Q: What is personal branding?
A: Personal branding is the cultivation of one’s identity to employers, friends, and the world at large. Ideally, your personal brand will say, “I’m funny, smart, attractive, industrious, snarky, pleasantly idiosyncratic, refreshingly down-to-earth, and never farther than two feet from an electronic device on which I can share my every waking thought.”

Q: That sounds like a lot.
A: Did we say quirky? Also quirky.

Q: Is building a personal brand difficult?
A: Startlingly. This is partly because no one seems to agree on what brand means.1 For our purposes, brand will refer to the overall way you make people and organizations perceive you, and not the thing where you burn your initials into a cow.

Q: Are personal brands different from traditional brands?
A: They’re actually similar in some ways — here’s an example. Though they’re not people per se, major brands like Coca-Cola, Time Warner Cable, and Guy Fieri are still aiming to boost their popularity. The main difference is that they have vast resources at their disposal, including billions of dollars and political influence with a weapons smuggler known only as Zain.

Q: How has personal branding evolved over the years?
A: Good question. Simply put, social media has changed everything. Thanks to the rise of websites like Facebook, Twitter, and beekeepingforums.com, we now have an unprecedented array of digital platforms with which to engage the world and grow our brands.

Q: Beekeeping forums?
A: We know, the Internet can be confusing. Think of it this way: in 1950, an American male could build and promote his brand simply by tucking in his shirt and occasionally joking about the notion of women in the workplace. But today, people seeking to push their brands online must juggle a host of competing concerns, such as:

1. Is what I’m about to post too political?

2. Is what I’m about to post too narcissistic?

3. Is what I’m about to post not a cogent thought but rather a picture of the meal I intend to eat?

4. Maybe my profile picture is dumb.

Q: Does everyone have a brand?
A: Another good question — the answer is yes! Each time we post a thought or image, friends and strangers alike are actively forming ruthless and unchanging opinions of us, often based on our choice of clothing or the vaguely abject way we slump our shoulders since things with Carol ended.

Q: Yikes.
A: Indeed. Fortunately, there are a few easy tips for creating your own positive, unique brand. The first is to put your best foot forward. For instance, if your work experience isn’t relevant to the brand you want to build, don’t list it in your online profile. Instead, put something that highlights your winning personality, like “NACHOS = LOVE!!”

Q: Anything else?
A: Remember, less is more. Let’s say you’re tweeting fifty times a day. Pause and ask yourself, “Could I accomplish the same thing with forty-five?” The answer is very often yes.

Q: What personal branding pitfalls, if any, should I be aware of?
A: By far the most common (and severe) mistake is saying something that 100% of people do not agree with.2 Consequently, before you post anything, we recommend testing it with a series of multicultural focus groups over a six-week period.

Q: Do you have any final words of advice?
A: Say somewhere that you’re a social media guru. The Internet is in awe of these people.

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1 The Oxford English Dictionary defines brand as “A particular sort or class of goods, as indicated by the trade-marks on them.” This isn’t terribly helpful. The Oxford English Dictionary is a bad book.

2 For example, “[presidential candidate] is good,” or “[current event] is bad.”