How Portable is Your Personal Brand?

Three reasons why your personal and professional business should not mix

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Entrepreneurs tend to wear multiple hats, typically running their business while also working a full-time job. In the digital world this leads to a very real dilemma of operating as a personal brand for yourself and being a corporate brand ambassador for someone else. With close to a billion brand stories being told online via Facebook, Twitter, and the other major social networks; how does a small business or the individual running the business standout and stay portable? Simple, you have to build your digital personal brand.

Let’s first define what a digital personal brand is. Your digital personal brand includes the online assets that comprise your digital persona, that includes your digital voice and the online interaction that you use to communicate the real you. As the lines between personal and professional continue to blur an individual has to manage their digital personal brand while working for someone else. At the end of the day you want to have the ability to take your online personal brand assets with you when you move on to a new company or transition to being a pure entrepreneur.

Why is that important? Well, the average worker changes careers approximately 5-7 times during their work life, so it’s not a matter of if but when you’re going to change careers or companies. The last thing any smart entrepreneur wants is to have his/her brand to get lost in the shuffle. That means it’s critical that you keep your personal brand portable. Here are a few tips for optimizing the portability of your personal brand:

  • Own Your Social Network URLs: Establish and maintain separate social network accounts with your personal brand. Your social network account URLs (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, etc.) should not be tied to the company that you work for as the only accounts you have or manage. When you leave a company to start your own business your accounts should travel with you, but this can only happen if you own the accounts. I recommend that you establish your profiles in the social networks you chose to be active in before you need them. Note: every social network provides users the option of customizing a vanity URL to align with their personal and/or business brands. A great tool to identify the availability of customized URLs is
  • Own Your Network: In social media we get enamored with numbers and we judge the value of a person’s social network by the number of follower or friends that they have. Who really owns the contacts in your social networks? The answer is simple; the social network, not you. If the contacts in your network are only housed in the database of the social network there is an inherent risk if your accounts get comprised or the terms of service change. How will you manage this risk? One way is to create a list from your social network contacts and download and import your contacts into a personal database that you own and manage. (Note: If you’re tweeting from company accounts legally you don’t own the contact list.) As you transition from employee to small business owner your online network will become more of an asset that has value in the real world to generate leads and get introductions to influencers or key decision makers.
  • Own Your Hub (Don’t Just Rent): Every person should have an online hub (dotcom) for his or her personal brand. The dotcom should be aligned with the business brand you own or your personal brand. Remember, social networks have tremendous value in helping us to spread our ideas. Since you don’t own this digital real estate you always want to take potential customers back to the digital real estate that you do own, which is your dotcom. This is personal branding 101.

Let me know how portable your personal brand is in the comments section, and be sure to check back next Wednesday for my next tech column. Until then, continue the conversation on my BE Insider page at or on Twitter @HajjFlemings.

  • Kiesha Speech

    I think I’ve done a good job of establishing a presence in social media, but I haven’t been as consistent with my brand as a I have supporting other brands (work, etc.) As an individual that works hard to establish connections and resources for the companies and organizations I am affiliated with, it’s important for me to remember to keep my brand “portable.” Great advice!

  • Akweli Parker

    Hajj, great article. My favorite point you made (that I need to get on top of) is own your network — back up those contacts once you’ve made them on social sharing sites. Networks do change their terms of service, they do kick businesses off for “violating” the terms (even if only inadvertantly), and they do sometimes shut down.

    Your point too about owning a dotcom hub is one that often goes overlooked in an age where social sites dominate. As Copyblogger founder Brian Clark puts it, “don’t be a digital sharecropper!”

    As for the question of the day … I keep my brand and my clients’ brands portable by constantly producing bylined articles, blog posts, ebooks, videos, etc. and seeding them in many places. Creating a perception of ubiquitous value is one of the top, time-honored ways to become an influencer in your field.

    Thanks again for the good tips.

    Akweli Parker

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  • gomee

    to all the women of color in technology. There’s plenty of us, but our media usually gives so much attention to the athletes, singers and actresses who deserve recognition, but it’s nice to see a balance. Thank you
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