Topic du jour: Chris Brogan and Scaling Your Personal Brand

@Kevin | Social, Strategy

Chris Brogan is pure evil because he charges 1.5 million dollars per hour in order to work with him. (I think that is what I read on Twitter this week.) Anyway this blog post really isn’t about if Chris Brogan is embodies everything wrong with social media or what he charges or that he posted a call for a non-paying intern position after revealing what he charges for a day of his time. Personally I don’t find any of those topics interesting or worth talking about. What I do find interesting is his growth and watching him deal with it, very publically, over the last six months teaches us all about scale, celebrity (on some level), and the strains on managing both.

It is common knowledge that everyone considers Chris Brogan  a nice guy. I’ve met him a few times and I think he is a good dude and has a good sense of humor. (But what do I really know?  He could go home and kick puppies for a hobby.) Also it is no secret to how he built his social media footprint. He consistently put out content, he commented a ton of blogs, he interacted with people on Twitter, and he shared himself and his time. He was an early adopter, executing this strategy in a lot of spaces before others were and he has done well for himself with it. (Sure it is more complex than that but this isn’t an an analysis of how he built his footprint.)

This strategy is pretty much the basis for most social media strategies; grab any social media book off Amazon and it will probably have some version of that strategy as a roadmap to success. The problem with this strategy is that it can easily scale for a medium to large business but for individuals or small businesses it isn’t easy to do. Watching Chris work though this has led me to see a few main themes:

Eventually working hard and working smart aren’t enough. Through Chris’s blog we have seen him touch on this as he has had to adjust how people can reach and contact him. Also we have seen him set expectations on if and when he is going to reply to you and the best way for you to ensure that he does.

With personal brands and small businesses you eventually reach a point where no matter how you improve your processes eventually you can’t do everything you want or need to do. For larger businesses it is easy to hire more people to scale this but when it is just you it probably is not that simple. Eventually you have to figure out where you can use other people to power your small business or personal brand. Can they act as a filter for you to maximize your time? How much does help dilute what you are doing and how much will it enhance it? By giving up some control and responsibility it can help you accomplish more but at the same time you have to prevent the help from changing your voice.

When people or customers have an imagined relationship with you it is hard for them to understand why it changed. With Chris being active on commenting and interacting he has established relationships with a lot of people and turned them into advocates of his personal brand. I would assume a large majority of these relationships were created over an exchange on Twitter, interactions on a blog post, or even an e-mail exchange. However over a period of time as Chris probably participated in these interactions less and less due to the sheer amount of relationships that he has created. (It is unreasonable to expect him to do so.)

This ties in a little bit with my previous point about not being able to do everything. Eventually the amount of blogs you can read and comment on, the amount of Twitter interactions, or the amount of email exchanges you can have becomes so time-consuming that you can’t handle it. It isn’t that you are ignoring that relationship you cultivated but you may not be able to interact every time that other person wants you to. In their mind, while they know you have grown and expanded, they still can’t wrap their head around how that impacts your relationship with them. This can turn a prior advocate bitter quickly.

Your success is also your downfall. When you start with people as peers in this process and eventually surpass them this impacts the dynamic between you and them. When you do have problems responding or don’t respond as much these people quickly feel that you think you are better than them when that isn’t the case. It is just an issue with time. As a person, things haven’t changed. You are still just as nice, just as caring, but the circumstances around you have changed dramatically.

When you have social media growth in your personal brand or for your small business it is a rough adjustment for people who you interact with to make and it isn’t the easiest thing for a single person or small business owner to wrap their heads around. At some point you have to make a move where you completely change how you interact and how you approach it, when that time comes it usually isn’t welcomed by the people you have interacted with over the last few years. I think this is a huge grey area that there aren’t clear rules for and watching Chris deal with it might help us determin the right and wrong way to proceed when individuals and small businesses get there.

Do you think there is an easy way to scale?