[Jeremiah Owyang, Forrester Sr. Analyst & Personal Brand Master. Photo by Shel]
There are few people who seem to understand and use personal brand better than does Jeremiah Owyang. As a senior analyst for Forrester Research, his name is among the first you hear when the conversation goes to the subject of online communities, or enterprise social media in general. While he is the most followed tweeter in Silicon Valley, according to Twitterholic, what I consider to be far more important is that if you Google or Technorati his name, you will find a steady stream of third-party commentary about Jeremiah's generosity in sharing knowledge, insight and experience. He is among those who best understand that the most influential members of Twitterville--or social media in general, are the most influential.
I met Jeremiah, long before he was generally recognized as a social media rock star. In fact, it was before he was generally recognized at all. He worked at Hitachi Data Systems, a company that I never found particularly interesting for any reason whatsoever. But he was filled with passion about social media and he was clearly a very fast learner. Both Robert Scoble and I found we just loved teaching him what we knew about social media and watched has he vigorosly brought social media into a culture that to my way of thinking was very top down.
Yet he made history there, starting a few projects that were acceptable to the Hitachi culture and moved the social media needle further than I thought would happen. One such effort was something called the Date Storage Wiki, which was the first example of something I came to call social media's "lethal generosity," Which I wrote about a while ago. After he moved on, Hitachi took down the wiki and disassembled other efforts he had started. The company's little noted and virtually not remembered as a social media player. But Jeremiah is, and that is one of the reasons I see him as a prime example of how personal brand can make a difference in your career and life.
I talked to Jeremiah again in preparation for my Twitterville Chapter on Personal Brand.
Here are some excerpts:
Q1 I met you less than three years ago, when you were a mid-level guy at Hitachi Data Systems (HDS), using passion and tenacity to bring social media to a culture that wasn't exceedingly excited about it. What did you achieve back at HDS and how did you manage to succeed? What advice do you have for SM evangelists in corporate environments.
Mid-Level? I was a single contributor at the time –but developed the social media program and had a small staff –and tiny budget. Talking to customers was important –whether or not any company’s culture is ready for it. Evangelism is a tricky path in large corporations, the biggest thing to remember is that the difference between an evangelist and a leader is that people may not be following an evangelist. Therefore, don’t forget to turn around every once in a while and see if anyone is following you. Practical Tips? Develop a business case starting with customer behaviors, a competitive matrix, and a clear and concise plan how you’ll meet the needs of customers. Do all of this without ever saying “Twitter," "Facebook," or "blogs.”
Q2 What role did your personal use of social media play in getting you from HDS to Forrester in such a short time?
A big part of it is due to my online reputation, SEO, and word of mouth. I was hired partly at PodTech (a now-defunct audio-video podcast producer) because of my blog. In my current gig, Charlene Li, who recruited me, once told me that her online searches often led to my blog, a good reason to hire me to research the topic of social media marketing. That said, it’s not all of it, I had to go through the other rigors of the interview process that other analysts before me did. That said, I call my blog a ‘career’ blog--and Twitter too-- as they will go with my from job to job –a perk for any employer who hires me.
Q3 How do you define personal brand? How does your personal brand impact Forrester's brand? How does Forrester's brand impact you?
I was recently shocked that I won Dan Schwabel’s Personal Brand Award and received a hefty plaque that’s on my desk. I never really tried to focus on being a ‘top personal brand’ but instead was just following my passion. My brand, is different than a corporate brand, there is no style guide, no brand statement, or logo guides. I do, however, have my own personal mantra to help companies connect with customers using online tools. That is my mission. Personal brands aren’t too far from corporate brands of the future, both show thought leadership, focus, and a bit behind the curtains. As it ends up, I actually disclose very little of my personal life on the web. I keep most conversations tied to the industry.
Q4 Let's talk Twitter. How, when and why did you start using Twitter?
I remember when having 100 followers seemed like a lot.
I’m an early adopter. I started in early 2007, about two years ago. Robert Scoble insisted, told me it was the Next Big Thing, and I complied. His instinct to sniff out new technologies is amazing and he was right about Twitter. In fact, I know that I’ve evangelized the tool and got quite a few people I know to come around to it. I remember using it to ask questions to fuel upcoming blog posts, and to promote new shows that Podtech shows, while was working there.
Q5 How do you think Twitter has impacted your personal brand?
It has impacted my personal brand tremendously. It's an extension of
my blog. Not just that, but all the things I do online and in real life are echoed on
Twitter. I tweet about what's interesting to me, what I'm doing, who
I'm meeting with, so in many ways, it's a reflection of my actual life.
As a result, anyone who cares to keep track of what I'm up to, can
quickly stay abreast by following my tweets. I have posted this blog about how I use Twitter http://tinyurl.com/
Q7. If you ever leave Forrester, what impact do you think it will have on your personal brand or their corporate brand?
We’ll have to wait and see on that one, as I’m not sure. I certainly appreciate the acceleration that the Forrester brand has brought to me, hopefully my colleagues will feel the same way in a reciprocal way.
Q8 What advice do you have for professionals wishing to build personal brand through social media.
Have an objective.
First, define a very clear career mission. What is it that you’re trying to solve for your clients or employer? Don’t focus on the minutiae of tools, instead think of the greater problem and solution you’ll provide.
Stick to your plan. Most of the time, be consistent and be ready for the long haul. Building my own personal brand has taken years, and I studied those who did it before me and emulated them. Integrate the tools, don’t just focus on one but learn to use them all in tandem.
Q9 Do you have a great personal story to share involving twitter and personal brand?
Twitter has become part of my ongoing communications with everyone. My colleagues use it to keep track of what I’m up to, my clients use it to track new research or findings, or they use it to ask me questions, my friends and family use it to see what’s on my mind.
Q10 Additional comments?
We can talk about the future of Twitter sometime if you’d like, I’ve some ideas where it’s headed.