Personal Branding from 9-5

clockAt last night’s #u30pro chat we asked the participants to share professional obstacles that they’ve been facing, and then turned it over to the chat to discuss how to overcome these obstacles.

The final obstacle that we discussed left me with a few questions. It was about using twitter while in the office.  This person’s superior asked them not to.

This question forced the young pros that were participating to take a hard look at themselves in the mirror.  Few who have worked in an office can honestly say they’ve never peeked at their facebook, or twitter once in a while.

Then Meghan Butler brought up the “advantage of personal branding” for the company.  That’s to say that to build your personal brand benefits the company, and so it should be alright to do it on company time.

Now I’ve spoken about the battle between your personal brand and your company’s brand before.  In that post I said that your company’s brand should take priority over your personal brand.

This is different though.  It’s about company time.  Should employees be allowed to spend time building their personal brand, while they’re on the clock?  Should they be allowed to use social networks at all?

EDIT: To add to the conversation, Dan Schawbel just tweeted about a research report claiming “24% of employees have been disciplined at work because of social networking”.

39 thoughts on “Personal Branding from 9-5

  1. Yes! Personally, I know that my boss likes to see that we are up on the latest trends and conversations that are happening with social media. If that means I share a link with the office to a great blog post I read, or if I am building relationships with journalists and bloggers through Twitter, or keeping the company’s brand out there by being involved in the social media community – then I think it benefits my company and helps position us as a leader in the space. I think you still have to get your work done. But I feel that my personal brand was something that helped me get hired and they expect me to bring value/ideas in the area of social media PR. So if that means I send a few tweets while I’m at work, I think that means I’m doing my job.

    Great topic, David!! 🙂

    1. Very interesting take. I can relate. At my internship last summer, the entire interactive division would meet on Wednesday mornings where we would discuss what everyone is working on, what they’ve accomplished, and then we’d go around the room and everyone would share an interested website, or blog post that they’ve read that week. Like you, we were expected to stay on top of industry trends and issues.

      Now I’m just wondering, is there a line?

  2. I’m so glad you wrote more about this, I was hoping to hear more opinions from seasoned professionals last night. But alas, I’m addicted to Bones. 🙂

    I know for me I feel as though I don’t want to do anything non-work related on the clock. For example, at the moment, I’m counting this time as “out of office” in our time tracking system. We have to bill our clients by the hour, so we’re asked to meticulously document our hours.

    I love to Tweet now and then and read some blogs during the day, but I make sure that I don’t do it on a client’s time. If you’re in a setting where a client is being billed, I think it’s incredibly disrespectful to do anything personal unless it will directly benefit that client.

    When it comes to general company time, I’m a little less sure. I understand that having a strong personal brand can be beneficial to a company, but is it more beneficial than building up a strong brand at the company? Does that make sense? I guess if I’m going to Tweet on the job, I’d rather it be for a client and help improve the corporate image (which in turn will build my own brand/portfolio) than Tweet something that will only benefit me.

    I don’t know for first-hand experience though, so I’m eager to see what others say!

    1. Rebecca,

      I too wanted to hear more on this topic, and I think you ask some amazing questions.

      You bring up a great point about agencies. Even if you are allowed, or even expected, to stay on top of new trends and maintain a personal brand, you absolutely shouldn’t do it at the expense of a client.

  3. I’m happy the discussion continues on this topic. This has been a tug-of-war type issue in my mind, because as much as I want to promote my own brand, learn from Twitter SM/PR pros that I follow, and join discussions, I do feel as though it’s not my position to do all that while I’m at the office.

    While I’m at the office, yes, my time should be devoted to working on accounts of our paying clients, not reading blogs and commenting. However, there is a part of me that wonders, What am I missing out on? There’s only so much time during the day for me to Tweet and speak my own piece.

    Then there is the whole working beyond 9-5 thing. Even if I’m at home on a weeknight, I’ll still log into my work e-mail and work from home. What is the expectation there?

    Looking forward to what the seasoned pros have to say. Great post David!

    1. Right, that was one of the points that I thought about a lot, and brought up during the chat. “9-5” is deteriorating. Many young pros work more efficiently at different hours and so they take work home. Personally, I work from home, and while I try to make myself available from 9-5 as much as possible, much of the work gets done at later hours. Therefore, is it unfair to expect one to stay off of social networks from 9-5?

      1. I am def. one of those people that’s guilty of taking work home (when it’s not time sensitive).

        Fortunately my work schedule allows me to do my work efficiently (while engaging in SM from time to time throughout the day) without wasting my clients time…etc.

        I don’t let my work interfere with my billable time though, so if I need to bill X amount of hours, I will stay later/come in earlier to make sure I’m still able to do all of my work while being part of Twitter, etc.

        My company encourages us to be active and following news/trends, but the client *ALWAYS* comes first.

      2. I like that. It comes down to a balance from day to day. If you have more work to finish for a client, then you spend less on social networks. I love to think of it as, it doesn’t matter when I do my work or what else I choose to do, as long as it gets done, and it is good quality.

        Quality is important.

  4. Glad you went here, and I have to give an unqualified: it depends. Does the company actively participate in SM? What is the nature of the job/position vs. what is the person doing to promote themselves as a personal brand? It is part of the job description to blog, comment, chat and Tweet?

    I can read a blog or an article that actually helps me improve my work, so it’s not a matter of keeping it ALL off the proverbial 9-5 clock. My old-fashioned work ethic: It is the company’s dollar, time, computer/internet resources. A true professional should always try to do their best, give 100%. I keep my personal email/calls/projects to a minimum on the job, and I’m a solo PR working at home. That said:

    I DO NOT think blocking access to SM sites, or banning someone from tweeting from their personal (not company) cell phone is necessary. Unless that person is spending SO much time promoting themselves that it becomes clear that 1) their OWN brand, not the company’s is top priority and 2) the work product suffers, with missed deadlines and less than stellar efforts. I think putting your personal brand before your professional responsibilities is ultimately detrimental to your professional reputation. FWIW.

    1. I’m glad you said “it depends.” You’re so right, there are many factors that go into whether or not using Twitter and such during work is appropriate. I think it should definitely be a discussion if the employee feels that it is necessary or beneficial to their work.

      If you can show value in it, I think there should be good reason to allow it.

    2. Davina,

      I agree with everything you said. Well done.

      I think it’s important to, once in a while, interact on social networks while at work. It can help you relieve some stress through a friendly conversation, receive inspiration, take your mind off an immediate project for a minute, etc… It should be kept at a relative minimum though.

  5. Well, what is the SM policy of the company? Are they branding themselves on these platforms? What’s on your plate? Can you multi-task?

    All questions that need to be answered before proceeding.

    1. Key is it comes down to the employee and what they’re capable of. Personally, I have a juggling act going on every day. I’ll admit I’m not the most organized person (more like organized chaos) but I get the work done when it needs to be done. If you can prioritize, and execute, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to do it in a way that’s comfortable for you.

  6. First, let me tell you I’m so sad that I never get to participate in #u30pro as this ‘Under 30’ has a child who needs my attention after work. I love reading the transcripts though–I always learn something.

    Using company time to build personal brand is ok in my opinion, as long as you’re doing it in such a way that you’re actually ‘building the company brand’ as well. If you’re simply chatting with friends, or talking about what you’ll be doing on the weekend, then no–that’s not personal branding.

    Part of my job is to remain up to date on trends in tech and business, so I have to take time to do this. However, I make sure that all of my actual client work is complete before I jump on Twitter, Facebook, or start reading blogs. As our online brand ambassador of sorts, and the girl who covers our clients social media, I’m allowed. If I didn’t do these things, then no, I probably wouldn’t be tweeting (or I’d do what Rebecca does, and work off the clock).

    One thing I don’t do is blog for personal purposes. I draw the line there. A tweet takes but a minute. However, writing for my own blog takes time that’s too valuable. If I do that, it’s after hours. My personal brand doesn’t take priority over my company’s when I’m being paid to do a great job for them. But sometimes the two go hand-in-hand.

    1. Glad you brought up the point about blogging. I feel the same way (I have the same line). I’m also in a unique position however, where as community manager, my job never really ends. It’s a 24/7 commitment as if a user has an issue, or mentions our site, I have to respond promptly. I still commit most of my work hours (project management, writing, etc) from 9-5…but community engagement never ends. This means that my work like is one big mix of personal and company branding.

      One question I have though, is about the concept of participating online “with friends” as you used as an example, “talking about what you’ll be doing on the weekend”. This, while obviously not benefiting your brand, is something that we do when we go online. When I’m on twitter or facebook, I have two hats on, my professional, and my personal hat. Is it possible to ONLY focus on professional issues when interacting on social networks in this day an age? (This might have to be a post on its own!)

      1. “I agree with everything you said. Well done.”- Thanks for that David.

        Can you keep it 100% professional? I guess. Should you? No. Like Nate mentioned, we do business with people in companies. If you’re tweeting as a person, I think a little human interest is needed.

        1. In all reality, I’m a big fat liar. I send the quick message to friends, and my personal Twitter account is a mix of things that enter my mind in the course of the day–some work related, others not. I think I still subscribe to some of the old maxims of not mixing business with pleasure, but it’s a fallacy. People have been mixing business and pleasure together forever. It’s what we define as appropriate and inappropriate. That’s changing. A year ago, Facebook was almost strictly social for me–now it’s much more business. And still, some of my friends are clients, and vice versa. I’m lucky enough to have a job where my boss recognizes this, but I’ve been in workplaces where they don’t as well.

  7. Thanks for expanding on this topic, David! At my internship we had to keep track of meticulous billing hours for our clients, so any time spent building personal brands was not counted, but it was still encouraged to stay on top of industry trends and practices.

    We had a database on our intranet that was used to keep track of reports, blog posts and whitepapers that were found to be useful and educational. A majority of time these digital documents were discovered by people using their personal Twitter accounts.

    With using personal social networking accounts I think it is always important to remember that the client must always come first. But, we all experience down time through out our days/weeks, so during that time, I see no harm in working on personal brands that could become cohesive with the personalities that exist within an agency/company. As long as the work you produce for the client is grade-A material, what’s wrong with spending a quick 5 minute glance on Twitter? Who knows, you could find something that a client would be very interested in.

    1. This touches on the issue of having specific goals in mind when interacting on social networks. Many of us just sign on, and start looking at what people are sharing. If you’re going to tie your efforts back to benefits to the client however, you have to participate in these networks with the purpose of gathering valuable information specific to those clients.

  8. My boss actually asks that I stay informed via blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc. throughout the day. That’s not to say I can spend hours upon hours doing so. However, social media is a major part of our business, so it’s important that we stay on top of the latest trends.
    Twitter and other social mediums allow us to do this, so if I also happen to build my personal brand while staying up to date, then that’s just an added bonus. In addition, we’re a very young company, so my boss likes us to establish ourselves as much as we can – both locally and nationally.

    1. Interesting. It makes sense for a young company to encourage their employees to build their personal brand. When starting out, a company’s is only as strong as the few people that work for it.

      Wondering if this mentality would still be beneficial for companies that aren’t in the social media/web/marketing/pr space.

  9. Part of my job is to be up on the latest social media news, applications, social networking, etc. If I find something interesting or that could be beneficial to my company, I send it on. I’m building relationships with bloggers, so it’s beneficial to read and comment on posts. My situation is unique in that I have to be up on social media, entertainment, and any crossover because my boss will ask me about it. That said, I try to keep my commenting on personal posts (such as this one) to lunch time or other breaks. I wouldn’t feel right writing personal blog posts at work, but I often have to go on Facebook, Twitter, or Myspace for research or other things. So I think my “personal brand” plays second fiddle to the company’s, because I see my engagement beneficial to the company. And yes, I did just say second fiddle.

  10. It’s funny. 10-15 years ago, companies though email was going to result in employees being unproductive while on the clock. Same debate occurred.

    Now we have Facebook, LinkedIn, Blogs and Twitter as tools, and with it, the opportunity to develop and publish personal brands.

    Companies are made up of people. People do businesses with people in an organization – not the organization itself. Those days are gone. The stronger base of personal brands you have in a company, the more transparent the company becomes, and the more people can engage with the people inside. Seems like a business necessity to me…

    1. If twitter succeeds at its goal to have people not talk about them anymore, and to be considered just another communication method, like email, then businesses will certainly have to take a hard look at their policies, and adapt quickly.

      There’s a different between using social networks professionally and recreationally. The professional one knows they can’t get lost in the network for hours on end. Or they don’t and they get fired.

  11. I knew Nate would have something insightful to impart! I totally agree that companies are made of people, and that’s who we do business with–a logo doesn’t sell me, an interesting face/personality does.

    1. Just had a thought. Wouldn’t it be cool if you had an agency, where the customer could choose which individual employees would work on their account? They’re familiar with the personal brands of each employee at the agency, and so they feel comfortable knowing who they’ll be working with. Until now, agencies have been pretty ominous, in that you hire them, but you don’t really know the individuals working on your company.


      1. Maybe we should call this the “Hair Cuttery” business philosophy. That’s exactly the way it is when you walk into Hair Cuttery. You can either get your hair cut by whomever is first available, or you can wait until your preferred “stylist” is available.

          1. Very interesting idea! As business becomes more personalized (more democratized even), why shouldn’t business owners be able to choose who works with them? Mind you, the danger is potential popularity contests amongst co-workers. In the small city I live in, there is a similar feel though–we have no big agencies, so clients are more apt to choose their marketing firm based on ‘corporate personality.’ Interesting…

  12. Good question David. I say “screw with personal branding”, I don’t think most people going through facebook pics are thinking about that. It’s just recreation, and I think that’s ok. We have a name for it now, but it’s no different from before when these tools didn’t exist.

    People improve their results not because of where they spend their time, but because they do it. You need a break if you work from 9 to 5.

    1. Agreed. I never liked the 9-5 scheme because it forced employees to work a certain way, whether they felt comfortable or not.

      I think there is a difference between using social networks professionally, and using them for recreation, but I agree that it doesn’t have to be tied to this concept of “personal branding”.

      Breaks are vital for the efficient professional…at least they are for me. Funny thing is, I usually spend my breaks thinking about work, but it allows you to think in a less stressful environment.

      Appreciate the comment Carlos!

  13. I have to say that “what is a company without their staff?”. This means that the company brand consist of many personal brands which means that it has to be allowed. The only thing important is to set up rules for what is ok and what’s not. I do understand the companies who are upset if the staff is on Facebook ansering different quizes all day – but if the time is used to search information, to discuss relevant topics and questions and to communicate with clients and collaegues – then what is wrong? Wouldn’t it be totally wrong to stop this? We can’t prevent the future – we just have to set up rules for what’s ok and not!
    Christian (

    1. I think it will increasingly become up to the individual employee… Can you balance it well? Sure, participating in socnets while at work might be beneficial to the company, but not if it’s at the expense of you doing the work that you were hired to do. If you can get that work done, and still balance a personal agenda online, then you should be able to.

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