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Is there a difference between corporate brands and personal brands on social media?

Social media: personal brands vs. corporate brands

case study personalbrand Dec 23, 2020

Tesla and SpaceX have a combined following of 20.5 million followers on Twitter. Elon Musk, the brilliant mind behind these two brands, has a following of 41 million. That means that there is an equal number of people who follow Elon purely out of interest in his personal brand! We see an even more jarring gap when comparing the Twitter following of the Virgin Group (245,6K) and its Founder Richard Branson (12.6 million). Let’s switch to LinkedIn. The highly acclaimed brand SPANX has a following of 48 thousand, whereas the brand’s Founder Sara Blakely has a following of over 1 million!

Why is that? Why do strong personal brands outperform even the most recognized corporate brands in terms of their following?

One of the answers can be found in the ever growing distrust we have in corporate brands or rather corporate brand messaging. We simply tend to trust other human beings more and are more interested in other people than we are in their businesses. A study commissioned by the American Association of Advertising Agencies showed that only 4% of people believe in the integrity of marketers! Interestingly, influencers are increasingly associated with marketers by consumers, but we will talk about influencers in future blog posts.

So, trust is one of the reasons personal brands garner a higher following. Higher interest in the lives of other people versus interest in corporate journeys is the second reason.

And let’s also not underestimate the fact that it is simply easier to build a personal brand following organically. We would be hard pressed to build a massive social media following of our corporate brands without some heavy investment in media spend. Yet, a compelling storytelling strategy behind a relatable and interesting personal brand allows for a quick scaling in following with no financial investment.

When we talk about this during our masterclasses, workshops, or one-on-one sessions, we are usually asked whether it is a sound strategy to drop corporate brand building altogether and focus on building a personal brand instead. Aspiring entrepreneurs who have limited resources ask this question most frequently, of course.

The answer is that there is unequivocal value in building both your personal brand AND your corporate brand.

At Brand of a Leader, we believe in the combined power of corporate and personal branding. We believe that a corporate brand gives credibility to the personal brand and we believe that the personal brand humanizes the corporate brand. A great example of this is Sheryl Sandberg. She has immense credibility that stems from the corporate brand of Facebook, of which she is a COO. And yet her massive following can be attributed to her personal brand and her gender parity work, which in turn arguably humanizes the brand of Facebook.

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