Over the past year, the Seismic Blog has published several posts about social selling. Our content describes the importance of using social media to build a personal brand. But where does personal brand end and professional brand begin? The lines are blurred, as all of the content we like and share contributes to our digital footprint.
I recently spoke with Seismic Vice President of Enablement Irina Soriano—her book Generation Brand explores the concept of ‘life-brand’ and how young women can harness social media to build a life-brand that aligns with their purpose and advances their careers. Check out our conversation below:
Tony Smith: For those who may not know, will you explain the concept behind ‘life-brand?’
Irina Soriano: In marketing terms, a “brand” can be a product or service name, so it can take on an identity by itself. When we take the concept of a brand out of marketing and into our personal lives, we refer to it as “personal branding” which can be defined as an intentional effort to shape public perception. That can mean positioning yourself as an influencer in a particular field in order to stand out from your peers, gain credibility, career advantages, and have a larger impact on your followership.
The concept of life-brand identifies one person as distinct from others. Life-brand is defined by a person’s unique purpose and identity through their everyday public behavior and expression in the real and virtual world.
In short, a life-brand is an individual’s digital fingerprint, shaped by the collection of publicly accessible content shared by or featuring the individual. This includes photos, videos, audio recordings, social media posts, and written statements or comments. Life-brand has a life of its own. If it isn’t controlled by us, it gains strength over a lifetime as we accumulate more content in the cloud (or on paper, if you grew up with Kodak cameras like me). We all possess one life-brand. It might be strong, or it might be weak, but our individual life-brand exists.
TS: While you are clearly “pro” social media, in your book, you make an interesting point that, with a lack of awareness, social media can have a negative impact, especially on girls’ and young womens’ development. What do we need to do to protect the next generation from making social media missteps?
IS: Getting a response to a social media post is like an addiction. And with addiction comes a build-up of tolerance. Girls and young women who develop early “like-addiction” face the pressure to post more daring or controversial content, even if this misrepresents their true identity and belief. In reality, they’re chasing likes to feed a growing addiction. Maybe the first post received 20 likes. As content becomes more controversial, maybe they get 60 or 70 likes. This easily leads to wondering, how can I get 100 likes?
Just like any other addiction, the need to chase likes has to be fed, which increases the chances of making a severe mistake. Sharing riskier content can be life-mangling or even lead to hate comments, criticism, and cyberbullying. The result is a rapid accumulation of life-brand content that cannot be corrected or erased (“delete” on social media does not mean someone else hasn’t already taken a screenshot) and shattered self-confidence that might significantly impact one’s future career. Like-addiction can leave “confidence scars” for life.
For girls and young women, it’s even harder because they are three times more likely to be exposed to cyberbullying than boys and young men. Lack of self-confidence at an early age will impact a woman’s life tremendously—at minimum, it will affect her ability to drive her career and show up with a level of confidence that is equal to her male peers when it’s time to climb the career ladder.
TS: How does a controlled life-brand open the door to career opportunities for women?
IS: A controlled life-brand consists of two components: your identity and your chosen purpose in life. Identity in the context of life-brand is defined as the summary of your behavior and language displayed through social media or in the real world, while purpose can be discovered through a passion, an idea, your profession or expertise, and interest or hobby you pursue.
Building a controlled life-brand with an aligned purpose and identity allows you to actively impact your direct social media community, as well as inspire others to follow your lead and support your chosen purpose.
As more people, especially women in business, control their life-brand, the social media landscape will slowly shift toward a community of powerful life-brand role models. Girls and women of all ages will be able to grow up in a social media world of encouragement, self-love, and promotion, as well as positivity. It will also motivate other girls and young women to find their purpose.
Lastly, it will build early confidence in teenagers and young adults, especially women, who stand behind their chosen purpose and understand the consequences of posting content that is unintentional or misaligned with their identity. Early confidence is key for young women to position themselves as feeling equal to their male peers once they enter the workplace.
TS: How can the next generation leverage social media to develop early leadership and shape their path to leadership and executive levels?
IS: Besides allowing them to develop self-awareness and self-confidence, which are both crucial traits for a leader, controlling their life-brand through social media also allows the next generation to develop another set of unique skills. When life-brand is not controlled, leadership skills are usually acquired in the workplace over the course of one’s career. McKinsey and Lean In defined the key challenge to closing the gender gap in the workplace as the “broken rung,” a bottleneck in the female talent pipeline right at the first-time step-up to manager roles. Significantly more men get put into these positions, which slims the population of women in the workforce as they move towards senior leadership and, eventually, C-level positions. This situation diminishes women’s ability to develop critical managerial and leadership skills early in their careers, which can significantly slow down their professional development and chances to advance in the workplace.
Life-brand gives the next generation, especially young women, the opportunity to build leadership skills early on and demonstrate them in the workplace, even prior to being in managerial positions.
Controlling life-brand teaches us the following crucial leadership skills:
● Integrity and Commitment
● Relationship Building
● Influencing Skills
● Communication Skills
TS: What advice would you give to a young woman who is just starting her career?
IS: I have heard many times, throughout my career, that I should speak up, take risks, create opportunities for myself, ask for what I want, and so on. The list went on and on. I generally agree with everything that was suggested to me. These things will not only make you look and sound more confident, but they will also eventually instill true confidence and self-belief over the course of a lifetime and career. Some women might be more inclined to do these things; some might have had early experiences that made them more confident and less afraid to go for it (myself included). But not everybody is that lucky.
“Speak up” might be a life-long attempt of raising one’s voice, if the person is an introvert, afraid of public speaking, or wasn’t raised in an environment that encourages young women to speak their minds. “You should,” “you must,” and “you need” don’t teach young women how to build early confidence, how to be comfortable with self-promotion, and how to develop leadership skills at an early age; no matter what environment they grow up in.
My advice is to pick up a copy of Generation Brand, start completing the life-brand launch kit, and control your life-brand starting TODAY. No matter your age, the educational or career path you are on—no matter your upbringing or environment, taking control of your life-brand gives you the power to take control of your life and career while positively impacting others around you.