Who are you?

As we transition into social business structures, individual identity will emerge as a business asset. Valuation of these assets will depend on both internal and external measures. Why? Because identity functions as a primary key to organizing the data affiliated with individuals and organizations expanding their thinking into broader ecosystems must recalibrate how employee worth is calculated.

I’m not a fan of the term “personal branding” because to me the phrase implies intent to craft an image that one might want, not necessarily what one may be. As we emerge from the early phase hype cycle in social media and its “rockstars,” “gurus,” and “experts,” I’m hopeful that we are in the last days of sanctioned personal narcissism posing in the guise of building corporate brands.

But moving forward, we will need metafilters and measurement to manage identity at individual and corporate levels.

Consider your digital persona:

Are you represented by a carefully crafted digital presence?

Or are you the sum of who other people say you are?

Or even perhaps a case of mistaken identity? (i.e. what if you name is as common as “Peter Kim”?)

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  1. Peter
    I think “crafting your digital presence” is an excellent way of expressing the point.
    I think this concept extends to brands and corporations in a very relevant way as well. I believe is takes reputation management into the new reality of proactive “presence management”. Great post!

  2. I really like the idea of an external identity as a discriminator for hiring managers because it’s harder to fake. Imagine job references who are connections, or even connections to connections and how that changes the interview process. I think that gets to your point about personal branding.

    I also really like the idea of individual identity in organizations. When HR talks about cultural fit in the future, will they be referring to a culture of individuals? And will that mean something different then? (Minus the negative connotations the phrase has today…)

  3. Hi Peter,
    I hope that our paths cross again at BWE or E 2.0. We briefly chatted in Boston, but it was too short!

    This topic is something that I think about most every day.
    I know who I am and I have a vision for what I think my role should be. I have the good fortune to be exploring that in real time now… which is really exciting.
    What I find interesting is the evolution of how that is expressed in the workplace. Are people able to exert change in their jobs? Does the culture allow that? What is the employee’s worth and is that appreciated? (And I’m talking about their potential to build brand and represent the company publicly.) I’ll be exploring this at my workshop at E 2.0 in Nov.

    To answer your questions:
    Are you represented by a carefully crafted digital presence?
    Or are you the sum of who other people say you are?
    Or even perhaps a case of mistaken identity? (common name)

    My digital presence has evolved. As with anything change is necessary (otherwise my writing and thinking would get stale = boring!) Also, I push myself to grow and learn. (But I have been careful to be consistent with my branding).
    I am the sum of who I am, what I’m striving to be, and what others perceive me to be.
    No identity issues really. There are 3 ‘Connie’s’ and we are all unique. I think that if you make yourself outstanding, then people will remember that. Granted it probably makes social media monitoring a pain in the butt for you!

    Thanks for inspiring a blog post. I’ll get writing!
    Director of Community Strategy
    Techrigy / Alterian

  4. a couple of thoughts:

    1. personal brand – i think this is a necessary term these days. while i see your point on how it can be negatively perceived, there has to be an initial “crafting” that takes place before the social graph can start “defining” your brand for you. you need to put content out there — blogs, tweets, posts, work product, conference slides, etc — and then let the discussions flow. you have to put yourself out there first and alert the world to your presence. there is so much noise out there (snake oil, etc.) in all disciplines that simply existing without a bit of initial self-promotion will likely not lead to a broader definition of who you are by your networks.

    2. corporate culture – i work at a dot com (a startup!), not an entrenched, monolithic, 100yr old mega-corporation and even here, it’s very tough to establish a digital identity within and outside the company. there really is no corporate support or appetite for it. it’s not something that’s asked for or valued in candidates (yet) though, for my team, i’m always impressed if someone has a well curated blog/digital brand. if these challenges exist at companies like mine (age, scale, industry), i can’t see anything beyond superficial acknowledgment of these values at the bigger corps (“y’all got MySpace?” 🙂


  5. I too like the idea from a hiring perspective – not that I’m in HR, but it makes sense! It’s much harder to fake you’re expertise over the long haul, if you’re openly blogging for example. On the flip side, it’s much easier to sound highly qualified on a resume. To use the blogging example again, writing well is a such a massive differentiator in business and I think it readily reveals whether or not someone is actually analytical, intellectually curious, an “expert” – characteristics that might come across on a resume.

  6. I’m not opposed to the idea of personal branding, but I do like digital persona. I found creating my social web profiles to be an existential experience. It prompted me to ask (honestly): Who do I know myself to be? Who do others know me to be? It got me very grounded in my sense of self and what I wanted to post for the world to see.

    Thanks for calling out the narcissists! The social web offers a true grace – the opportunity to BE true, without hiding, or hiding behind various constructs and personae. Used thoughtfully, it could actually prompt us to live into our better, higher selves.

  7. “I’m not a fan of the term “personal branding” because to me the phrase implies intent to craft an image that one might want, not necessarily what one may be.”

    I do not subscribe to your suggested definition of personal branding.

    The process of getting in touch with who I am after leaving the corporate world of 28 years (in early 2007) was experienced as a liberating exercise. The personal branding process, i.e. “naming it and claiming it” was invigorating.

    It seems that whether one “personally brands”, “digitally crafts” or “presence manages”, the underlying motive is the key. Am I being me or who you want me to be?

  8. Is there a difference between:
    – the person you want others to see you as, vs.
    – the person you actually are?

    We could use the insight of my colleague Kate Niederhoffer here…

  9. In a perfect setting, those two should be equal in my opinion. The only variable that creates a difference is time, since my digital persona is continuously evolving, interests shifting but vision (should be) clear.

    In the end, those 2 perspectives should be equal, but in reality, taking on so many roles, they almost never meet without explanation (a direct chat or carefully lined out visionary blogpost)

  10. Disclosure: I’m an over-caffeineated, relative newbie. Geeked out when Peter Kim responded to me. Hit reply key instead of forward to friend. Oh, well. Any fear/hope of narcissism has evaporated. I’m still tickled that I got in this conversation.

  11. Peter,

    Can you say more on why you feel personal brand implies an intent to (deceive) any more than a company crafting its brand does? While there’s plenty of social media sophistry, I believe that the power of “personal brand,” as a concept, is the awareness it brings to what we communicate and how we’re perceived.

  12. But there really isn’t such a thing as a single identity. Everyone has multiple aspects of self that they present in different context. How to capture that context and express it appropriately and accurately for one aspect of a person say their “business persona”?

    To people that worked on a successful project with me – I am the best manager ever. To someone that I turned in for fraud, I am a loose cannon and not a team player for refusing the break the law.

    Also people evolve… an old profile might not be an accurate representation. Much like a drunken college photo on facebook 🙂

    I think for businesses it will be an interesting dance much like personality tests where you profile but do not limit or stereotype but instead focus on coaching and growth. Of course there are always businesses that do it poorly… and I’m sure lawsuits will arise as well as laws…

    and just to be difficult… on the social networks all you get are “friends.” On Amazon, I read the positive and the negative reviews. I’d like to see some tools the figure out your “enemies” (people that should be friended and yet aren’t) to find the negative reviews. 🙂

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