I was interviewed by Dan Schawbel, author of Me 2.0, on his website this week on the topic of Personal Branding and Creativity. It got me thinking about the nature of creativity and personal brands on the internet.
In the early days of Yahoo, when I took over marketing and sales, it was clear that the BRAND at the company was both the name/identify of “Y-A-H-O-O” as well as the personalities of Dave Filo and Jerry Yang. So, our earliest marketing at Yahoo was not expensive television commercials or , it was simple public relations aimed at the top US consumer reads – so with minimal marketing spend we ended up with stories on Filo & Yang in Rolling Stones, People, NY Times, Wired, and more. All within 6 months of funding and officially launching the company.
In 1996, when I formed Interactive Minds, one could already see the power of Personalities (aka personal branding) on the Web. I teamed up with Howard Rheingold to form a company called Electric Minds. Electric Minds was initially funded by private angels and Softbank Ventures, but did not survive…we failed to find a business model that would work in that period of the Internet – and our cost structure to produce an early community site was insurmountable. However, it was an extremely creative endeavor – putting together PERSONAL BRANDS from a variety of technology experts that Howard knew and positioning them as global experts in their field of expertise, then surrounding them with many early social elements. In a funny way, Electric Minds was an early pre-curser to Social Media market -but was the example of a company TOO EARLY to take advantage of the explosion. Timing is everything.
Several months after Electric Minds came along, another early community company called The Mining Company, founded by former CEO of Prodigy Networks (@kurnit) came along. They changed their name to About.com, went public in the dotcom bubble period and today are one of the few pre-bubble community companies still running strong. About.com took the approach of giving thought leaders for thousands of areas (dogs, boating, stamp collecting) a “voice” and a set of tools for building community.
This is the first example I can think of where personal branding occurred on the Internet with NON-POP CULTURE people/experts and elevated them to Internet notoriety.
In the following years, personal branding has come into vogue in many ways. First, there as the “Internet Pioneer” – Howard Rheingold is a great example of this. He was followed by Jim Cramer, The Motley Fool, Matt Drudge and Perez Hilton.
Now we have Twitterati. 5 Million followers and counting for @aplusk (AshtonKutcher). Byte-sized personal branding at your service.
With each wave of personalities that come to the Internet, they carry their own unique form of creativity – in “voice”/personality, style, and antics. No one quite communicated like Howard Rheingold (or dresses like him), no one quite had the style of Arianna Huffington, no one has the short-form entertainment appeal of Violet Blue or the techno-social grace of Michael Arrington.
The latest wave of online personalities that are growing include those who are able to capture the heart and spirit of the millenials in several new areas: social consciousness, global savvy, and celebrity. One great way to watch the celebrity arena is Celebrifi , by Blue Buzz Networks, which I’m mentoring.
Keep a watch for these areas.
See the interview at : http://www.personalbrandingblog.com/personal-branding-interview-randy-haykin/
I’m now thinking about what comes next.