Chris Brogan vs. Social Media Explorer

Chair with nametagDon’t worry, Jason Falls and Chris aren’t flaming one another on Twitter or anything…  The Social Media equilibrium is still intact.  However, Chris’ recent post on the merits of Social Media Explorer did get me thinking.  What is better when you are thinking of starting a business:  your name or your brand?

It Should Always Be Your Name!

If I am going to put my time, my effort and my ideas into building a brand, it should be around my name.  While I might be selling around a topic or a niche, at the end of the day I am selling myself, so why not put my best foot forward?  Ensure that people not only know what they are buying, but who they are buying from.  Leading with your identity has the potential to build trust and earn you a reputation; it can get you to the point where customers are literally asking for you by name.

Another very real concern is that things and names change.  Social Media Explorer might be the right name at the right time, but if things continue to evolve, it will be far easier for Chris Brogan to pivot.  Proving that you are a person of ideas and that you have the ability to execute is far more important than having a catchy brand that people can remember.  It also lets you reinvent yourself as the world changes around you.  Social Media might not mean anything in the next few years, but your name… that lasts a lifetime.

No Way… It Should Definitely Be Your Brand!

Then again, can one person really do everything?  It is something you already see Chris talking about on his site.  To scale a business around one human has its challenges. Sadly, no matter how good someone might be, we are all limited.  When you put yourself at the forefront, that is what customers are going to want.  Sure you can build a great team, but at the end of the day, when you are the brand people will want you.  No matter how good you are, you are going to get to a point where things just cannot scale on your own.  You are going to have to depend on others to help you reach your goals and this may not be something that your customers are comfortable with.

For many, the goal is to build a business that can live beyond your lifetime.  The beauty of building a brand is that it can become a juggernaut, an entity unto itself.   It can grow far beyond the scope of one man and allow for you to build an amazing team who all have the potential to represent the brand.  This is something that Jason is actually beginning to experiment with by adding a dozen new writers to Social Media Explorer.  This ability to scale far beyond yourself has tremendous potential for those looking to create a world-class organization.  It also goes a long way toward taking a lot pressure off of an individual once business picks up.

Your Best Bet Is To Build Both!

The bottom line: there are risks to going at it from either direction, so hedge your bets and build both.  It doesn’t matter which one is at the forefront, be sure to take the time to establish your brand and your own identity.  In fact, Chris and Jason both excel at this, even though they approach it in different ways.  Jason puts a tremendous amount of effort into his personal brand through his speaking gigs and through his personal account on Twitter.  Chris has made sure to lend his personal equity to his marketing company New Marketing Labs as well as many other projects that go beyond his own name.  We now live in a world where people want the best of both worlds, a world class organization supported superstars within their walls.

Jason and Chris have shown that you can have success either way… as long as you work as hard and are as good as those two are.  So, how about you?  Are you building up your name or are you focused on your brand?  Or like me, are you making sure to spend the time to build both?

For almost 10 years, Michael Schechter has worked in his family’s business, Honora, a Freshwater Pearl jewelry company based in New York City. Over the past year, Michael has shifted from his role in operations to marketing and currently works as the Director of Community managing Honora‘s Website, Social Media presence as well as the overall customer experience. He also serves on the Executive Board of Gen-Next Jewelers, a community in which the next wave of jewelry manufacturers and retailers can connect and act as a resource for one another. You can connect with him on his personal blogTwitter or via email at Michael [at]

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  • The stupidest thing I ever did was name my blog after myself. I can’t sell it. I can’t really grow it. It’s the worst branding mistake ever.

    Except that everyone knows my name. : )

  • It is both a “double edged sword” and a “grass is greener on the other side” situation. Most of the top names in my industry are people who built their brand around themselves. Putting themselves at the center made a big difference in gaining traction. The interesting thing is going to be the next few years as several of those pioneers start to step back and let the next generation take over. It will be interesting to see what happens when compaines like David Yurman become Yurman… so long live Brogan 🙂

    Besides, I can assure you, working on a brand that was named after a somewhat common name, that is almost impossible not to mispronounce due to the word Honor and now has been pushed down in Google Instant by the word Honorarium has its challenges as well 🙂 (darn you Google Instant…)

  • Sue Windley (@DangerousMkting)

    Surely as social media is about engaging others in conversation, so whether it is a brand or an individual, as long as it feels like you’re talking to a person, that’s what will encourage engagement. I started with an unknown ‘brand name’ as this part of our business was new but everyone who engages with @DangerousMkting on Twitter knows that it is me – Sue – who is actually writing the replies! And it is me, the individual, that others have the conversation with.

    I was lucky to discover @ChrisBrogan & @JasonFalls very early on in my social media exploration and have emulated their generosity of spirit & aspire to their level of knowledge. To me these are the most important personal attributes & brand essence of what makes social media the best it can be!

    • They’ve both helped me quite a bit as I’ve figured out this space for both myself and for our company. It is a beautiful thing to be able to be DangerousMkting and Sue at the same time. It’s a challenge that many are facing. I still struggle with Honora on this as I am not Honora, Honora is just shy of 100 people.

  • I love both guys, but I think both of them have branding challenges. Chris notes the limitations of naming the blog after himself below. Jason is challenged by the fact that he may someday want to talk about something other than social media. I prefer the third approach (obviously). Not a name, and not category-specific.

    • Out of curiosity, don’t you think that more nebulous naming can also make the hill harder to climb. Convince and Convert certainly lays the foundation for what you will find there, but right off the bat, this is something that companies like Zappos and even SM sites like Twitter have to overcome. While there are real challenges for both kinds of brands, there were certainly benefits that helped propel them.

  • It’s an interesting question, and worthy of asking, but coming from the UK, the question has already been answered. The majority of businesses have brand names and aren’t named after people. Maybe it’s seen as big headed or whatever, but sometimes it’s uncomfortable to hear a brand named after a person. Maybe it’s what i’m used to from the UK, in Germany where i now live it’s also the case that businesses/brands are often named after people. It’s particularly uncomfortable to hear in the Christian World, eg Joyce Meyer Ministries, Billy Graham Evangelical Association etc In the UK that just doesn’t happen!
    Maybe i haven’t exactly answered the question, but good business and good social media means often that a range of people from your business should write on Twitter/Facebook a blog etc, building the brand. Under a brand name that’s easy, under one persons name, that doesn’t work so much!

    • We’ve really found that to be true with our UK friends and customers. When our president goes on QVC UK, he has found that our audience there really connects when he talks about all the people involved rather than focusing the attention on himself. In the US, it is more of a mixed bag (we have big heads here 🙂 ). There are some that fall in love with brands, but there is a love of celebrity that has bled over into business (especially as more and more celebs seem to be creating products).

  • By the way, the next few brands I’ve created all can span. : )

    • The beauty of mistakes… we get to learn from them!

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  • Anonymous

    When I was trying to figure out what I wanted to call my company, I had a similar debate with myself. I knew I didn’t want it to be my name (for a number of reasons), but I also wanted some kind of connection to me. I finally chose Geben Communication because it was easy to pronounce and spell, plus it means “to give” in German. My family is German and I’m a big believer in the power of nonprofits and wanted to convey that, plus it didn’t lock me in to PR or social media.

    Having gone through that, I’m fascinated with the process people use to name things. I wonder how many names were born after long, arduous brainstorming sessions, or how many just popped into someone’s head. Someone should do a study on that! 🙂


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