Tag : personal-brand

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153: Are You Throwing Away Income on Facebook?

Football Player Lego MinifigureIn the National Football League, commentators use a term to describe why players don’t make specific plays that would significantly increase their risk of injury. The announcers usually say it with a bit of smirk in their voice.

“He made a business decision.”

The player in question could have attempted a tackle or dove for a first down, but the long-term ability to make plays wasn’t worth the short-term opportunity of a single play. I’ve rarely heard a football player criticized for making that split-second decision. In fact, usually quarterbacks are criticized for getting hurt because they didn’t process this kind of situation quickly and wisely.

During this heated political season and the social unrest of the past few years, auctioneers and entrepreneurs have been inadvertently making business decisions. They’ve taken risky shots on social media. They’ve not processed the long-term ramifications of short-term humor and rhetoric. They’ve invested their personal brand into memes and rants and extra exclamation marks.

Political Teams

Whether we root for team donkey, team elephant, team buffalo, team porcupine, or none of the above, a short scroll through our social connections will tell us that we aren’t all on the same team. That’s actually a good thing. At least it can be. Diversity of opinions widens culture’s horizons and sometimes even leads to idealogical dialogue. Well, it theoretically has the potential for that.

Those conversations have merit in proper forums, most of which are offline. In contrast, social media tends to oversimplify nuanced topics and polarize communities through antagonism. The stock photos are either grandiose or intentionally crass. Often, the statistics are fictional or out of context. Rarely do we check multiple sources to verify a post before it’s shared, liked, or referenced.

The risks for this kind of engagement looms larger than potential egg on the face or estrangement from social connections. As small business owners or sales reps, we can actually reduce future income. See, potential clients—including auction sellers—are going to type a vendor’s name into the Facebook search bar. Unless we’re very careful with your privacy settings, they’re going to see our posts. Those playing on different political teams or even just different sides of a specific issue will now mark a mental strike against us. The opposing position might even unconsciously predispose them to disagree with our business suggestions. It’s a risk that rises proportional to the level of acidity or distastefulness they find.

This doesn’t mean that we abandon unpopular opinions or that we avoid sharing them. It just means that we express them differently. Proselytizing or personal growth is more likely within the contexts of face-to-face conversations, book club discussions, thoughtful letters, careful essays, well-researched & sourced infographics, etc. Raise a hand if a Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram post has ever changed your political stance on anything. If they’ve never worked on us, what hubris or ignorance does it take to assume they’ll sway others?

For each of us, some issues might be worth losing business to defend. How and when we defend them, though, can determine the amount of personal credence and professional respect we lose in the process. It is possible to respectfully disagree.

Multiple writers have attributed a quote to Michael Jordan that he actually didn’t say, but the invented statement holds a lot of merit. The global sports icon has (after retirement) endorsed and financially supported Democratic Party candidates including President Barrack Obama. Initially, though, he chose brand building over political involvement. The reason was summarized in this famous fictional line:

“Republicans buy sneakers, too.”

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com.

112: Asking the Wrong Branding Question

Right before a recent seminar, my buddy Andy asked me a question. He thought the answer to it would make a great blog post. I’ll let you decide that, but his question does create a worthwhile discussion.

The two-part question: “If you have an established print design template, how do you incorporate that into your web site? Or should you try to get your print template to match your website?”

In the waning minutes before my presentation, I blurted an impromptu answer.

“Neither. You’re asking the wrong questions.”

I’ve had months now to ponder my answer, and I keep returning to that extemporaneous instinct. As much as I authentically preach templates, especially print templates, those templates can’t be the genesis of a branding strategy. In one of my seminars, I recommend that the first media to create in the branding process is a website; but for most businesses, the brand shouldn’t start with the .com, either.

It’s not even a “chicken or the egg?” enigma, because brochures and websites are both eggs. The chicken is your brand. Every way that your brand is expressed hatches from the hen that gives it her DNA—its appearance, its personality, its intrinsic qualities.

Another way to think of it is as a wheel. Any medium we use for company or auction promotion is just one spoke on the branding wheel. The structure, direction, and shape of the wheel is determined by the hub. The consistency between the spokes on that hub greatly determines how efficiently and smoothly the wheel travels. For the spokes to be the most consistent with each other, they must be formed together. Brand Wheel Spokes While new, small, or growing companies may not have the resources to produce all of their brand’s expressions at once, they can lay the foundation for future expressions from an early stage. The easiest way to codify the underpinnings of future media is to create a brand guide. The brand guide is a reference document that can be emailed to any vendor, subcontractor, or employee to explain how your brand will be expressed. Most major corporations use these, but I’ve seen small businesses put together good guides, too. (One of my clients in 2013 now uses the best one I’ve seen on any level, let alone in the auction industry.)

The two overarching areas your brand guide should include are a personality profile and a style sheet.

The personality profile briefly explains the heart of the organization—how you want the public to understand you, which niches or audiences you want to attract, and how you expect verbal interactions to occur. Even better would be to summarize those three paragraphs or less to three to five words that you want to encapsulate your brand.

The style sheet transcribes your company Pantone numbers & 3M colors, fonts & text styles, design requirements (like margins, spacing, text hierarchy, etc.), logo variations, and more. Some companies that allow their agents or franchisees to coordinate their own media also include samples of specific media templates; some even create various digital templates, formatted by their respective media-creation programs, for vendors to use to build respective media.

The more specific the brand guide, the more consistent a company’s media will be. The more consistent the company’s advertising is, the faster it will build brand recognition and retention—especially if narrowly niched. Recognized brands get more consideration and then more customers and then more evangelists.

If you want to grow your business, focus on the chicken. She’ll take care of the eggs.

Religion likes its creeds and catechisms—its traditional branding. The American church likes its What Would Jesus Do bracelets and Not of This World stickers—its cultural branding. Some of these can be constructive for those who adopt them as filters by which to sift their lives. I’ve heard a lot of great examples of personal worldview statements along those lines, and I’ve unsuccessfully tried to adopt some over the years. Sadly, I have a bad memory and a minuscule attention span.

The one measuring tool (or personal brand guide) that has stuck with me since high school, though, is Luke 2:52. “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and favor with God and man.”

For me to follow Jesus’ example, I must be constantly
(1) learning and evaluating the world around me—growing my ability to discern
(2) exercising and taking care of my bodily shell—growing my physical capabilities
(3) ingratiating myself with people, both those I love and those with whom I rub lives—growing my relational influence
(4) falling more in love with Jesus and his gospel—growing my kingdom impact

Mind, body, heart, soul.

Those four words take turns convicting and congratulating me in my introspective moments.

How ‘bout you? What credo defines your goals and journey?

[footer]Stock photo purchased from iStockPhoto.com[/footer]

34: Facebook Tips for Entrepreneurs

Online NetworkingIf you read any number of the nation’s business magazines, you’d think that Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn could make your other marketing obsolete or at least archaic. As someone who has one of these open on my iPhone, laptop, and/or desktop about eight hours per typical day, I can tell you that you’ll need more than any or all of these silver bullets in your six shooter.

That said, you can use all of these for commercial purposes—each in a different role. Today, let’s look at Facebook and some pointers on how to get the most out of it.

Know why you use the ‘book.
If you’re looking to Facebook for free advertising, you’ll “get what you pay for.” Facebook can bring you clients and prospects, but you’ll find the greatest and most likely benefit to be the ability to build into the professional relationships you already have. You’ll get to know clients, vendors, and industry peers as people. When you show people you are interested in them for more than just the transaction, they are more likely to give the next transaction to you.

Facebook is one of several prime places to build a personal brand, maybe even the expert brand. Your character, personality, experience, and lifestyle reflect on your business. Environments like Facebook allow you to intentionally manage and broadcast your public personae.

Be “content generous.”
Just like in marriage, you’ll reap the greatest benefits when you give more than you take. If you want something out of Facebook, you need to add value to the environment. Post interesting articles and links—and tell people why you’re sharing. Show that you never stop learning, that you’re constantly trying to grow—and that you want others to join you on that journey. Subscribe to RSS feeds or magazines, so that you have a constant stream of ideas to share. You don’t have to know everything to be an expert; you just have to know where to get answers. If consumers see you as a source of good ideas and solutions, why wouldn’t they trust you with their professional challenges?

Share lots of encouraging, affirming, congratulatory comments on others’ content. Drop quick notes to tell folks you’re glad to know them, that you’re thinking of them, that they deserve the cool weekend or vacation they just lived. Let your professional contacts know that you think about them, even when you’re not working together.

Build Facebook fences.
Facebook includes a robust range of privacy settings. You can allow some people to see only your resumé-level information and others your most personal pictures (and several steps in between those extremes). You can determine the accessibility of specific photo albums or videos and who can see them. You can even choose specific people or groups of people you don’t want to see certain pictures. Your college days pictures are great fun with your frat brothers but probably not appropriate to show your largest client. Not everybody you invite or accept as a Facebook friend has to see everything you post. By setting audience boundaries, you can post with more freedom and personality—and be yourself—limiting only who can interact with specific content.

Predetermine your Facebook interaction.
Facebook is the new solitaire/mine sweeper, only guised in marketing clothes. You can easily tell yourself that you’re networking on Facebook, when you’re really just shirking work. So, just like any other social engagement, budget time for it. Then stick to that schedule. Facebook is only one networking environment; don’t let it infringe on other opportunities to build relationships. If you don’t want Facebook interrupting your productive hours, Facebook allows you to turn off some or all of the notifications it can send to your email box.

Many entrepreneurs check their Facebook feed in the morning after running through their email inbox and/or at the end of the day before they head home. My generation sifts through their RSS feeds and google notifications like our parents used to read the paper. Facebooking fits neatly into this segment of your day. Maybe it’s during breakfast or lunch for you, or maybe it’s a weekend appointment.

For me, Facebook is intrinsically woven throughout my day. Working in my basement cave, it’s a connection to the outside world, an environment for personal ministry, a break room with a water cooler, a year-long auctioneer convention without the suits and hotel room keys. I use it to enrich and secure the friendships I already have and to cultivate friendships from working relationships.

You can be successful without Facebook. Facebook just makes success a community benefit.

The more I buy into the journey of following Christ, the more I look to my interpersonal environments as ministry opportunities. I’ve even created environments or joined others in progress to add spiritual interactions in my life.

I’m not talking about church events. I mean white water and canoe trips, hiking and biking treks, hang gliding and caving adventures, breakfasts and dinners—even road trips. It’s sharing life, revealing where we are and where we’re going. When you bring Jesus with you and initiate spiritual conversations, you often have greater life impact than sitting in a church building.

Building into the lives of others brings life into your own. No surprise: that’s what Jesus said he came to do. “I came that they might have life and that more abundantly.”

[footer]Stock image used by permission through purchase from iStockPhoto.com ©2009[/footer]

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