Personal Branding: More Than Just Marketing Yourself, It’s About Community Pumpkinfest Pumpkinfest (Photo credit: leesean)

Holy crud! I’ve just realized that “teacher-preneur” is not just about learning to help others succeed but about building communities which make success possible. It’s about building a “community of opportunity” with the motto “Give without expecting anything in return, and return will come when you least expect it.” At least that is what I want to present to one of the Meet Up groups of which I am a member as well as developing online through social media.

Personal branding can come as a sort of personal epiphany. As we grow through new ventures, new challenges and new risks, elements of our lives that were once oriented in a certain way suddenly form a new nexus that changes us forever.Kevin McCarthy, author of The On Purpose Business Person and Fit 4 Leading, says that a personal brand is an expression of our purpose which itself is the alignment of our values, vision and mission. Thus, in its most authentic form, a personal brand is actually an extension of our spiritual life in its broadest sense. The preceding statement may sound odd but let me explain. A personal brand has two connections. Internally, it is deeply rooted in our value system. A personal brand my engender a commitment to both excellence and integrity in our chosen field not just because the market expects such things but because we are deeply committed to these virtues. The other connection is to the community in which we provide something of value. A personal brand defines the nature of our relationship with that community and is fulfilled only in our relationship with that community. It is this sense in which I speak of a spiritual dimension to personal branding. When our vision, values or mission changes so does our purpose and so does our relationship to our community. If these changes occur suddenly with a dramatic shift in the way we perceive ourselves and our purpose an epiphany occurs and a new brand is born.

So what’s up with all the philosophical yadda yadda? In practical terms doesn’t this all boil down to how best to get exposure for an honest expression of yourself via social media? Yes and no. True that social media is the vehicle by which we connect to community since much of what we now know as community is an online phenomena. But identity doesn’t exist in a vacuum. As much as we are shaped by our culture, family and community so is our personal brand. To express a personal brand online is to be part of an online community which we once normally thought of as a “niche.” But a niche is no longer just a specialized, narrow market. A niche is now more of a role within an economic ecosystem which Rachel Botsman refers to as “collaborative consumption.” Instead of a niche being a small portion of a market dominated by large producers, a niche is more akin to a biological niche where you find balance and a place within a community where wants and needs are fulfilled through a multitude of the online equivalent of face to face exchanges. In her book, What’s Mine is Yours, Botsman puts it this way:

There is now an unbounded marketplace for efficient peer-to-peer exchanges between producer and consumer, seller and buyer, lender and borrower, and neighbor and neighbor. Online exchanges mimic the close ties once formed through face-to-face exchanges in villages, but on a much larger and unconfined scale. In other words, technology is reinventing old forms of trust. Chesky, predicts, “The status quo is being replaced by a movement. Peer-to-peer is going to become the default way people exchange things, whether it is space, stuff, skills, or services…”

Of course, as long as there are large corporations, those who wish to be part of those corporations must figure out how their personal brands fit in with the purposes of those entities. If your brand doesn’t fit within the corporate community to which you aspire, you don’t get hired. But in the growing universe of micro-preneurs in a world of collaborative consumption, a personal brand can become a niche in numerous overlapping communities where your economic survival is insured by your place in an interlocking ecosystem of mutual benefit rather than your utility to a corporation for a specific need.

As my own personal brand develops and solidifies I am finding my place within a global community of collaborative consumption. Although the meaning of all this is still developing in my thinking, a personal brand is more than how we market ourselves to others. Our personal brand is our unique way of interacting within a system of economic value. Anchored in our individual value systems our personal brands are part of dynamic communities and are therefore dynamic themselves. Consequently, I have a feeling that in the rapidly evolving economic ecosystems of this new century, there will be many personal brand epiphanies. So what is your personal brand and where is its niche? Have you had an epiphany?


2 Comments on “Personal Branding: More Than Just Marketing Yourself, It’s About Community”

  1. Purnimodo November 1, 2012 at 10:05 AM #

    Since I can remember I had the desire to create. (not allowed to go to art school so the next best thing was Entrepreneurship for Developing Area’s) Economics to me is a form of art (the accounting part being a rather ugly form but still) in a sense all that we see around us is art. I’m not sure where I’ll end up but I do hope to find beauty by setting up my own SME one day. First I think I have to find out what my personal brand is and make the ideas I have less abstract, Thanks for this post!

  2. Robert-preneur November 2, 2012 at 12:45 AM #

    I think people like you have the ability to find and create beauty everywhere because you have eyes to see it. The beauty is a reflection of your own heart. I hope you get to art school some day. Put it on your bucket list! Would like to hear about your work creating local business in developing areas. As an economics teacher I find that interesting as well as generous.
    Warmth and Peace

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