Your Personal Brand, Social Media and Your Career – Can It Be Negative?

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If you have been following my Column for a while now, you will know that I am a strong advocate of building your personal brand because the strategic use of using social media to project your brand can have a tremendous impact in positioning you as a subject matter expert in your specialization and boost your credibility and reinforce your message.

Jonathan Maltby said, “In a highly competitive job market, your personal brand is the secret weapon to standing out. Building and communicating your professional identity and brand should be a key strategy for a successful career.” I also strongly agree with Jonathan.

But what if your employer does not totally agree with how you use social media or the activities you engage in to position your brand? What should you do? I have a few examples of this and will share Jonathan’s.

I remember the advent of GSM in Nigeria. One of the CEOs courted the press so strongly, that even though he did so well in positioning the brand, some people felt, the public knew more about him than they knew about the brand. I personally admired him, because in everything he did in my view, he personified the brand, and was a walking bill board for the brand. But some felt otherwise.

In this same company an Executive was always in the papers for a particular part of their area of coverage. Many people outside and within the organization started to question why this particular person was always in the papers for something they had oversight of and not something directly being done by them. Eventually, all of this appearance in the papers stopped and what we heard was that, higher ups within the organization did not like this visibility because they felt it was more about the person than the organization and the Executive was told to take a back seat and allow the person directly in charge, do the work.

As you know, I have been a strong advocate of pushing Executives and everybody in general to develop a personal brand because I realized how important it was when I stopped representing a global brand and had to represent myself and my brand.

However, I am beginning to think that those in paid employment, should study their organisation’s policies well and the body language as they engage in positioning themselves on social media especially. My observation is, some have completely forgotten that they work for another brand and in my view appear to be pushing their brand and never seem to push their employer’s brand.

In everything we do, we must apply wisdom. Recently, I started to notice that a particular Executive was spending a lot of time on social media and posting a lot to position their personal brand as well as attending many speaking events. I asked myself, “Why are they not also posting materials about their organization? Why are they not posting things about other people within their organization? Why was their activity on social media and elsewhere only about themselves?

You see, when you work within an organization, you must also push and position the brand as you push yours. This is because, you spend the company’s time most times to go on your speaking engagements and you may spend their time to push your social media activities. In my view, it should be a 50% company and what you do within the company, 30% your personal brand and 20% other interests. If it is 90% you alone, know you are headed in the wrong direction.

Jonathan’s “I was recently working with a client, helping him build his brand and get known as a key figure in his industry. His goal was to position himself as a subject matter expert on a topic he is really passionate about and skilled in — IT cloud-based technologies. So, together we developed a content strategy as he wanted to create informative articles on technologies, which he believes will be highly valuable to others in his industry.
For his first LinkedIn post, he simply shared the link to an existing article on the new features of a major cloud product. Nothing earth shattering, nothing controversial. Just a whole lotta tech speak.

So, what happened?
Senior management got pretty upset that he even engaged on social media. They told him not to post anything online until further notice, even though this is his own personal LinkedIn account and he is an expert in his field.
I mean, I can understand if they got angry if he was creating content that could damage the reputation of the organisation or if he was breaching confidentiality. However, this was not the case.
In addition to this, the organisation has a very vague and ambiguous social media policy, which seems to exist in a very grey area.
So, this got me thinking…

How much say should a company have when it comes to employees creating and posting content?
Do they have the right to forbid someone to use and contribute on a professional platform like LinkedIn?
How much control should an employer have over the private use of social media on professional issues that have no bearing on the business?
The jury is out on this questions in my view. However, if building your personal brand is part of your long-term strategy to enjoying a fulfilling career (and it really should be), and your employer takes issue with your social media interactions, then you have a couple of options to consider.

You could explain to them that genuine, professional social media interactions, especially LinkedIn engagements, can have massive benefits for the company and lead to better employer branding, greater visibility, and business development opportunities for the organisation. So, whilst, they don’t own your personal brand, they do benefit from it”. That is if you follow the 50%, 30%, 20% rule that I recommend.
Nonetheless, if they do not support your right to build and communicate your personal brand as a vehicle to attaining a successful career, then you may want to consider leaving this organization, in order not to be let go.