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  • Personal Branding Interview: Clara Shih

    Today, I spoke with Clara Shih, who is the author of The Facebook Era and a Salesforce.com employee.  In this interview, she discusses what the Facebook era is, how she came to write the book, what social networks mean for personal branding, and more.

    What is the Facebook Era?

    The Facebook Era is the technology, business, and cultural transformation in people’s behavior, relationships, and expectations sweeping across the internet thanks to widespread adoption of social networking sites such as Facebook.

    The previous Internet Era was marked by the World Wide Web of information and the power of linking content. The Facebook Era is defined by the World Wide Web of people emerging across sites like Facebook and Twitter, and the power of trusted online identity and knowing who is connected to whom and how. The implications are vast, affecting nearly every aspect of our personal and professional lives.

    How did you come to write The Facebook Era, and what is your personal brand?

    Writing a book was serendipitous in my case. I am not a career author — I am a technologist and entrepreneur who decided to bring together the enterprise and social web. When Facebook launched its development platform in May 2007, I wondered why there were no business applications, so I built the first one. Faceconnector (originally called Faceforce) integrates Facebook profiles and friend information into Salesforce CRM. It was a simple idea, but helped kickstart the enterprise social movement.

    Soon, I found myself talking with organizations of all sizes and industries using my app. Their stories about how Facebook is transforming their businesses were fascinating. I wrote The Facebook Era to capture this history in the making and share best practices, insights, and a vision for the future of the Web with others.

    What do social networks like Facebook mean for personal branding?

    Social networks have become necessary and powerful for personal branding. Necessary because the default action now for learning about someone is looking them up on Facebook and Linkedin. Having no presence or worse yet an unprofessional one on those sites is a quick way to be written off.

    Social networks are powerful for personal branding for a few important reasons: trusted identity, social validation, and forum for broadcasting information.

    • Trusted identity: Social network profiles provide a trusted and widely agreed upon template for communicating your brand — for example, your photo, employer, school, interests, and hobbies. Before, putting this information on your website, email signature, or other communication seemed narcissistic. Now it’s socially acceptable to share this widely.
    • Social validation: Social networks provide opportunities for social validation, such as public recommendations on Linkedin and comments/wall posts on Facebook. Before, testimonials and communication between two individuals were largely private. Now, they are largely public.
    • Forum for broadcasting information: Social networks starting with Facebook created a distribution channel for broadcasting news and updates about individuals. To effectively establish a personal brand, you need reach.

    How should we think about social networking vis-a-vis traditional social media like blogs and wikis? Do the branding opportunities differ across Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, and other networks?

    The single most important difference between social networking and earlier social media is the emergence of personal online identity. Before social networks, social media was effectively interaction among strangers. With social network profiles, you can start to get to know the person behind the name. Seeing someone’s photo and interests makes the person seem real. Discovering mutual friends builds “transitive rapport” and trust. But Facebook doesn’t replace blogs, wikis, and other communities. It augments them with trusted identity and the social graph.

    The different social networks themselves espouse different branding. Having a profile on one or the other contributes to your brand. Facebook started out for college kids but has become mainstream, even expected. My friend Larry (half-) jokes that if he can’t find you on Facebook, you don’t exist to him. He has a crazy schedule as a medical resident and relies on Facebook to manage much of his life and relationships — so if you don’t have a presence there, he may forget you. Linkedin is for business professionals and more of a transactional versus engagement site. Twitter is the cool, new up-and-comer best for communicating with strangers whom you may not reciprocally follow. MySpace has largely been branded for musicians and entertainers.

    What do people need to watch out for on social networks?

    Privacy is an important one that requires careful planning. People need to think carefully about what they want to share with whom. It’s a good idea to take some time out and tier your contacts using Facebook friend lists so you can actively manage privacy settings for each group. At an extreme, there are even a rising number of cases of identity theft and other examples of malicious data mining. At some point, there is a tradeoff between privacy protection versus establishing and broadcasting your personal brand which requires ongoing attention and management.

    Clara Shih
    is the author of The Facebook Era.  She joined Salesforce.com in 2006 and is responsible for Social Networking Alliances & Product Strategy, including the company’s formal partnership with Facebook. Previously, she was the product line director of AppExchange, salesforce.com’s online business applications marketplace, for which she led the development of the Checkout payment services for partner applications.  Independently, Clara is the creator of Faceconnector, the first business application on Facebook. Faceconnector integrates Facebook profiles and friend data into Salesforce CRM. Clara is a frequently invited speaker on social media at global conferences including Web 2.0 Expo, Enterprise 2.0, Toronto TechWeek, and Social Ad Summit. Clara has held positions at Google and Microsoft, and holds degrees in computer science, economics, and internet studies from Stanford and Oxford, where she studied as a Marshall Scholar.  Follow her on Twitter @clarashih.


    Dan Schawbel is the Managing Partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting firm. He is the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success (St. Martin’s Press) and the #1 international bestselling book, Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future (Kaplan Publishing), which combined have been translated into 15 languages.

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    6 comments on “Personal Branding Interview: Clara Shih
    1. avatar
      gie says:

      personally, Facebook works for me and with my personal branding efforts. I try to reach out to singles communities all over the world and help them achieve their goals through personal branding. well, what do you know, I found lots of them over Facebook and I did start with my own group there. fortunately, It’s doing well and earning members everyday. I am so glad I decided to use Facebook!

    2. avatar

      Really like this article, but find that facebook is more a toy than a tool for branding or networking. Most of the people on facebook use it to keep in touch with old friends and get distracted from work via silly quizzes and games. I haven’t made any new business contacts via facebook but tons via linkedin and twitter. Maybe I’m just using it wrong but most of the popular applications and groups on facebook are on the silly side.

    3. avatar
      Clara Shih says:

      Adam, you make some great points. Facebook is still in the early days of being a ubiquitous social networking platform but already, we are seeing examples of individuals using it to connect and reconnect with the people, communities, and businesses they have come across and/or care about. Sometimes, these connections are beneficial for achieving business objectives such as strengthening customer relationships, sourcing leads, finding talent, etc.

      Some food for thought:
      – In our hyperconnected world, the lines are increasingly blurring between our personal and professional lives. Great sales reps become trusted advisors to customers with whom they often develop real and deep friendships. Social networking sites like Facebook and Linkedin can show us instantly how we are linked to a particular individual. It’s precisely the casual and at times “silly” nature of Facebook that gets people to let their guard down and be more likely to engage with people who reach out.
      – It’s always been about “who you know” and to the extent that Facebook and Linkedin are contact management tools that increase our capacity to “know” people we can use them to maximize the social capital of our relationships.
      – An important etiquette established by Facebook is that most people only accept or initiate with friend requests with people they have met online, which means that it is much more effective as an aid to rather than replacement for offline networking.

      Agreed that many of the apps are more oriented toward gaming and are therefore more applicable to brand advertising versus personal branding.

    4. avatar

      I guess the Facebook has definitely become one effective tool for personal branding. Being a Blogger myself, I have only lately realized how effective it is when it comes to getting your ideas across. At first I turned the entire idea down that of using Facebook for I thought it was a mere waste of time, but stepping into the Web fully, I know how important it is for me to have a Facebook presence (as well as that on other networks).

    5. avatar

      Good interview. Clara makes some excellent points about branding that are also borne out in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal which talked about creating an online presence for today’s job seekers and how they must expand the ways in which they search. While it may seem overwhelming and maybe unnecessary for an accomplished professional, setting up and maintaining an online presence has become a critical factor to finding a job.. The article mentions several key points for consideration. First, claim your name on social networking sites before someone else does. Also, purchase the domain for your name. Second, practice prudence. Limit yourself to three social networking sites and definitely include LinkedIn as one of them. Third, choose connections wisely. Your network should be about quality, not quantity. Fourth, be consistent. Update your profile regularly and stay true to your personal brand.

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