Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram – these are all platforms that most of us are familiar with. In fact, as of 2018, the average daily social media usage of internet users worldwide amounted to 136 minutes per day (Statista.com). With social media being so common, we hear a lot of people speaking about building a personal brand online. But what is the meaning of a personal brand? Is personal branding on social media something everyone should consider?
I wanted an expert’s point of view. Therefore, I had a chat with Cecilia Cassinger, a senior lecturer in strategic communication at Lund University with a PhD in business administration with a focus on marketing.
Q: So first of all, what is a personal brand?
– Tom Peter (1999) wrote a book on the topic in the end of the 90’s, where he argued that officials needed to differentiate themselves from others due to a more flexible labor market. According to Peter, a way to become more attractive for employers was to present personal skills and properties according to the same brand logic found within the field of business economics. Peter’s arguments are still current to this present day, since a lot of people work as freelancers within in the so called “gig economy”.
Q: Influencer is an example of a profession that might require a strong personal brand on social media – But do you think it’s just as important for everyone?
– I don’t think it is important for all people to develop a personal brand on social media. However, it’s important to be able to communicate with other people and to be part of different networks and communities online. Important to note is that this is not the same as marketing yourself as a brand. Originally, the aim with marketing strategies was to increase sales of mass-produced goods by giving them personalities and symbolic value. Bringing the same principles to our everyday life can contribute to us seeing ourselves and our relationships in business-like terms. That is problematic in many ways; above all we need time for reflection and do things for the sake of it and not needing people’s approval of it.
Q: What kind of advantages/disadvantages do you think are connected to having a strong personal brand online?
– In online culture, visibility is rewarded. The question is however, how are we affected by being offered and consumed as a branded product? The problem is that personal brands are often based on stereotypes rather than being based on an individual’s more complex self. Instead of increasing the individual’s own power to define oneself, there is a risk of being defined by a demanding audience and being forced to deliver to their expectations.
Q: If one were to try and create a personal brand on social media, is there any special “dos and don’ts” to have in mind?
– There are higher expectations for individuals with a personal brand to constantly live and act in line with existing ideals and principles. It’s pretty difficult to have a balance between being inspirational and to influence, while also doing commercials for products and services. So in order to be credible, a public personal brand needs to coincide with one’s true self.