Should You "Personal Brand" A Small Business?


Ellington surveys My sister Susan and I grew up with an extra family member who always had dinner with us, went on holidays with us and frequently competed for our parent's attention. We called it "The Business." 

My parents owned a small business, a marketing research company Ellington Surveys, in metro Boston. Although I joke about it, anyone who grew-up in a small business knows how The Business often does become an extention of your family. Even if you're good at balancing work/life it's always just around the corner. Sometimes barging in uninvited at the most inopportune times. 

I've always thought that starting a company was something you did after you had years of experience. However, often that's not the case. There are traits to success that may be even more critital: passion, a belief in your idea and the drive to "do it your way."

Erin Blaskie's post on MSN Business on MainStarting Up Right Out of College, speaks to the idea of the young entrepreneur. She offers a good check list of the pros and cons that are appropriate for anyone of any age who is considering starting on the small business path.

Once you've made the choice to go into business for yourself the mantra becomes "They will not come unless you tell them." You have another series of choices to make.

As a small business owner you have one additional decision, when it comes to branding and creating awareness, that your friends working on the other side of the street don't have to consider.

Do you build your reputation around the identify of The Business? Or do you build the reputation based on your personal brand?

In age of the digital footprint the lines are blurred. Even before you open your brick and mortor or virtual doors people can check you out. The exciting news is you have an opportunty, that my dad did not, to ensure that your personal brand, and by extention, your new biz is success ready.

Extra fun part .. You can win $100!

MSN Business On Main had given me $100 to run a monthly contest. Thank you kindly MSN!  

Your challenge: Drop a tip about how a small business owner can use social media to create awarenss PRE Launch. You can go personal branding route or not .. your choice. 

The idea that Max, I and special guest judge Anita Campbell choose will win 100 dollars! Just in time to create your Halloween costume. 

Anita Campbell_2When I think of people supporting small businesses the first person to come to mind is Diva Anita Campbell.

Anita is Founder, CEO and Editor in Chief of one of the most popular sites for small business owners .. Small Business Trends.  Check it out .. this vibrant community has more than 250,000 biz owners who drop by each month! Continue the conversation with Anita on Twitter and on Facebook

Rules of The Business on Main/Diva Marketing Social Media Small Business Tips Contest 

1. Post your tip for how to use social media for branding on this Diva Marketing post And on this MSN Business On Main Post. If you don't post on MSN BOM you are not part of the game.

2. Identify your post on Business On Main with the words Diva Marketing

3. Winner is at the pleasure of Diva Marketing

4. Contest ends midnight October 7, 2011

5. You must be at least 18 years of age

6. A valid eMail address must be included on the "Post a Comment Section" of your Diva Marketing comment. (How will I know where to contact you to send your check?)

That's it .. now it's your turn!

Diva Marketing is part of an online influencer network for MNS Business on Main. I receive incentives to share my views on a monthly basis. All opinions are 100% mine.

Read More About Entrepreneurship 

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Fifty Blogs for Young Entrepreneurs

Update! Thanks to everyone who participated in our contest and to the nice people who tweeted it out.  A special toss of a pink boa to Anita Campbell our special guest judge.

 and the winner is .. Nettie Hartsock of The Hartsock Agency!  

Nettie Hartsock_2

Here is Anita's reason why: I picked Nettie Hartsock's tip about following journalists on Twitter because it not only told you the general tip, but it gave specific tactics on how to do it.  It told you to check out and, identify journalists and start following them.  

A good tip tells you what to do -- but a great tip goes beyond general advice, and points you toward tactics to carry it out.  And besides, the comment is just good advice on maximizing Twitter for your business.


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Wow, lots to digest. Thanks for generously sharing this useful info. Especially appreciate the acknowledgment that for some businesses, the goal may not be tens of thousands of fans but a few hundred solid ones.

Posted by: eBay Virtual Assistant on Sep 22, 2011 3:25:34 AM

Tip for building awareness prelaunch using social media is to grab your Twitter username at the same time you decide your company name.

Start following media on Twitter by using sites like and which have lists of journalists, media on Twitter. As you follow some of the media in your particular arena, they will follow you. If you are putting good content out on Twitter, you might be sourced by one of those media directly in a news story. What a great way to kick off your business! And you haven't paid a traditional PR company to use old methods of pitching that don't work anymore.

Posted by: Nettie Hartsock on Oct 5, 2011 10:21:42 AM

Toby, what a wonderful idea! My tip is as follows.

Creation stories are powerful conversation creators, trust builders and momentum generators. They force you to think about what value you have to offer and who to offer value to. Come up with your business creation story and start telling it pre-launch via social media.

Add it to your LinkedIn profile and tell it on your Google [and +] profile, using photos, words and shared content. Launch a blog to document your creation story and the transformation of the story into reality. Celebrate reactions to your story and share what you learn. Engage with your audiences so they have a reason to help spread the word once you officially open your doors, and then be loyal and humble as your business and you grow.

Whether you brand yourself or the business, don't ever forget that you are who brings the business to life and make it human. People will engage with you and expect a response back from a person, not a faceless organization.

This is 'social' media.

Thank you, Toby!


Posted by: C.B. Whittemore on Oct 5, 2011 5:18:54 PM

A great way to start generating some buzz/awareness around ones brand before launching is to start blogging and establish the business (or person depending on what is important for your business) as a thought leader or an industry expert. You can establish yourself as a thought leader on literally anything – get creative! If a funeral home can have a successful Twitter account, so can you and your business. Find out how you can differentiate yourself/your business and go with it! You can then promote your posts and start generating conversations with the right people on Twitter, Facebook, Google + etc. *DIVA Marketing*

Posted by: Allison on Oct 7, 2011 11:02:01 AM

Research the big 3 social media sites (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) for "hangouts" or groups of people that match your target market. Join them and participate in conversations, building relationships as you go. Make sure you've got somewhere to send folks to sign-up for the big launch announcement (use a landing page with email capture). And if you can't quite find a group that matches your target market, create your own. I did this with a Facebook Group called Foodiepreneurs, and it took off like gangbusters. Now I've got my own "village" of like-minded folks right at my fingertips. Anytime I have something to launch, I know right where to go.

Posted by: Tea Silvestre on Oct 7, 2011 11:59:56 AM

Great topic, Toby.

When I started my franchise consulting business, I went with a corporate name; Franchise Selection Specialists Inc.

A long name, but it really described what I do.

Then one day, while attending a local business show, a gentleman shouted, "'s The Franchise King!"

It kinda stuck.

I use it now, and my friend Jim Kukral strongly suggested that I go to a lawyer to get it trademarked.

I did.

The rest of my personal branding story is yet to be written.

The Franchise King®

Posted by: Joel Libava on Oct 7, 2011 1:13:09 PM

Wow!Thank you I'm thrilled that my tip won and that is was useful to you all!


Posted by: Nettie Hartsock on Oct 10, 2011 10:30:26 PM

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