Tag Archives: personal branding


Jan 26, 2012

Four Great January 2012 Blog Posts to Read

Internet DJ

Playing the role of Internet DJ, here are four great blog posts worth reading.

1.) Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg says that social media is a bright spot in the challenged world economy. “This is about growth, jobs and empowering people.” App makers, advertisers, small businesses and civic groups are all using Facebook to promote their work and connect with people. And Facebook is the number two driver of web traffic (guess who’s #1).

2.) Author and friend John Morgan offers 10 reasons we won’t support your business. So much of it seems like common sense, but alas, it is not. See numbers 2, 7 and 10.

3.) Mitch Joel is thinking smarter. He asks us to think about where our learning is taking place. The digital generation (which I just barely squeaked into!) is learning on their iPhones and iPads. As Joel writes, “Every day, new content comes online that can and will make you smarter.” For example, if you want to know how to start a t-shirt company, you can ask me “How did you start your t-shirt company?” Or you can thoroughly research the subject via Google and ask me the very specific left-over questions you have. Technology has made it possible to “set your own curriculum,” Joel says. Do that!

4.) Chris Brogan gives a fantastic list: 97 Ideas for Building a Valuable Platform. I read this from a personal branding perspective. Your personal brand is being more heavily weighted by employers every day. There will come a day (we’re close) when CPA firms will hire junior auditors and consider their social graph when doing so. If I’m hiring, I want to know about your valuable platform and how you plan on using it to help me advance my business agenda. It’s less about being a clock-watching cog in the wheel and more about being a team member. For me, this piece is another “Beethoven’s 9th Symphony” post from Brogan. Read it twice.





May 20, 2011

Referral Key – Clogging The Arteries Of My Inbox With Spam

June 19, 2013 UPDATE: I just got off the phone with Chris Ott, one of the founders of Referral Key. I recognized his name on my caller ID and was bracing for a rough call. It is completely understandable that they are not fans of this post. He could not have been nicer. It’s been over two years since this blog post went up, and he reached out to let me know that they’ve made many changes to Referral Key. He wanted me to know that much hard work has gone into improving the service. I told him that, full disclosure, I was not a user of the service and would not have time to give it a rigorous test drive in order to verify his representations. However, I agreed that, if he had an updated story to tell, I’d let him tell it here. I look forward to receiving some new information from him on the improvements they’ve made. Once I get the info, I’ll be sure to post another update here.

Referral Key spam in my inbox

Post from May 2011 begins here:
As a Social Media Strategist, I often feel a slight tug on my shirt sleeve whenever a new service debuts. When Quora came out (and when Scoble jumped in hard), I felt a need to check it out. I mean, I do this stuff for a living. I had better know what’s going on in the space. Diaspora? It’s the next Facebook! Joined!

So when I started receiving (lots of) emails in my inbox from people asking me to join Referral Key, I thought it was the next big service that I was going to have to try. Turns out, it’s not a new service. I found a Hubspot case study and accompanying video from February 2009, where Hubspot (a company I love) talks about how they helped ReferralKey.com increase their site traffic and leads. I suppose it feels new to me because this is the first I’ve heard of it, and I’ve received over 100 invitations to join in the past few days. That sort of groundswell usually accompanies a hot new product.

The first time I got an email with the subject line “Are you taking on new clients?” Holy crap, I was excited! You bet I’m taking clients! (what a hook). Ten seconds later, I felt the shame of spam, deflated, and just a little pissed. After receiving 100 of these emails? No one likes spam.

Here is what the typical email looks like:

Subject: Are you taking on new clients?

Body:
If you’re taking on new clients, I’d like to include you in my private referral network to send you business leads through Referral Key. Please accept my invitation below. Thanks!

Best,
Person’s Name
Name of Their Company
City, State

The message itself is almost identical every time. Subject line, body, signature…. all the same. This deluge of messages has been nothing short of annoying.

Now, in almost every public speaking appearance I make, I get on my soapbox for at least a minute or two and tell the audience that they need to be nice. The rules of online are not that much different than offline. Mom taught us that there are things we think that we don’t say. You always have to be nice. When curating content online, it is vitally important to remember this.

So it is with a bit of trepidation that I report to you that I responded to 30 of these emails. I did so for research purposes. To each person, I asked only the following:

May I ask why you are sending this to me?

Maybe this wasn’t nice. My intention was not to make the sender feel bad for having spammed me, or to sound like or be a dick. I wanted to see how many people would respond, and I wanted to read those responses. I wanted to learn something about social media and personal branding.

Out of 30 emails I sent, I received seven responses. Maybe I would have received more had I phrased my question differently. This isn’t a scientific poll. Here is a sampling of the responses:

“When I signed up for referralkey via an invitation, the site went through my LinkedIn contacts, of which you are one of my first degree connections, and sent the invitation asking you to join. If you don’t want to participate, please feel free to ignore the request.”

“This is a new website, just starting up, where individuals and business can support each other in referrals and I thought 1st, it is a good idea and 2nd that you might like , at least, to be aware of it. If you are not interested, then no problem. Didn’t mean to offend you or cause you any undo concerns. Thanks for your response.”

“I didn’t. Somebody hacked my account.”

“Hi! Sorry, I thought it was a great service and wanted to extend the invitation to my linkedIN followers. It allows people to get in touch and has quite an amazing business model. Hope it helps you!”

“I thought you might like it. It’s free. Maybe it’s for you….maybe it’s not. Never hurts to look.”

“This is a new social media site that works with LinkedIn. I received a few invites this morning from my LinkedIn contacts so I did the same. I am still learning this new site but so far this morning I have found two great contacts that I will most likely be doing business with directly from this site. If you are interested in connecting with me there, please feel free to accept my invite. In no way did I mean to make you feel like you were getting spammed.”

“Sorry for the intrusion. Seems there was an error when they imported EVERYONE on my LinkedIn network, and included you in it. My sincere apologies…as this usually happens with a huge list…”

So these are 1st degree LinkedIn connections asking me to join a new service. We have some people calling the email to me an error. We have some people blaming it on a hack. Some are saying they were just trying to be helpful. A few people really took the time to try and explain Referral Key to me.

The problem? Referral Key has no idea how bad this avalanche of emails is making them look (click on the picture at the top of this blog post! That’s my email inbox). These messages, all identical, all with that hook of a subject line, are not good for their business. For better or worse, I now consider them to be a less-than-reputable company. But even worse, you, the Referral Key user, have no idea what joining a service like this is going to make you look like. In this case, it made these people look like the Spammy McSpammer MLM Sham Wow guy. I’ll bet most of these people aren’t actually like that, and the service is probably on the up and up, but that’s the impression they are leaving. Perhaps it’s Referral Key’s fault, as their system is the one generating these cookie cutter emails in mass volume.

However, as a businessperson with a personal brand, you need to be aware of your every move and do your best to calculate benefits and risks before joining the next social media platform du jour. Do not join a service unless you have a plan and a goal in mind for your participation and time spent. Do not join a Twitter automation service that sends annoying tweets from your account like “The following users unfollowed me today: @User1, @User2, @User3. Try it at LoserTwitterService.com.” Don’t invite people to your mafia family on Facebook. Stop clicking on random links that people DM or Facebook message you – they are often virus traps and you’re spreading spam. And stop joining services that blast out marketing messages Uzi-style as ReferralKey.com does. The bad taste you are leaving in people’s mouths is not worth it.

5/25/11 POST ADDENDUM – per Chris Ott of Referral Key:

“The message is fully customizable and you can choose to uncheck anyone just like any other service. http://imageshack.us/m/109/8072/emailimportation.jpg

I am not sure why some people have commented that they were unable to utilize this screen, but thank you Chris for bringing it to our attention.





Mar 19, 2011

How I Got My iPad 2 And The Lesson Learned

iPad 2

image courtesy of pinoytutorial.com and Apple

The Green Light.

That’s what I got from my wife after a somewhat lengthy discussion about the reasons I wanted to purchase an iPad 2. “Do you need this?” she asked. “Need?” I responded. “No, I don’t need this. I would survive without it. It seems like something that someone in my profession should have, and I want it. But no, need is not the right word.” To quote Jim Morrison, perhaps it was with that bit of honesty that I broke on through to the other side!

However, in the case of one of the most hyped and successful launches in the history of consumer products, the Green Light doesn’t mean you get an iPad 2! As is the Apple norm, the lines outside Apple stores and electronics retailers were long and sustained. Apple sold everything they had on debut day. Reports had the first day numbers at anywhere from 500,000 to 1 million.

And it didn’t end there. Lines started forming at stores on the second day. And the third day. And the fourth day. Supplies were limited, and any time an Apple store received a shipment, there was already a line of people waiting outside the store with line tickets in hand, ready to buy. Best Buy in Brentwood, MO was accepting reservations for iPad 2′s. You tell Best Buy personnel which particular iPad 2 you want, put $100 down (which they provide you in the form of a Best Buy gift card), and then they call you when the iPad comes in. They are selling new shipments of iPads exclusively to people on the list. Walk-in traffic will not be able to buy iPads until all names on the list get theirs. I was at Best Buy the other night and almost threw my name on the list, but hesitated. I was already spending $230 on two portable DVD players, so I chickened out and left.

I went to Target. None. Micro Center. Nope. Apple stores? “We had ‘em, but we’re sold out.” Honestly, I was OK with waiting. I didn’t have the Apple Shakes. But my iPad 2 seemed so far away. How long would I have to wait?

Enter my friend Muljadi. Actually he’s not my “friend.” He’s a Twitter friend. Actually, I’m not sure we’ve ever spoken on Twitter until a few days ago. And obviously we had never met in person. I can tell you this – he’s my friend now!

After a few @RizzoTees tweets about how every place was sold out, here’s Muljadi’s first tweet to me:


@rizzotees I’m at the Apple store Galleria and they have Verizon 3G iPad 2s; I can pick one up for you if you’d like – tweet me backless than a minute ago via web

His tweet came in around 8am Wednesday, so I asked him if the store was even open yet. His response:


@RizzoTees Store’s open for training, won’t open for sale until 10. Not trying to mark up, just remembered you’re looking for oneless than a minute ago via web

So he’s telling me he’s not trying to profit from doing this for me. However, at this point I declined his offer. I wasn’t sure if I wanted a 3G iPad or a wifi one. Muljadi must not have found the unit he wanted, because next day, he’s back at it!


@rizzotees They have wifi iPads @ Galleria & West County – if you’re quick you may be able to get a ticket.less than a minute ago via TweetDeck

I thought that was very nice of him to alert me to the stock they had at the West County store. I did not go to the store. Something told me I should probably go to Falk Harrison and work. :-) Then, on Friday morning, Muljadi is on the hunt again, and repeats his offer to grab one for me:


@RizzoTees About 40+ people standing in line @ West County Apple store – want one?less than a minute ago via web

I was about to have coffee with my bud Greg Bussmann, and gave it some quick thought. Damn, I wanted this thing. OK, why the hell not? I’m going to have a total stranger, my Good Samaritan, buy an iPad for me. I told him which one I preferred, gave him my cell phone number, and wished him luck.

By 9am, my mobile rings. Muljadi was in possession of my new iPad 2. Wonders never cease, and Twitter never ceases to amaze.

Why did Muljadi do this? He saw my tweet, asking if anyone knew of a store with iPad 2′s in stock, and thought he could help me. Why did I do this? My reasons were two-fold: I really wanted that iPad, and I wanted to take part in yet another social media experiment. I can assure you, this was way more fun than standing in line with strangers for four hours. I got to meet a really cool dude. We met up at the St. Louis Bread Company on Ballas (Panera for the rest of the country) and chatted for maybe 30 minutes before we parted ways. I could have easily talked with him for another hour, but we both wanted to get home and play with our new iPads!

Rizzo Tees and Muljadi

THANK YOU MULJADI! I’ll see you online….

POSTSCRIPT: Muljadi was and is a really stand-up guy, and he assumed I was too. Nevertheless, I told him I didn’t expect him to accept a personal check from me, and that I’d bring cash. He sent me this DM:

“cash will be fine with me; you’re pretty well known, so I’m pretty sure you don’t want to be harassed if your check bounced :)

Guys, that is what social media is all about. Yes, you can have fun, you can learn, and you can sell stuff. But it all comes back to letting people get to know you – the Personal Brand. I tell any individual or company that will listen to me that this is exactly how you want friends, bosses, husbands, wives, customers and prospects to feel about you. There is no way whatsoever that I would or could do Muljadi wrong. All I have is a few case studies, my reputation, and my personal brand. I figuratively could not afford to screw Muljadi over, and he understood that. Therefore, he explicitly trusted me before we had ever met. CEO’s and CMO’s, that’s how you want a prospect to feel when you are introducing them to your company! That’s what this is all about. ROI? You tell me what the ROI is of making life easier for your salespeople.

POSTSCRIPT 2: Buying an iPad with cash… this might be the only time I’ve ever pulled $560 in cash out of an ATM at once. It just felt a little weird.

POSTSCRIPT 3: Assuming neither of us have ever been drug dealers, I’m not sure either of us have experienced such an exchange. I sit down at the table. He pushes a white iPad 2 box across the table. I tell him, “OK Mul, here comes the awkward part!” I whip out $560 in cash and hand it to him. The lady sitting next to us thought we were nuts!





May 17, 2010

Does Offering A Different Point Of View Dilute Your Personal Brand?

When you’re tweeting out links to pertinent industry news or opinion pieces, should you 100% agree with everything contained in the article?  Or is it OK to present information that might actually differ with the way you think?  If you do tweet something like that out, are your followers apt to get confused, thinking that you believe one thing when you really believe another?

Listen to my mini-podcast here and let me know what you think.  My take is that it’s OK to tweet out interesting tidbits even if you don’t 100% agree with the contents. You might even post a little endcap on the tweet that says “I don’t completely agree with this, but what do you guys think?”

Leave a comment and give me your take!

I recorded this podcast in my local Panera Bread Company – forgive my daughter talking to herself in the background!





Apr 6, 2010

Write a Blog to Enhance Your Personal Brand

A blog is a wonderful tool to help enhance your personal brand.  You may ask, “I have a job. (or ‘I’m a CEO’) Why would I ever care about my personal brand?”  The reasons are all about the Benjamins.

1. If you are an employee of an organization, your personal brand is like your 21st Century Web 2.0 résumé.  Frankly, if I were hiring someone today for Rizzo Tees, I’d check their Twitter feed, their Facebook profile, and their LinkedIn profile.  And then I would check for a blog – through their writings, I might be able to see what makes them tick.

2. If you are the owner of an organization, your personal brand will gain you clients.  It’s as simple as that. You are your company, and your company is you.  Customers want to know who they’re working with and who they’re buying from, and this is getting more and more important.  They are more apt to buy from you if they have a sense of who you are.

Below is a redacted version of an email exchange I had with a friend who owns a business.  He was considering writing a personal blog and separating it from his business.  His goal was to enhance his personal brand. The blog would have contained his personal insights on the field of business he was in, but would not have been directly tied to his company’s website. I argued that the two should be intertwined, because as an owner of a business, his personal brand and his business success are directly tied together.

The text of my response:

The most important distinction here is that you are the founder and CEO of an awesome startup company. Therefore, your company is much more closely tied to you, and you to the company, than if you were just an employee somewhere, for instance.  Employees have great reason to privately build and cultivate their own personal brands. An employee will need their personal brand to be strong (portfolio, blog posts, a good network of people) in order to score that next employment opportunity.

You, on the other hand, are different. You’re not going to be leaving your startup company – you are no longer a nomad – you’ll be at your company until its bought out – you’re going to build up your company to be 100+ talented people, scoring ever larger clients, until you are sitting in your plush offices, smoking your Cohibas.

Let your company itself be your personal branding powerhouse. When potential clients are thinking of hiring you, don’t make them traverse two different websites.  Put your best thoughts right there on your company’s site for potential clients to soak in.  I do see the value in cross promotion (he was going to promote the biz from his blog).  However, let others do that for you. That’s what we’re here for – your friends on Twitter and Facebook – you create a great message in the name of your business (and you), and let us carry it out to the masses.

Your personal brand is your business, because you founded it. I feel strongly that you should put 100% of your best marketing and social media nuggets on your company’s site, making it the strongest, most natural sales pitch it can be.

What do you guys think?  How important is personal branding?  Should CEOs, employees, and entrepreneurs all address this issue differently?





Mar 19, 2010

50 Tips For Elevating Your Personal Brand

Cindy Yantis has posted an awesome collection of the top 50 tips for elevating your personal brand.  It’s a great read, and yes I’m biased – check out #20.

Have a great weekend everyone! Take a walk outside, if you can. It’s time to GTFO of the house!