How Personal is Too Personal With Branding?

One of the hot topics of personal branding is the question of how much of your personal life should you include in your content and interactions with people?

Do people really care about what you ate for lunch? Does it build rapport like you’ve been told—or is it just another form of useless self-indulgence? Should you talk about religion and politics, or is that still taboo?

Before I get into answering those questions, I’d like to talk about the goal of personal branding. The goal of personal branding is to establish yourself as an industry expert, unique individual, and eventually a “figure” in your industry others look up and respect as a leader. This is done by identifying a foothold in your niche—and then taking that foothold to market.

Unfortunately, most people don’t ever take that step—and use their personal blogs and business blogs as a form of “I have an opinion too; you need to listen to me.” I call this the “rock star” or “celebrity” mentality, where business owners and professionals start to shy away from helping their followers—and start to use their network and influence to push forward their own personal agenda.

You may ask me, “but Jerry—isn’t the whole point of personal branding to promote my personal agenda? Naturally to be perceived as an expert I’ll have to dictate to my followers my teachings and message.”

Right now I’m doing exactly that—sharing with you my advice and opinions on personal branding, based on my years of experience and education. Where that line would end, however, is if I used my blog as a platform to argue a personal viewpoint, that won’t educate my readers.

I recently thought about including an article to this blog about the 1st Amendment in the United States. Specifically, I wanted to talk about all of the comments I’ve seen online where people are arguing free speech—when it doesn’t apply. As I thought about it more, I realized this wasn’t going to do anything but extend an opinion that I was not expected, nor qualified to make. Not to mention, alienate my readers and clients who live in different countries!

My personal brand is focused on helping others use the internet to grow their brands, businesses, and/or annual revenue. Everything I do and teach is an extension from that. Politics, religion, social issues, and more—those are not what I help people do (and, in turn, is not a good subject for my blog). Not to mention, just because I have a blog does not mean I’m a celebrity, and the same is true for you. It’s very easy for business bloggers to let their reader base go to their heads.

For  example, I saw a local business (a food shop) post some scathing reviews of President Obama on their business Facebook page a couple of years ago. As expected, the comments were a mix of “support,” and a larger “I didn’t ‘like’ your page to see this garbage.” The owner responded to one of the comments stating, “I believe I am entitled to report on this, as I’m a small business owner. Most people don’t know what small business owners go through with taxes. I can inform them to help make better decisions for their community.”

I hate to break it to you, but most people don’t really care what small businesses go through with taxes. They care about what you’re doing for their needs.

The point of the article I’m writing is exactly this: your newfound soapbox does not mean you now have the right to “preach” down to your masses about subjects that impact you personally. You are not a celebrity, and your followers/peers/clients/employer does not view you as one either.

Now, I am of course not saying that you simply can’t go out there and preach your personal messages to the masses. I am saying, however, you cannot expect to say those things without alienating clients and other professionals.

I leave you with this. Keeping in mind I teach businesses and professionals how to use the internet to grow their brand and achieve their dreams, which would you rather see from me:

A Twitter post with a picture of my lunch, or:

A Twitter post during my lunch with a link to an interesting article I just read.

Think about that. Whenever you post anything ask yourself “does this fit in with the brand I am used to write, or is this something to stroke my own ego?”

Image Credit: Stefano Principato

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