From personal brand to social me

Personal branding From personal brand to social me

Published on 16.09.2020, Tijen Onaran

Everybody has a brand essence. The crucial thing is to be aware of that fact and to actively shape your own brand. The term “social me” helps us to get a better idea of ourselves as a brand.

Personal branding is often equated with marketing yourself as a person. However, I believe that this understanding of personal branding leads us astray from what it should actually be about, because the ultimate goal isn't to sell ourselves or a product. Personal branding is entirely different from corporate branding. Products and services can be bought – people can be listened to, networked with or collaborated with on certain topics. No doubt the aspect of professional development plays a role in personal branding. But that’s doesn’t mean that personal branding is exclusively designed for this purpose. To illustrate the difference, I’ll be using the term “social me” from now onwards, instead of “personal brand”.

To my mind, the social me is determined by four essential components: face, voice, visibility and position. These four elements form a kind of coordinate system in which the social me navigates. As a result, the social me can help to give a face and a voice to a certain topic, as Greta Thunberg does with climate change. The key thing is that it’s all about telling your own story and, in doing so, setting and communicating your own agenda. This enables others to establish a connection between you as a person and your goals in life or what you’re trying to advocate. In other words, the focus is on storytelling and content positioning.

The social me shouldn’t simply be understood as a digital image of your analogue self – partly because that’s a short-sighted strategy, and partly because the social me is more than just a selfie gallery. Likewise, it would be overly simplistic to restrict efforts to the digital sphere. I believe that you should always think about both worlds – the analogue and the digital. The two spheres are interdependent and shouldn’t be considered in isolation. A full friends list on Facebook or LinkedIn is not enough to constitute a functioning network.

In addition, a social me should convey a broader message than just “me”, which is the message conveyed by a selfie. This is a fine line, of course, because a selfie is neither a good nor a bad thing. While a selfie with Greta would provide powerful support for your message, it takes a lot more than 1,000 selfies to create a personal branding strategy. In other words, you need selfies with content. The concept of the social me relies on the content and personal positioning that makes the person behind the image visible. What defines you as a person? Which topics are you interested in and how do you position yourself? The social me concept only works if you have your own position and make it visible.


Unfortunately, Connecta cannot be held as planned. Tijen Onaran would have been one of the 80 speakers. An alternative programme is available through Connecta TV, Connecta Doc and Connecta Talk – find out more at

Tijen Onaran

Tijen Onaran is the founder of Global Digital Women, an international company advocating greater visibility, empowerment and advice in diversity issues. As a member of the Handelsblatt Expert Council, she publishes articles and, every week, interviews personalities from society and the world of economics for Business Punk’s “How to Hack” podcast.

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