…What have been the most productive tools or tactics?”

    That’s my exact problem. I can’t answer your question. I have a very small niche, but I also am the absolute best at what I do. I’m beginning to feel it may be “in the world,” because I can’t find anyone else doing it. Yet I can’t figure out how to find the people who need me, or would be interested. I can’t seem to figure out search terms that might find them…Or even how to target them in a Facebook ad. I know that I’m woefully unprepared for this stuff.

    In other words, I’m stellar at my work, which is taking kids who are failing to thrive and read in school, and turning them into regular readers who catch up very quickly, so they still have a chance at a decent life. Life without reading these days is a Catch-22, and a nightmare for all in its grip. And I accomplish this with kids from all over the United States, and do it online. A perfect solution for many working parents.

    But I’m struggling. Struggling desperately. I know I’m doing everything wrong, but I don’t know what to do right!.

    I enjoyed the post.

    (Gravatar won’t let me turn into my “teaching” self, so the blog mentioned here is unrelated, though it does have a blurb and link to my reading site.)

    • Thanks Paula. Maybe you can focus not so much on the description of what you do but the problems you solve in your SEO and Social Marketing. If there is demand, then there must be a problem to solve. Think of your solution and messaging from the customer perspective and you might find some direction in how to promote and target.

  12. Avatar Eliza_kn says

    have to say that for online personal branding there is not just one way that you can achieve this.I believe it is good to combine the various social media tools depending of course the type of client that the company tries to satisfy. I agree with you that the
    the outcome of becoming known and talked about by others is a personal brand. Companies should try to increase their reputation and enhance awareness throught the use of all social media tools that you described above (such as Facebook, Foursquare, Twitter, blogs. Also, companies should update constantly their sites in order to infrom the users and start building relationships with them.