Becoming a brand through social media

Head of Strategy, Uri Baruchin, was recently interviewed by Hazel Davis for Virgin.com discussing how entrepreneurs brand themselves in today's social world. Below are excerpts from his interview.

Social media is making it easier to create a personal brand, thus turning yourself into your own business. But how do you go about creating and growing your brand to this level?

Uri Baruchin is strategy director at brand strategy expert The Partners. He says, “The myth of the entrepreneur is influenced by cultural narratives of success. And there is a paradox. The western democratic ethos suggests that everyone can become a billionaire but once they do we start celebrating their uniqueness, which is a complete contradiction. The truth is that success is a compounded subject. Some facets are random and some are deliberate and this can be hard to create from scratch. The story of success is always told in hindsight it can be hard to isolate what was driving the success. The same can be said for social media.”

Nonetheless, some do manage to make it work spectacularly well. Baruchin says it has a lot to do with critical mass. “More modest success is enough to make a big difference but here, the dynamic is different.” Baruchin cites the example of the Eh Bee Family, an American family that rose to prominence creating small sketches on Vine. “Their family page was one of the top 10 most watched video pages on Facebook in September 2015. A lot of social media successes are a one-person (or in this case a one-family media brand). You can feel as a viewer/reader they are doing something right but you can rarely rationalise why they are working that well.”

When you’re branding yourself as an entrepreneur, says Baruchin, you’re going after a more vertical audience, a smaller community. “And it used to be a lot easier,” he says, “When I started writing my blog 10 years ago, when social media was just starting up, I got a shout out from Guy Kawasaki and Seth Godin in the first couple of months. This wouldn’t happen today. Breaking through is so much harder.”

So in the face of the fact that a lot of entrepreneurial success is random, arbitrary, work and luck, Baruchin says, “You can influence the work aspect and treat it the same way you would developing a product or brand proposition.” It comes down to the branding triumvirate of credibility, relevance and differentiation, Baruchin says. “Find a way of doing that in a way that stands out and is fresh and engaging. Do it with a high degree of clarity you are already better than 99 per cent of the field that you’re competing with…” Part of relevancy is understanding the target audience you’re relevant to and what they’re looking for, he says, “that helps you at least build a more focused and more engaged following to act as a platform for going mass-market.”

“I was once asked how do you know if a campaign was successful,” says Baruchin. “A little bit belligerently I said that it depends on your business objectives. Counting likes and RTs and followers are just vanity metrics. What’s more important is how many followers you have within your target audience. The most important step is realising what your objective is.” He adds, “Sure, if you have 1m followers, people will pay attention, but that’s not the case for most people. It’s important to measure your own activities and compare them against each other, rather than getting hung up on vanity metrics.”

There are practical ways of doing this, Baruchin says,  “Let’s say that one of the ways I measure is how many RTs I am getting from people who have more than 10,000 followers or people who are well-known figures in the industry. Then I can start looking at what happens when I tweet at certain times of the day. Then you can measure how much engagement you’re getting from different things at different times of the week and work out the best times to publish in order to engage.” Quantity isn’t quality but quantity does matter on social media, Baruchin adds, “One easy way to engage peers is to share interesting professional content. But many people do this for an hour a day. Entrepreneurs are busy people. Often they will be away from Twitter and then come back and send five different articles in five minutes. It’s much better to spread them out.”

But how does this success actually affect your overall brand and will that make you a millionaire? The Partners, along with Lambie-Nairn, Millward Brown and brand equity database BrandZ, have produced a financially quantified analysis of how brand-building activities drive growth in brand value, called the Brand Value Growth matrix. The matrix claims to be able to demonstrate that good branding actually pays financial dividends through calculating metrics such as corporate earnings, attribution rates, branded earnings and financial value.

It’s still hard to measure the efficacy of personal brands, Baruchin says, “But our research certainly showed there is a strong argument for being more strategic about how we manage them.”