Perez for President

Hard work pays off. Just look at celebrity blogger, Perez Hilton. Named by Forbes Magazine as the #1 Web Celeb for 2007, 2008 and 2009, Hilton is one of the most relevant examples of how social media, if used for what it’s worth, fosters effective personal branding. Hilton’s social media use has generated enough exposure for himself that he not only does he have a full time job, but he is also frequently presented with several other job opportunities as well.

Hilton’s claim to fame comes from his bold, scandalous Hollywood gossip blog. His vibrant personality paired with his outspoken nature has created a following, a community, around himself and his work. His apparent success has networks like Oxygen and E! calling to offer positions such as reality show host and fashion commentator. Perez is being paid to just be him, the goal of any self-brander.

Like any smart social media guru, Hilton recognizes the many communities in which he thrives. Last fall, devastating news rocked the gay community after the world learned of consecutive gay teen suicides that were prompted by peer bullying. Hilton, a homosexual himself, chose to stand at the forefront. The celeb blogger, emotionally moved by the tragic events, vowed to stop bullying himself. The vow was attention grabbing amongst the blogging community for Hilton’s trademark was his cutthroat analyzing. The change of attitude did not slow Hilton down in his devotion to the cause online.

Using his resources as a popular blogger, he has helped promote the campaign, “It Gets Better.” The campaign is a viral effort to help raise awareness and help stop suicide among homosexual teens. Hilton’s role in the campaign not only displays his values, but it also reveals a multidimensional layer to the blogger. This level of personality helps audiences emotionally connect better with the brand (in this case, the brand being Hilton). It is the idea of connectedness. It is through this connection that Hilton is able to engage his audience in order to distribute information and provoke organic arousal of the subject. More specifically, it could be in the form of a retweet on Twitter or a shared video on Facebook.

Video plays a huge role in the success of this campaign. The emotional appeal granted by the combined elements of sound and sight truly triggers a sense of obligation within the viewer. This ripple effect, facilitated by YouTube, had famous figures such as President Barack Obama, Anne Hathaway, Ellen DeGeneres and the staffs of Google and Facebook (just to name a few) making their own videos to support the cause. The response is extraordinary and the exposure of the cause is phenomenal. Before the birth of YouTube, would this even have been possible?

Hilton is the perfect example of a self-branded professional in the 21st century. It is undeniable to admit that Hilton could not have done what he has done without the capabilities of Web 2.0. Through his blog, YouTube channel, Twitter and Facebook page, Hilton is able to leave an effective and frequent impression on his audience, something that was not guaranteed with traditional media. Thanks to two-way conversation and online interaction, Hilton is able to cause a stir and get people talking.

Trump Your Self-Brand

With power comes responsibility. Since the birth of Web 2.0, there has been a noticeable shift in the power of control. The tables have turned on the corporate world as consumers, through the venues of social media, are now the ones forming the message.  It is a scary thought for many managers as the only way to cope with it is to embrace it. As Web 2.0 continues to grow, the emphasis on consumer control and influence is becoming stronger.  No longer is the company the sole proprietor of the brand. The audience is. The same can be said of the self-brand.

According to the article “Be Who You Want To Be,” strong identities with loud voices are forming all over the web through social media platforms like blogs and social networks. Social network, Facebook, is a key variable in the creation of what the article calls “social identity.” Social identity can be defined as the life one lives online. Through the given categories, a person is able to define him or herself, and through online interaction, a person is able to distinguish himself or herself. Social identity functions much like a brand. In a sense, it is your brand. The only difference between social identity and the self-brand is the accounting for the perception of the audience. The self-brand as addressed in the article, “The Power of a Self Brand,” includes the perception of value as seen by an audience whereas social identity lies strictly in the hands of the individual.

Social identity, while in the hands of the individual, can be abused. It can serve as an online mask to the entire world. This can be particularly discrediting to any attempts of establishing and maintaining a self-brand. Consistency at all points of contact is vital for credibility and accountability. Some may see the maintenance of establishing a self-brand as unnecessary, but with the power of Web 2.0, you run the risk of allowing someone else to brand you. (Kaputa). The same can be applied to the corporate world.

The 2007 article, “Creating Brand You,” is wise beyond its years. It addresses the issue of the self-brand’s vulnerability before what most might consider the peak of social media. It claims we must take control of our own brands before our audience does. The article is more inspiring than it’s featured commentator, Donald Trump, who bluntly states that most people are incapable of branding themselves.

While we may not be able to compare ourselves to “The Donald,” we can most certainly use him as a point of reference. As a world-renowned businessman, television star and philanthropist, Donald Trump has leveraged his experience and connections to expand his brand into the real-estate industry, entertainment industry and hospitality industry. While much of his self-branding is a conscious effort, his success speaks for itself. Much of his image comes from the perceptions of his audience. For example, his audience has contributed to his brand with the repeat of his signature line, “You’re fired,” from the television show, The Apprentice.  This is a prime example of what makes a successful self-brand.

By manipulating his identity and by empowering his audience, Donald Trump has successfully branded himself into an American icon.

A Branding Situation

Social media has indisputably acted as the driving catalyst in the success of MTV’s reality show, “The Jersey Shore.” “The Jersey Shore” revolutionized reality television with its comical play on the New Jersey stereotype and it’s ability to capture promiscuous behavior and excessive partying on camera. The showed debuted at the end of 2009— right into the rush of Web 2.0. Television, the primary channel for the show, is most responsible for giving life to the program while social media is responsible for giving, what appears to be, the gift of immortality. In other words, social media provides a longer shelf life. For example, when the allotted 60 minutes are up, sites like Facebook and Twitter allow the entertainment to carry on in a more personalized setting.

To get a better grasp on the impact, here is a fun fact: according to an infographic on Mashable, on the night of season two’s premiere, the Jersey Shore topic was tweeted up to 16,000 times within one hour.

With a cast full of ridiculous personalities, it is hard not to watch. One particular cast member, Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino is the big brother of the group. Mike has easily branded himself with his signature chiseled abs and charming demeanor while his nickname “The Situation” consistently proves to be his biggest trademark. It began in season one as Mike constantly talked in third person and always cracked silly puns off his name. He was ignorantly unaware of the self-brand he was creating until the cast learned of the show’s success.

His Facebook page is a marketing nucleus. It reeks of poor promotions and contact information overload. His Twitter page isn’t much better. His default image is a head-on shot of his Adonis abs and the wallpaper background is a picture of his quirky smile and flashy jewelry. Surprise, surprise. Although you do have to hand it to the guy. Behind the thick layer of his “Situation” act, Mike is a smart man. He recognized early the conversations that were trending.  He joined these conversations and has now engaged his community of followers. He has labeled his following, “The Situation Nation,” a term constantly promoted on Twitter by a hash tag.

Whether Mike has recognized it or not, he has tapped into these communities through the idea of connectedness. According to a study called “The Appeal of Reality Television to Teen and Pre-Teen Audiences” in the Journal of Advertising Research, it was observed that young people who valued popularity and good looks felt more connected to shows like “The Jersey Shore.” These connected individuals were the ones most likely to move their interests to an online discussion on social networking sites. This discovery truly encompasses the role of communities and the idea of connectedness.

“The Situation” is making the most of his 15 minutes, but who can blame him? #SituationNation