In the Company of You – Having a Personal Brand

Personal brand: The Not-So Secret Identity?

This topic has been sitting in my Evernote folder for a while now. I recently listened to a podcast on Mitch Joel’s Six Pixels of Separation: The Twist Image Podcast, and he had a guest by the name of Ben Casnocha. Ben is the coauthor of a book called The Startup of You (along with Reid Hoffman, cofounder of LinkedIn). The podcast was very interesting and I may have to check out the book too. One topic that they touched on while discussing The Startup of You was personal branding. The internet has allowed for anyone to be an author, anyone to be a content creator, and as such, many have ‘branded’ themselves. People are no longer necessarily identifying themselves as merely an employee of a company, but as brand of their own, leasing their talent to a company for however long they are there (as Mitch and Ben put it in the podcast). It is also discussed in the podcast as to whether this is actually a good thing for businesses or not.

I can honestly say that I have my own personal brand, which occasionally collides with what I do at Main Street Hub. I have my personal blog, which I treat more as a blog discussing small business and social media, because those are the things that interest me. There’s also occasionally funny things (Found Tweet Friday) I find and interesting music or apps that I come across. I also come equipped with my presence on just about all social networks (and the many connections that come from them). At the end of the day, all of that belongs to me and not the company. Ask any social media expert, however, and they’ll tell you that companies should encourage their employees to blog and have a presence on social media. Could this hurt your company? Will it cause your employees to focus more on themselves than your company’s image? Personally, I don’t think that’s the case in most instances.

If you’re hiring the right kind of people, then their personal brand is an extension of them that can be leveraged for the business, as long as they’re interested and invested in the business themselves. Do my blog and social media presence get occasionally leveraged for use with my company? Sure. I tweet about things going on at work (we even have our own hashtag). I ‘Like’ and share things my company posts. I post Instagram pictures from crazy things happening at my group’s desk. I even link to my company and let readers know what we do. Not because the company asks me to, but because it’s relevant to what I’m interested in. As a matter of fact, I got Main Street Hub’s attention initially by tweeting articles about social media and small business and @tagging them on Twitter. Like “Hey guys, I read this and its relevant to your business. I found it interesting and you might too!” With a little perseverance, I landed the job and now my extracurricular social media activities occasionally merge with what I do for Main Street Hub.

Personal brand is only going to become more prevalent as this generation, which already use Tumblr, WordPress, Blogger, Instagram and Twitter to amass numerous followers and fans, grows into the next workforce. They are going to come fully equipped with a social standing and personal brand, and companies will have to know how to reconcile that. Simply put, embrace it, treat your employees with respect, and perhaps their personal brand will mesh with your company’s professional presence.

What are your thoughts? Do you feel you have a personal brand outside of your company? Have you used or leveraged your presence to procure a job? Or, as a business owner, did you take social media presence into account when finding or hiring an employee? I’d love to hear some comments below, and perhaps later I can gather the responses and do a follow up post. Thanks for reading.

Now go get your social on!

Mobile App Review – Path

I use the Nike + GPS app to record my sad attempts at running. It’s nice to have the occasional, “Hey, you didn’t suck as much as last time” motivational shout-outs that it provides at times. Recently, I went to record one of my runs and the app asked me if I wanted to share my run on Path. I saw the below icon, and thought it would be great because, in my post-run haze, I mistakenly thought the icon looked similar to the Pinterest icon. I actually was thinking, if it was associated with Pinterest and would be posting my runs in an album, that would be awesome! It is NOT associated with Pinterest, by the way.

Path not Pinterest
Red and white 'P' does not a Pinterest make...


San Francisco-based 
Path launched in 2010 and, according to its website, the privately held company has a base of about 2 million users. The website goes on to explain that it allows you to keep a personal journal, “or Path”, of your life and should help you authentically express yourself and share your personal life with loved ones Path has a healthy following on Facebook  and on Twitter, as well as over 300 followers on LinkedIn so their online presence and following is pretty well established. It floats dangerously close to Facebook in certain aesthetic aspects. Most notably, Path allows you a “profile picture” and a “cover picture” with the profile picture showing up in a bubble in the lower left corner of the cover picture (example of mine here) on your profile. They may catch flak for that, if they haven’t already.  The feed also resembles Facebook quite a bit, but there isn’t a whole lot of variation available for a feed, I suppose. One area that Path ventures away from Facebook is that is is focused almost exclusively as a mobile interface, rather than on your computer. You can make changes to your profile settings on your Mac or PC, but your feed and your ability to post anything are exclusively on your mobile device. This stems from Path’s focus on being a modern journal for a modern age. It is meant to be with you wherever you go. It has yet to be seen whether a lack of a computer interface will help or hinder Path’s future.My first impression of this app was not a good one. It messed up while registering my account, and reloaded the page, then told me that my email and phone number already existed. I gave up on it until I returned home from my run and saw the email for my registered account. I then decided to give it another go. It got better.

Those facts aside, there are actually some pretty slick features that this app has which make me glad that I moved forward with setting it up.

  1. The creators of Path were smart to allow integration with the other heavy hitters, rather than simply try to compete with them. All of your posts are shareable on Facebook, twitter, Tumblr, and Foursquare. This integration is likely a key success factor for Path.
  2. You have the option to share music that you are currently listening to. When you click the button to do this, Path automatically checks your music player to see what your ARE listening to. It then makes suggestions to post so that you don’t have to search for your song and artist. Occasionally though, if you have a more obscure artist or album, Path can’t find it. I’d be interested to know where they pull their music database from. It does an admirable job for most popular artists, however.
  3. As with most social sites, you can post who are you with (once you’ve found friends on Path), where you are (if you have location services turned on), upload pictures and post comments. You won’t feel too lost using Path if you are already using some of the other major social sites.
  4. Another function, albeit a little bit of a strange one, is the ability to tell friends when you’ve gone to bed and when you wake up. I’m not really sure that I see the use of this outside of people knowing that they can’t bother you because you’ve already gone to bed. I’d love to find out if there is a specific point that Path creators were trying to achieve by adding this feature. If there were a first thing to go in a major overhaul, it would likely be this feature.
  5. All of the above options come from a really cool little pop-up menu in the bottom left corner of your screen. It’s a pretty slick, smooth interface with multiple buttons popping up and going back to being hidden with the touch of a little + or x.
  6. As you scroll through the timeline of events, a little clock pops up to show you the time of each item’s posting. It moves along as you scroll and the little hands furiously move to the next “time stamp” of each post. It’s a fun little feature, actually.
  7. Path offers emoticons that you can add to posts of your own or those of friends. You can add a smiley, frown, wink and surprised face. There is also a little heart option. I would liken this to the ‘Like’ button on Facebook.
  8. The way that Path integrates with Nike + GPS is probably one of the most solid functions Path brings to the table for me, and likely where it can gain an even stronger footing. Once you finish a run while using the Nike app, you can post to your social networks via sharing options within the app (Facebook, Twitter and Path). On Path, a map of your run (example of my own here) gets posted showing your route, your mileage and length of time right on the map! I could see this being a good way to get a bunch of your workout/health nut friends together in one social space and be able to share, cheer each other on, and keep motivated while avoiding the inevitable groans from your Facebook friends (if you post your workouts/runs on your Facebook Timeline.) If you see that a friend is on a run, you can actually click their Path and send them a cheer. And who doesn’t like a little encouragement every now and then?

Overall, I think Path has potential for stay power if they keep the momentum up, and I will likely continue to use it just to see where it may go. I’m interested to see in what ways it “learns” from my activity, which the website claims it will do. I am likely going to have to invite friends so that it becomes fun because, out of my numerous email and Facebook contacts, I’ve found ONE person using Path. I think adding a small bio section and the ability to search other users by interest or location would be greatly helpful in allowing users to add worthwhile connections rather than random. I would love to find other people around Austin using Path.

Being still pretty much in its youth, time will tell whether this becomes the next big thing in social, or if Path simply falls by the wayside as so many do. I can’t say I’m not rooting for it to stay around a little longer though. 

Have you already heard of Path? Are you using it? If not, do you think having a place to share your exercise goals is worth another social network? Chime in!

Now go get your social on!