Imagification in Social Media for Personal Branding

A Thesis Review

This post summarizes findings shared from a 2013 thesis paper, entitled Personal Branding Through Imagification in Social Media: Identity Creation and Alteration Through Images, authored by Gustav Lindahl & Mimi Öhlund. While the duo’s thesis paper is primarily focused on the process of personal branding through the use of posting images on social media (with an emphasis on Instagram), I additionally highlight the impetus driving the concept of personal branding.

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Personal Branding

The term personal branding was only coined a short decade ago by management consultant Tom Peters, co-author of In Search of Excellence and other business books.

Peters originated the concept that brands consist of more than just inanimate entities; suggesting individuals have also become an effective means for branding (Lindahl & Öhlund, 2013). According to Peters (1997), for an individual to stand out in the digital ecosystem, he or she must be his or her own brand.

Self Presentation

To craft one’s personal brand is akin to the act of self-presentation: a creative endeavor that takes into account both the target audience and the context of the social interaction, and involves making choices about what information to include, what to leave out, and whether to engage in deception (Toma, Hancock & Ellison, 2014).

Self-presentation activities on social media often include:

  • posting photographs,
  • profile information,
  • and wall or feed content (Zhao, Grasmuck, & Martin, 2008) (Seidman, 2012).

Personal Branding Online

Because the Internet provides a unique venue for expressing alternative selves (Seidman, 2012), much of branding today occurs online and across social media channels.

As such, personal branding must also engage in these mediums and channels as well in order to take effect and create impact.

In doing so, personal branding in the online realm requires a computer-mediated form of self-presentation where the individual must make choices about what to reveal and share as well as what not to divulge on their online profiles, all to craft a manicured personal brand that is credible, likable, and competent.

Self-Verification

Decision-making related to personal branding inevitably bumps into matters of self-verification as part of personal brand building; in other words:

…how does the individual wish to be seen and how different or alike is that vision congruent with his or her offline identity (Toma, Hancock & Ellison, 2014).

This contrast between what Toma, Hancock, and Ellison (2014) describe as “authenticity versus impression management” is also a personal branding consideration Lindahl and Öhlund (2013) discuss; at least as it pertains to image sharing for personal brand building purposes on Instagram.

The thesis authors explain that while its important to showcase visuals to:

  • (a) differentiate one’s personal brand from the next, and to
  • (b) create the desired perception and influential impact of one’s personal brand, the pressure to differentiate, persuade, and influence often leads to important decisions about what one is visually claiming.

In other words, one must ensure the images they post on behalf of their personal brand are reflecting authenticity so as to avoid (the possibility of) false claims.

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References

Lindahl, G. & Öhlund, M. (2013). Personal branding through imagification in social media: identity creation and alteration through images. Stockholm University School of Business.

Peters, T. (1997, August 31). The brand called you. Fast Company. http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/10/brandyou.html

Seidman, G. (2013). Self-presentation and belonging on Facebook: How personality influences social media use and motivations. Personality and Individual Differences, 54, 402-407.

Toma, C., Hancock, J., & Ellison, N. (2008). Separating fact from fiction: an examination of deceptive self-presentation in online dating. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 34 (8), 1023-1036.

Zhao, S., Grasmuck, S., & Martin, J. (2008). Identity construction on Facebook: Digital empowerment in anchored relationships. Computers in Human Behavior, 24,1816–1836.

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Please share any questions or feedback in the comments below.

Mayra Ruiz-McPherson

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