I have two friends (let’s say their names are Simon and Garfunkel) who have completely different views towards personal branding.
Simon truly despises personal branding.
“It’s bullshit. The only thing that matters is the quality of your work,” said Simon.
Garfunkel spends a great deal of time revamping his Instagram feed and bio.
“How can people believe that you can do great works if you can’t even do something as simple as getting hundreds of likes?” said Garfunkel.
Both friends work in the field of marketing and branding. And both often criticize the way the other one works.
“You know, man, you’ve got potential. Show it to the world! Get press coverages!” Garfunkel always says these things to Simon.
Simon will jokingly reply with things like, “And before you ask me to do that, you’d better fix your obnoxious typography”.
Their casual quarrel over a simple point-of-view’s difference makes me sick all the time. But their arguments always trigger me to rethink about this question: “Does personal branding matter?”
What is Personal Branding?
I did a lazy Google search and found this definition from Wikipedia: Personal branding is the practice of people marketing themselves and their careers as brands.
Personal branding, then, is not so different with branding in general. It’s a series of efforts people do to be perceived as how they want to be perceived, remembered as how they want to be remembered. Now, the simplest way to do personal branding is by association.
I will use myself as an example. I won’t deny that I do care about how people perceive me, although I won’t put a series of efforts to the extent that it becomes my number one priority. But I sometimes do things like posting pictures of books I read on Instagram and updates the movies I’ve watched on Path so people know that I’m–more or less-“cultured”.
But then, what was my objective? Did I only aim for people’s perception? In my case, yes. I don’t think right now I have a need to look for a job, or be asked to do some projects. I simply want to be perceived as someone cultured by making associations with cultural products such as books and movies.
The case is different for my two friends. As people working in the field of branding and marketing, they have one big objective: to get clients. And so, if they decide to do personal branding, they will need to go to far greater lengths.
Personal Branding is More Than Just Social Media
Simon doesn’t believe in personal branding, Garfunkel does. And yet, the two of them run a good business in branding and marketing. Both of them never stops getting clients.
You might have recognized the flaw in the story I told you before: Simon and Garfunkel argue with an assumption that personal branding is all about social media and press, while the fact is, it is not.
If Simon doesn’t believe in personal branding, but he still can get good clients and run his business, then what does he do? Is it merely about the quality of work like what he always believes? But how did people know about the quality of his work firsthand?
The answers: relationship and connection.
Simon might not have thousands of followers on Instagram, but he does spend many times grabbing coffee with people who can connect him with potential clients. He leverages his connection.
The quality of his work determines his clients’ satisfaction. And because he does pay great attention to quality, each of his clients is satisfied. One client then will introduce him to the next client. It’s a never-ending cycle.
By the time Simon had enough clients in a particular community, he was then known as someone who is good at what he does.
So, can you say that what Simon does is not personal branding? Of course, it is. What makes it not seem like a personal branding effort, is because Simon focuses on building relationships and leverages connection. It may not seem like he has audiences, but he has a circle of people who continuously promote his work.
Now, what about Garfunkel?
The Effort Doesn’t Stop at Getting Known
One look at Garfunkel’s Instagram account and people would agree this guy is popular. He might not be an Instagram celebrity but you would be tempted to scroll through his feed.
He gets most of his clients from social media. He actively posts his work-in-progress pictures. He tags his clients’ Instagram account on the finished works’ pictures. His clients give credits to him on their photos caption.
Garfunkel clearly does a good effort in showing his works to the world. But what he (and also Simon) might not realize, is that they both actually pay attention to the same thing.
Would Garfunkel’s beautiful Instagram feed help him if his works have bad quality? Would his thousands of followers save his life once a client is dissatisfied? Of course not. Because at the end, personal branding is not just about getting known–it is about getting remembered.
And as a marketer, Garfunkel wouldn’t want to be remembered merely as a creative guy, but as a creative guy that has created great works for hundreds of clients. His Instagram feed is just a way to open doors. The rest of the story lies in his ability to make great works and build relationships just like Simon does.
So yes, personal branding matters, but the real output is personal reputation.
My two friends, Simon and Garfunkel are actually not that different. They both are creative people who do great works. They simply have different ways to get themselves known.
But what matters is, their personal branding efforts work (although Simon might not want to admit what he does as a part of personal branding), proven by their great personal reputation.
Here’s one easy-to-digest key takeaway: your personal branding is proven to work, not when you have a beautiful Instagram feed and thousands of followers, but when someone actually refers you to another person saying, “I knew just the right guy for this. This is his number”.
Disclaimer: These two friends are not real. I just made them up so I can deliver the stories easier. By the way, Simon and Garfunkel’s songs will make you feel good on rainy nights.
Raisa is Community Manager at Bukapintu, a career network for Indonesian students and fresh graduates. She believes that storytelling and pop culture are powerful tools to change the world. Raisa is always on board for any cause that encourages people to find their life purpose earlier.