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.

“Real Men” of Social Media

An established model, actor, producer and venture capitalist, Ashton Kutcher has become a powerful businessman with an aggressive attitude. He is far from dumb. Like all successful, well-rounded individuals, Kutcher practices social responsibility. Partnered with his wife, Demi Moore, Kutcher has tapped into his vessel of connections to help create awareness on the issue of human trafficking.  He has hired fellow entertainers such as Drake, Justin Timberlake and Sean Penn to participate in the viral campaign, “Real Men Don’t Buy Women.” The normally goofy actor has audiences raising more than just their eyebrows with his campaign. Concerns and doubt have risen among various groups, especially New York news source, The Village Voice, in regards to the factuality of Kutcher’s statistics.

The problem doesn’t lie with the cause, it lies in the presentation. The Voice claims Kutcher is presenting inflated figures. Kutcher, a well-connected personality (and brand) in social media, has rooted his “Real Men” campaign into the foundation of social media. The star uses Facebook, Quora and Twitter to promote the cause and YouTube to host the videos. According to the study of Corporate Social Responsibility in the Blogosphere, social media isn’t a bad venue for him to take. The study reveals that while some online forums are smaller in size, the participation level is much higher as compared to other forms of mass media in regards to CSR. It is the idea of quality over quantity and frankly, it’s an example of the long tail. Kutcher has called on his niche market of fans and followers to help promote awareness of his cause.

The star, according to Biography.com, was the first Twitter member to reach one million followers. Who can blame him for using Twitter to fight back? Kutcher has bluntly tweeted to the Voice not only in defense of his case, but also in offense of their argument.  The so-called Twitter feud continues not only in the hands of both parties, but also in the hands of many followers. Kutcher has leveraged his large fan following to indirectly generate an army of support.

A positive result of this petty argument comes from the attention Kutcher is drawing to himself. Using blunt and informal language (and all CAPITAL letters), the actor is causing a stir not only to his pages, but also to his videos and to his cause. Looking at the glass half full, any publicity is good publicity. In my opinion, while the claim made by Village Voice is legitimate, they lose credibility by taking cheap shots at the actor’s casting stereotype, claiming the “Real Men” videos are reminiscent of something out of a frat house. Therefore, my problem doesn’t lie in the cause; it lies in their presentation. It simply looks like they are just picking a fight just to be picking a fight. Some sources say the there is an underlying political motivation in the Voice’s strategy, but to any outside eye, it just looks childish. They certainly do not gain any respect in my book by writing an article titled, “Real Men Get Their Facts Straight.”

Kutcher is no fool for continuing his rant. With a current Twitter following of over 7 million people, Kutcher has all the ears he needs. Whether he is bashing the Voice or directly supporting his campaign, he is creating all the awareness he needs. Job well done.

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.

What Do You And Coca-Cola Have In Common? A perspective on self-branding

MTV. Coca-Cola. Apple.

Sound familiar? Upon reading the words listed above, I can almost bet your mind automatically thinks of music and reality shows for MTV, red and white colored cans for Coca-Cola and lastly, the trademark apple logo for Apple. Of course, the list is not limited to what I’ve suggested. The idea is that in your mind, you thought of something when reading those names. These companies have left a lasting impression in your mind, and because of that, they are considered corporate brands.

Branding- what is it?

A corporate brand is a mental correlation created through consistent messaging and promotion of a company within the minds of all constituents. It is a conscious effort that results in the association of the intangible identity with the tangible name. For example, MTV has branded themselves as the channel for the young and wild by featuring promiscuous reality shows and airing provocative music videos. MTV has become much more than a product or a service; in a sense, it has become an attitude and a lifestyle.

Who can do it?

With the birth of Web 2.0, the act of branding has become easier and more accessible not only for corporations, but now for individuals. Tom Peters, a management professional, is linked to the original definition of personal branding. His idea simply replaces “the company” as the subject with the “individual” as the new focus. (Elmore). It may seem a little far-fetched or even a little bit intimidating especially when you compare yourself to well-known brands like Coca-Cola or Apple. I suggest avoid comparing altogether. Instead, use these big names as a point of reference.

With the growth of social media upon us, the tools to self-brand are at our fingertips. From social networking sites like Facebook, microblogs like Twitter to blogging sites like Blogger, the Internet offers all the necessary platforms to not only create your brand, but to enhance and promote it. This mature trend has already spread like wildfire through the broad spectrum of industries. I choose to blog on the entertainment industry. I will illustrate how famous figures in society are using the best (and sometimes the worst) social media practices to alter their own brands.