Home > Building PEOPLE Relationships, Sales and Marketing in 2010 > Personal Branding – Real or Fake?

Personal Branding – Real or Fake?


When I first watched Gary Vaynerchuk video on TED, I thought to myself, “hell yea – there’s a guy that keeps it real”.

Since that time, I have studied many of the ‘personal brand’ gurus, most of whom you know: Dan Schawbel, Mashable, Chris Brogan, and then another 30 or 40 you probably don’t.

The 3 above, I’m impressed with – they are clearly marketers, learners, and connectors; but with many people now, I’ve thought to myself, “Seriously? There is no way you really believe and act on that”.

So I’ve started to question whether the ‘personal brand trend’ is people being real or people cashing in on being something they think others WANT them to be; in a sense, people have become actors. Many of these individuals promote themselves, but I want to look at them and ask for the “old fashioned” resume. This is business. I’m glad you can sell yourself; you’re obviously creative, you know about social media, connecting, and can certainly be a good ‘sales person’….but what else have you done? How many billions in revenue have you brought to a company? How many people have you managed? Moreso, does it take a business minded person to excel in the social media world and vice versa – because someone excels in social media, does this mean they’ll excel at business? Or does it just take a lot of hard work? connecting? content development?

My number one question is; how do you know what these people are saying is ‘real’?

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  1. April 6, 2010 at 6:03 pm

    How do you know what anyone is saying is real? I’m just saying that we all have to look at the advice out there and take it or leave it. The original idea of social media and blogging is to show our individuality. Some people want to display their knowledge or intelligence. Othere are looking for kindred spirits. Branding should be about the individual and, in and of itself, does not land someone a job 99.99% of the time. It could interest an employer and start a dialog, but legal requirements have made the application and interview a staple of the process, too. That being said – sloppy, foul, or immature content can create a negative brand. The world is a massive community, but none of them want a publicly disrespectful and embarrassing employee. Businesses want to know you are a professional, you are not a problem, you won’t cause problems and you’ll solve all of their problems. That’s what I have for you on branding.

    • April 6, 2010 at 6:34 pm

      TY for the comment. I like, “The original idea of social media and blogging is to show our individuality”. I believe what I’m ‘attempting’ to say is that nothing out there (myself included) seems very individualized. To respond to your question, “How do you know what anyone is saying is real?” – we don’t. However, by reviewing resumes, calling references, etc. (at least in a sales environment), we can get “numbers” – which is at least something quantitative and a ‘track record’ of success. Then again – people can lie on their resumes, so…to your point ( ;

      • April 7, 2010 at 10:03 am

        Tried to leave a comment on your blog Marti, but got an error. Just an FYI

  2. April 6, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    Hey Jamie,

    There’s really no had and fast rule here, let common sense prevail. Have a look at this article on my blog for more information… http://wp.me/pFm5z-2D

  3. April 6, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    looking at the group of experts:
    -Gary Vaynerchuk -Dan Schawbel -Chris Brogan
    They all of varying degrees of experience in the field of personal branding and social media:

    Gary figured things out on his own and then shared what he learned and bills himself as such (very authentically I might add). He is intriguing because the fame he earned learning how to brand himself. Still relatively little experience in the field formally. He
    Chris Brogan has been blogging and learning about internet marketing and social media for years (since 98). He has earned a following and proven over time he knows what he is doing. 12 years online.

    Then there is Dan, his book is on my to do list of books to read, but from what I have read on his blog and seen of his presentations on YouTube, he is an up and comer. He has been online since 2006. He is focused and drinks his own cool aid. What he teaches and shares online he did for himself first. So that give him an air of credibility if you ask me. But like I said earlier, he needs to mature a bit and maybe write another book.

    What makes any of these guys experts, and I do include Dan as an expert, is… you and I. There is no PHD in social media, internet marketing, or even personal branding. We are living in a new world order of technology (Twitter did not exist since 2006, and did not become force to be reckoned with until 2009). So who is really an expert in an emerging science?!?! The people who we think are experts. We follow who other people follow. All these guys are experts because we give them the social proof (RSS Subscribers, book sales, retweets).

    So now let’s talk about snake oil sales people. The guys mentioned above, are on one end of the spectrum and because we are talking about an emerging science we have a lot of people who are on varying degrees of credibility on the other. Some people are faking it until they make, like Dan did a few years back, and others are just faking it trying to make a fast buck.

    What you say in your blog post:

    So I’ve started to question whether the ‘personal brand trend’ is people being real or people cashing in on being something they think others WANT them to be; in a sense, people have become actors. Many of these individuals promote themselves, but I want to look at them and ask for the “old fashioned” resume.

    Personal branding to a degree is about you deciding “who” and “what” you are, is presented in a way that is in alignment with “who you want to be”. Some people will always not be honest with themselves let alone others and stretch to the point of being disingenuous (opposite of authentic in my vocabulary). The people trying to teach others (the gurus) to use the tools of “personal branding” will also fall in to this same spectrum.

    I personally am jumping on the guru band wagon with this very subject. “Personal Branding” (Online reputation management is another phrase for it) using Social-Media is the focal point of my blog. I plan on taking the next year or two, earning my chops online, then publish a book on the subject. If all goes well, I will have in the same time period made a few presentations at various venues (schools, businesses, whoever will listen to me)to build more and more street cred… that I know what I am talking about. Then in about 24 months, I hope to get on the speaking circuit and do consulting around the topic of “Personal Branding”. I hope to focus in the years to come working on the most traditional use of the personal brand, “the politician”. I aspire to be a consultant working for political campaigns managing the social media aspects of one.

    I invite you Jamie, to judge me in a year or so to see where I end up on the spectrum of credibility in this field.

    • April 6, 2010 at 8:40 pm

      As with all of your writing(s), well thought out and appreciated. While I’m not one to “judge”, I was interested in the response to the question I put out there as I am vacillating between loving the ‘reputation management’ / ‘personal branding’ and hating it. As a “marketer”, it’s both fun and intriguing; I think it allows creativity, etc. What I don’t like about it is the ‘pre-supposed’ authenticity. As http://peopleplatformhr.blogspot.com/ pointed out below – how do we know what is real?

      That being said; you answered the question in my mind with your statement, “What makes any of these guys experts, and I do include Dan as an expert, is… you and I.”

      A couple other quick notes; you actually can take DBAs now with specializations in social media, internet marketing, etc. if you are interested for yourself – I’m happy to shoot you some info (I’m in the higher ed industry). That being said, I’m a firm believer in learning by doing and experience over degrees….especially in this field. The only thing I’ve seen that looks interesting are a couple of the executive certification programs at Harvard and Wharton. Again, if you’re interested, let me know – will shoot you over a link.

  4. Zak
    April 6, 2010 at 9:10 pm

    Jamie,

    I know what you mean–that feeling of wanting an old fashioned resume. Lots of college kids telling me how to network just seems like a bunch on online carpetbaggers.

    -Zak

  5. Mehul Kar
    April 6, 2010 at 10:06 pm

    Great question.
    As with any train, there’s people that are willing to jump on board for no reason other than the fact that the train is there and it’s going fast.

    I think personal branding can be valuable to anyone, even if they haven’t actually done anything yet. If they can sell themselves, good for them. But again, personal branding is just the beginning. It’s like a promise. That you’re good for this much, but it doesn’t mean that you can stop there. That’s where you have to start.

    • April 7, 2010 at 7:12 am

      I think you hit the nail on the head with this statement, “personal branding is just the beginning. It’s like a promise. That you’re good for this much, but it doesn’t mean that you can stop there. That’s where you have to start.”

      Also – I’ve been reading your blog and love it, just need some time to sit down and comment later today. Great writing / ideas.

      • August 14, 2010 at 8:52 pm

        Thanks. I’ve been out of blogging for a while, but will be getting back into it in the next few weeks for sure! 🙂

  6. Patrick John OMahony, SR
    April 6, 2010 at 11:44 pm

    Jamie Nacht Farrell

    Jamie, Again a great post and a great question.

    01. However, I am a little lost.

    I originally saw your post on
    Brazen Careerist (http://www.brazencareerist.com/network/personal-branding
    and now I find your blog on…
    Wordpress (https://bizrelationships.wordpress.com/2010/04/06/personal-branding-real-or-fake/#comments)

    My point is that it appears that: not all the comments have transferred back and forth. Some of your readers may be missing some of the comments other people have made.

    Is there any way to make sure that all the comments are shown on both sites? Do you have a third or forth site?

    02. You wrote:
    ” Since that time,
    I have studied many of the
    ‘personal brand’ gurus,
    most of whom you know…
    and then another 30 or 40 you probably don’t. ”

    02A. I hope you are looking at Christopher S. Penn.

    02AA. OK, I give up.

    Who are the 30 or 40 other writers?

    02B. Do you see what I see?

    You have the basis for a great writing experience and great exposure.

    Carry your question just a little further.

    Ask people (Brazen Careerist readers) who they consider to be the top 5 ” ‘personal brand’ gurus”.

    Ask the readers for suggestions on whom to follow.

    After you get a good list, you could publish the top 50 names (by alpha).

    You might also ask, what the readers “take-away” was from each writer and why?

    This is a great chance for you.

    You can become “associated” with the concept of “of the ‘personal brand’ gurus” without you – yourself being a fake or a flake.

    This is the time to think large, not small.

    This is just some ideas for thought.

    Pat Sr.

    • April 7, 2010 at 6:53 am

      Love all the feedback and thank you. In response:

      01. I posted the link on Brazeen as well as the question; hence people are responding both ways. I need to copy and paste the responses from 1 to the other or ask Ryan (or anyone who is reading this) what suggestions they have, if any, about the most efficient / best way to do this?

      02AA. As I am not ‘well versed’ in this arena, I did not want to put down names of people who may / may not be doing a good job. I know the idea of a blog is to get your thoughts out there and get responses, however I also don’t see a reason for “Bad PR” coming from someone who has little or no experience in this arena (hence, the line of questioning). I’ve been fast tracked to executive roles b/c 1) I know what I dont know 2) I love to learn. Before I start making declaritive statements about people specifically, I believe I need to become a bit more immersed and educated in the space.

      02B. Love the advice. I was planning to do something similar based on people’s responses (was going to ask different generations), but I will definitely incorporate both. People like you are the reason I’m learning.

      Pat Sr.

  7. April 7, 2010 at 8:43 pm

    Interesting questions and I love the comments people are making. I think that Paul makes great points about how people become experts. They ask a lot of questions, seek to fill the gaps in their own knowledge, connect and converse with people with similar interests, and most importantly, share what they know with people who want to know it. The most credible experts in my mind are those who seek to build up the communal base of knowledge out there in the world by evangelizing in ways that not only share current knowledge, but who keep asking compelling questions like “what’s next?” and “where will this knowledge lead us?” They encourage others to build up our communal knowledge and to keep sharing it BEFORE they try to find a way to cash in on it. Their reputation is built on the strengths that become evident through the conversations. So these are the criteria I’d first consider in evaluating someone’s status as an expert.

    • April 8, 2010 at 11:51 pm

      This thought leads me to the next question…what are these individuals an expert on?

  8. David
    April 8, 2010 at 11:47 pm

    I don’t trust any of these self-made under 30 types who are giving motivational speeches about how you can achieve your dreams. The reason: Nobody dreams of being a motivational speaker. The true masters of the universe aren’t hosting internet seminars, they’re on their yacht.

  9. April 28, 2010 at 3:47 am

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  10. December 8, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    There is visibly a bunch to know about this. I think you made certain nice points in features also.

  1. April 7, 2010 at 10:26 pm
  2. August 12, 2010 at 9:59 am
  3. December 9, 2010 at 7:35 am

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