These are the best of times for personal branders; these are the worst of times for personal branders. Far from mere Dickensian wordplay, I believe this statement reflects a reality that old hands in the business will be quick to recognize and happy to give their assent to. Newcomers may soon find out the hard way.
A battle for the best of times
These are the best of times for personal branders: we’ve never had so much information, quality materials, new applications, accessible technologies, and successful personal branding models at our disposal worldwide in all major languages.
These are the worst of times for personal branders: since personal branding has become mainstream in advanced societies, there has never been a more fierce competition within the same niches and it has never been harder to make an impact in what was otherwise almost virgin territory.
Visionary Dan Schawbel made a solemn and wise statment way back in 2009 that has become one of the tenets of personal branding in our time: “Be the real you because everyone is taken and replicas don’t sell for as much“. Ever since, the rules of the game have changed due to the progressive digitization of Generation X and the new digital-ready, personal branding-loving Generation Y. We don’t just need to be true to ourselves, idiosyncratic and different and be present in the social media: we need to transmit it in a well- orchestrated, concerted, and determined attempt to differentiate in a rapidly-saturating online universe. ‘Differentiate or Die’ is the new battle-cry, and for powerful reasons.
The urgency to differentiate
The privileges of early-adopters are no longer with us, and due to the spread of the work of Dan and other trailblazers, there are more and more attractive and well-presented personal branders than ever in the social media and elsewhere. If creativity has always been at a premium, it has never been more urgently needed in personal branding than now. Circumstances are forcing us all to update and upgrade our online presence, improve the quality of our webpages, pictures, profiles, and visual elements and – crucially – stand out from the crowd in often novel, risky, and uncharted ways.
In an ideal world, quality and value should be able to prove themselves with little or no outside help. Ours is of course not an ideal world: even if you are a great professional, motivated by the right values, with a positive attitude, and even a successful and proven record, you are not likely to stand a chance unless you can carve a niche for yourself with your personal brand in a way that captures the attention and the imagination of your target audience… while remaining true to yourself and not becoming a fake as Dan forewarned in the first edition of his bestselling ‘Me 2.0‘.
As the rest of the online and offline universes, Personal Branding is going to mutate and evolve in the coming years. The emergence of some key factors such as online influence measuring and the profiling of ‘evangelists’ and ‘influencers’ have prompted me to propose an online success personal branding formula that I am glad to report is proving of help to personal branders building their communities at a faster pace than ever. Many of my betters are also making powerful contributions (as you will be aware of if you read this blog) in specific areas such as job-hunting, expertology, and beyond. But whatever the innovations we bring on for the benefit of hopefully as many people as possible, one thing remains clear:
the pressure and the urgency are to determine if these are indeed to become the best of times for your personal brand. So take an objective and dispassionate look at your competition and see how you can start differentiating and standing out now. Sooner than you think you’ll be glad you did.