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Arment Dietrich

Brand Image: You Are What Your Followers Say You Are

By: Arment Dietrich | August 26, 2010 | 
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Guest post by Steve McKee, president of McKee Wallwork Cleveland.

We’ve all heard the expression you are what you eat. As a columnist and author, I’ve come to understand in many ways that you are what you write. But social media has given us an entirely new way of understanding our personal brand image: You are what your followers say you are.

Currently, more than 100 of my Twitter followers have put me on a list – not as many as @ginidietrich(!), but enough to give me a sense of how @WhenGrowthStall is positioned in the Twitterverse. Simply scanning the titles is an enlightening exercise.

I’m listed based on my industry (advertising agencies, pr-ad-mktg agencies), my company (mckeewallworkcleveland, mwc), my location (albuquerque, nm, locals, international, overseas), and my job title (c-level, ceos-n-experts, entrepreneurs).

I’m listed based on my areas of expertise (business, branding, marketing, social media, consulting), my interests (innovation, leadership, markets, strategy), my roles in various people’s lives (partners, clients, friends) my other job (writers, journalists, press-reporters, news-views), and my other-other jobs (authors, speakers, vistage, business coaches).

I’m even on some fairly ego-gratifying lists (industry-gurus, management-innovators, raisesmyiq, minds-i-like, super-smarties, thought-leaders, toptier—OK, I’ll stop now). These are, not surprisingly, offset by some lists that have the opposite effect (random, various, the-others, and likebutdontfollow – I have to admit, that last one seems especially odd to me).

Altogether, the lists I’m on paint an interesting portrait of how people view my contributions to the world (at least through social media), and in that sense they’re instructive. I also think they’re pretty fair overall.

I often explain to the companies with which I work that their brand isn’t what they think it is, it’s what their customers and prospects say it is. The most they can do is send signals into the marketplace so people will come to the conclusions they wish them to. And that’s an imperfect science at best. That’s why the best thing to be is who you are.

Take a few minutes to do your own analysis of what the lists on which you appear say about you, and consider how well it matches your own self-portrait. When you do, keep in mind the advice I laid out in a recent BusinessWeek.com column about authenticity: “Branding isn’t difficult. It’s just like real life. You should continually strive to make your brand the best it can be. Just never try to make it something other than what it is.”

That’s a good rule for all of us to keep in mind as we express ourselves in social media. After all, spin sucks.

Steve McKee is president of McKee Wallwork Cleveland and author of When Growth Stalls: How it Happens, Why You’re Stuck and What to Do About It.

10 comments
DarlaKay
DarlaKay

Good point. I think that social networking has changed so much of what people write and how they write, especially when they are getting immediate feedback from their followers. Adverstising agencies have definitely taken advantage of this social turn and have been using social networking as a way to reach a wide number of viewers. http://www.ratesadagency.com

Mark @ Alchemy United
Mark @ Alchemy United

Exactly! :)

Spin used to be able to make up for the difference. Not any more. Sadly there are still quite a few in denial. They'll learn. They'll have to, eh?

Thanks again.

Mark @ Alchemy United
Mark @ Alchemy United

Yup! :)

I think you might enjoy my blog post of a couple weeks ago:

http://www.alchemyunited.com/2010/08/13/yes-but-maybe-your-brand-just-kinda-sucks/

Finally, one twist though... Brands have not lost *all* control. In fact, the better brands welcome the paradigm shift. Why? What's their secret? It's because they don't just talk the talk, they walk it too.

For too long there were too many crappy companies that were able to make up for crap with marketing (and spin). Those days are gone, eh?

Pardon me if I just stated the obvious to the converted.

Mark @ Alchemy United
Mark @ Alchemy United

Yup! :)

I think you might enjoy my blog post of a couple weeks ago:

http://www.alchemyunited.com/2010/08/13/yes-but-maybe-your-brand-just-kinda-sucks/

Finally, one twist though... Brands have not lost *all* control. In fact, the better brands welcome the paradigm shift. Why? What's their secret? It's because they don't just talk the talk, they walk it too.

For too long there were too many crappy companies that were able to make up for crap with marketing (and spin). Those days are gone, eh?

Pardon me if I just stated the obvious to the converted.

Frank Strong
Frank Strong

It's a great post -- and paints a clearer picture on what has become a mantra of sorts in marketing: brands don't have control anymore.

Gini Dietrich
Gini Dietrich

It used to be that companies spent millions of dollars and many years building their brands because the only way people could get to the brand was through the messaging the company distributed.

Now everything is so accessible that branding occurs every day in the customer's eyes - no matter what your business does to make money.

Really smart post, Steve!

Erik Hare
Erik Hare

At some point, you just have to let go.

http://tinyurl.com/2eppw6u

Social media is a great way to get your message out, but it may not be relayed in just the way you want or expect. But you can still tell if you're doing a good job overall by what people say.

Steve McKee
Steve McKee

I think it bears repeating, Mark. Over and over. Don't just talk the talk, walk the walk. (In business as in life.)

Steve McKee
Steve McKee

Frank--you're right. I tend to believe that brands never really did have control, but today it's so much more readily apparent--and public. All the more reason to be authentic--as a brand and as an individual.

Steve McKee
Steve McKee

Thanks, Gini. Branding does occur every day, for good or for ill. Like the post on your Facebook page today about people who got busted for their tweets. Amazing times in which we live.

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