Social Media in the Corporate Trenches

May 9, 2012

What is the easiest way to fail at personal branding? It’s the failure to recognize your identity outside of the structure of your current position in life. You’re an attorney on the partner track at a downtown law firm? You’re a mid-manager at a cubicle farm in the suburbs? You’re a store manager for a national retail chain? Great. What else?

How do you identify yourself (or more importantly, how do others identify you) outside of the closed-off world in which you operate 9-to-5 each day? When you’re not serving your customers or lunching with co-workers, who are you? Are you a weekend warrior? Are you a devoted mother? Are you a rabid fan of the latest underground musical act?

Do you have to turn off that persona when you go to work every morning?

I say no, you don’t. I say that it is better to do business with a fully formed personality, and to allow your business network to intermingle with your social life. I say that your business contacts will enjoy doing business with you more if they are confident that you are a real person, with genuine interests, and an authentic personality. I say that your business network will open up exponentially when you allow your social network to do the same.

But how do you do that within the stifling environment of a corporate job that frowns upon personal expression? Can you get away with hanging a UCLA banner in your office? Can you decorate your cubicle with tchotchkes from your latest weekend adventure? Probably. But beyond the emotional boost it might give you to personalize your workspace, what is that really doing for you? How does water cooler gossip help your career?

If you really want to establish your personal brand within a faceless corporate world, there is nothing better than social media.

Not only does social media allow you to explore shared passions with people are the world, it also offers the benefit of putting you on the receiving end of current information related to your occupation. Follow a few industry leaders and you’re in a position to engage in conversations outside your immediate, day-to-day world.

But what of the cliches about pop culture celebrities and their Twitter followers? Is talking about your favorite TV show on Facebook really the best way to establish a personal brand? If you work at a bicoastal law firm or a multi-national corporation, that may be all you have. Like the corporate slave trying to sneak private time in the copier room to print out résumés, the small cog in the huge firm needs to be creative when they try to network outside of the four walls of their cubicle. And if you’re thinking of ever advancing your career outside of your current work environment, networking yourself is crucial.

Be aware of your employer’s policies regarding the use of company resources for personal recreation (that’s what smartphones are for) and don’t go trashing your boss in public forums (for obvious reasons), but start to visualize your position as person advancing in your career.

Even if starts out only as a blip in the vast Twittersphere, your personal brand can only benefit through active promotion in social media.