Micah November 11th

When Being Me is About Being You

Lijit Halloween Lunch

Image by micahb37 via Flickr

Until I began to use Twitter and get more heavily involved in social media, I never heard the term “personal brand.” With more than 15 years in marketing (and more than 30 years in marketing myself), I certainly am aware of the concept of reputation management and branding.

Recently, there have been two concurrent discussions occurring around SEO and personal branding. One, here on this blog (SEO is dead), where the basic point is that great companies will learn how to integrate SEO principles into their organization structure, has been interesting. Not surprisingly, as it begins to make it round among SEO consultants, there is a cry of “you idiot! SEO will be here forever!”

Over on my friend Geoff Livingston’s blog, there has been a fantastic discussion around personal branding. Geoff’s point (at least as I think I read it), is that personal branding is a crutch that people use to create the visage of real value, when they are unsure of their (or their company’s) real value. Not surprisingly, as it began to make its round among Social Media experts, there is a cry of “you idiot! Personal Branding will be here forever!”

I look at those two discussions, and how the reactions are almost completely mirrored. Some great thoughts on both sides of the argument which are almost hidden by the noise created by those that see these opinions as threatening.

Most people that read this blog, or know me in real life, know that I have been seeing a therapist for the better part of 3 years on a weekly basis. Its an interesting conversation each week. A no BS conversation.

Most people that read this blog, or know me in real life, also know that I am not normal. Controversial at times, contrarian sometimes, I am unlike most people. I never really planned to be that way, or have a specific reason why, other than an intense belief in doing the right thing and being open and honest.

Yes, I believe doing the right thing and being open and honest is not normal.

This past week or so, my therapist and I have been talking about acceptance. One of the difficulties of being unique is that most people like to be around unique folks, but really only accept similar people into their “inner circles.”

Personal Branding is an attempt to show others how similar you are to them. Its about convincing others that being me is about being you. Its to allow acceptance and trust.

Chris Brogan, Laura Fitton and Aaron Brazell are people who use the concept of personal brand to allow their message to be accepted and for them to be “more similar” to a more global audience. Like actors, people often associate them with the personal brands that they have cultivated, created and articulated, rather than the people they are: funny, smart, intelligent (trying to make sure my friends dont hate me too much), real, flawed, family people, etc.

Am I saying Chris, Laura and Aaron are wrong or manipulative for what they do? Not at all. Rather they have made a specific BUSINESS decision to create two personas – their “public” ones and their “personal” ones. I understand and respect it, and it makes sense. In the case of all three, their knowledge of social media marketing allows them to produce quality content, and frankly, make a living.

Personally, I struggle with the concept of personal brand. When people say “thats part of your brand, Micah,” I bristle. Partly because I firmly believe that trying to live up to external expectations always leads to a loss of truth and “realness,” and partly because I DONT HAVE A PERSONAL BRAND. I am just Micah.

But, maybe thats it. Maybe the personal brand that I have cultivated is one of the “crazy uncle.” The guy you love to have a party because you never know what he might say–but it will be funny or wild–but isnt the guy you want to live in your house.

At the end of the day, if I want to be accepted as being similar, then building a personal brand makes sense. If I dont, then a personal brand has no value.

Why is being similar important? If I am my business (like when I owned a marketing agency), then its paramount, since people are hiring me (even if I dont do the work).

If my business is not me (like now while I am at Lijit), then being me is more important than my personal brand.

Plus being me is much more fun than being a brand, otherwise I could never post pictures of a drug test I took, or talk about horse porn in a presentation, or attempt to be the #1 douchebag or fashion icon.

Or is that my personal brand?

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