"Australians and New Zealanders don't like personal branding- they find it distasteful."
I was having lunch the other day with someone from one of the big US social media companies. He stopped eating and stared and me blankly.
"What do you mean?" he said. "That's how social works."
"I know," I said "but I'm in the minority. People will sit in meetings and agree in theory but when you start putting real people's faces on conferences, blog posts and videos, the feelings start to kick in- it's seen as self promotion and not being a team player."
Mr social media company guy looked even more confused.
"That's the complete opposite of what our company does and how we advise other companies. If you are the Lego guy you be the Lego guy. If you are the Android girl you be the Android girl. We do everything to support people in personal branding. It builds our brand, it expands our reach into their networks. Why would you not do that?" he said in his overly dramatic SoCal way.
"People are still working off an old paradigm where the Big Eagle gets featured on the glossy business magazine cover and everyone else should perch silently behind the brand. Try to feature a call-centre person in an article and all you'll get is a long list of reasons why that's not possible and why only certain brass get to comment. It's frustrating but it's a cultural thing and I don't think you'll shift it any time soon," I said.
"So much time is wasted worrying about curbing someone else's profile when people should be building their own. It's a very pessimistic view. What if they leave? What about people that aren't comfortable being on Youtube? It doesn't reward people who have developed those skills and put in the time. It's a cultural thing. We think it's 'showy' or something."
"Wow. That makes no sense at all," said mr social media guy. "What if they stay! They'll own that topic and it builds the brand at the same time. That thinking massively disadvantages Aussie and Kiwi companies in social, and marketing in general. It limits the conversations they are a part of. They really need to get over that thinking- I just can't believe that," said mr social media guy shaking his head.