I was horribly late thanks to the rain. The event "How to find a job, and brand yourself, and your business on Linkedin" had kicked off sharp at 8.30am and was well underway by the time I squelched in with my wet shoes at 9-ish.
There were potentially at least 3 great reasons for me to have attended this;
1. Check out what latest wisdom was being imparted about LinkedIn and "branding"
2. Check out the first (in my view) seminar on Business branding on LInkedIn
3. Network with attendees.
In the end, it wasn't any one of these reasons that really mattered.
Surprisingly, instead of jobseekers, there were mostly business reps attending this. They were struggling to understand what to do with, and how to leverage LinkedIn. Bingo.
Of the 20+ attendees, 3 didn't even have the LI app. Nobody thought of connecting with each other until I suggested turning on the "Find Nearby" function on the app. Then the 3 who didn't have the app started having major FOMO and downloaded it immediately. (Well played, Vimal...)
But here was the money game: there were more than a few questions around personal vs business branding. And to be honest, the seminar lead wasn't making it any clearer by repeating that LinkedIn had company pages that you could use...
Here's the thing to realise: You are far, far more than the business you are in (even as an employee). And your business (or employer) is more than simply its products or services. Sure, it's understandable if you're constrained in a sensitive industry and part of a regulated corporate that bans any form of social media use. (More on this in another post sometime).
But the reality - especially for entrepreneurs and loads of other businesses - is that YOUR personality has a unique power of its own in bringing to life your brand and what you do. Let's examine this through what happened that morning:
At the event, Rodney (name changed) expressed his wish to understand what he should be doing and "who" exactly he should be on social media. He was confused because he ran 2 businesses: one was around sustainability and ethical sourcing, and the other was manufacturing consumer products.
Should he be posting as Company 1, 2 or Rodney? Should he be posting through the company pages, or on his own account? What should he be posting about? How does he reconcile the very wide and different topics/content between sourcing and manufacturing?
Here was my (post-seminar) advice to him:
I saw in the 5 minutes that he spoke, that he seemed truly passionate about what he did. I also saw him as remarkably affable, transparent, and committed to change. None of this - passion, charisma, transparency and commitment to change - had anything whatsoever to do with his tactical questions around "branding" (personal or corporate).
But these were precisely his superpowers that drove him to run his 2 businesses. These were precisely the things that needed to come out on social media about himself, in relation to what his Company 1 & 2 were doing.
The question therefore wasn't so much about the tactics relating to his posts (company vs personal, what topics, when, how etc.).
Rodney's power was in his WHY.
His WHY made him WHO he was. His customers and partners didn't just do business with his companies. They did business with HIM. I suggested that Rodney the Ethical sourcer(er) - pun fully intended! - and Rodney the Magic manufacturer, are one and the same, and that *this* was who he needed to be on social media. His customers and partners would have a new basis for the respect and liking they had for him already, because he was no longer just a "business" but a real person, like them.
In fact, his WHY was so powerful (and coincidentally on-trend as we get to the end of this decade) that it almost doesn't matter anymore WHAT Rodney does as a business. His core values around ethics, sustainability etc. could allow him to be in almost any business tomorrow. He would still very much be "himself".
This is the power of your personality on social media.
Very few people engage with corporate brands and the PR or broadcasts they do anyway (even on LinkedIn). When was the last time you did it? In fact, how do you really "engage" with a brand anyway? But lots of people engage with other people. Because engagement is about conversations, reactions, and feelings. It's a human-to-human exchange and interaction.
It was lovely to see the look of utter relief on Rodney's face when I cleared this up for him. Methinks he's not going to be hiring anyone for marketing so soon.
And more importantly (for me), he's buying the coffee this Wednesday morning...