In early 2007, a friend sent me an invite to join Facebook. Those were early Facebook days, definitely so in India. I browsed around the site, found nothing of interest and left. But I didn’t quit. Slowly, I started to get connection requests from friends I hadn’t been in touch with since school or college days. It felt cool to reconnect.

And just like that one fine day, in 2009, I decided to quit Facebook for good.

For a long time I didn’t think highly of Facebook or other social media. I was on LinkedIn but it was fine because it’s a professional website. The other sites were just channels where people spent their time trying to show to the world they’ve arrived in life.

How wrong was I? Terribly it appears.

Late last year, after we created a Twitter account for MBAEssayNation and started to tweet, did I realize how important social media is to share our thoughts and learn from others. As we shared posts on news on MBA and business schools from around the globe, we connected with others who shared similar interests. By ourselves, we’d find and share a certain number of interesting posts. But through our network, we’d come across many more such posts that we found useful for our twitter network. Truly a major upside of network effects. As a brand, we’ve become bigger and stronger, thanks to constant exchange of ideas with our network.

Seeing the success of MBAEssayNation’s Twitter account, I was inspired to start my own personal account where I talk about things close to my heart – technology and leadership. I’ve learned so much from my peers on Twitter. Each day is a learning experience.

Would I have learned so much by myself? I doubt it.

My peers on Twitter range from entrepreneurs, C-Suite executives to leading experts in cutting edge technologies, financial services, customer experience and leadership. The breadth of topics and the insights from such an erudite set of individuals are both inspiring and humbling. Besides networking opportunities, the chance to validate one’s ideas through such an august group bears testimony to the potency of similar social media platforms.

And this is where we can see the power of personal branding.

To be recognized within our team or workplace for a certain competency is crucial. The downside, however, is that your credibility remains confined. Personal branding, on the other hand, allows you to be perceived as an authority in your chosen area of expertise by a much wider audience, both within and outside your organization. Personal branding compels you to think differently and broadly, thanks to your interactions with a community comprising individuals with varied thoughts. Personal branding, over time, encourages you to not just move outside your comfort zone but also develop authentic leadership. It’s a natural evolution for those who persist long enough on the journey. Because authenticity is the only way you not just build but also sustain your audience.

For most of us, branding as a word is synonymous with corporates or organizations. In fact, branding is far more effective when it applies to individuals. Why? Simple maxim in the business world is people like people and people buy from people.

Take the recent United Airlines fiasco. What aggravated an already bad situation was the airline chief’s lack of humility. As the leader of the organization, he was being watched by everyone for his words and actions. People wanted to see whether he was just as outraged as the rest of the world over the inhumane treatment of United’s passenger. But the CEO decided to take recourse by heeding to what the corporate relations team of his company would have told him to. Making banal statements, the CEO sounded more like an automated machine reading from a script rather than a sentient human being.

The situation demanded an authentic response – a sincere apology, an acknowledgement that the situation was unacceptable and a promise to set things right. The CEO’s inability to connect with the world as a person is because he overlooked a simple basic truth – remember “people like people and people buy from people”. United suffered an even greater ignominy because its CEO didn’t have a personal brand and nor did he make any attempts to build one during the crisis.

So, what does personal branding have to do with MBA and business schools?

Even in the context of a business school, personal branding assumes a huge importance in your MBA quest where you struggle to differentiate your profile from that of others. Remember Adcoms (admission committees) want to know you – your achievements and the companies you’ve worked with are important yet secondary to the person that you are.

Done right, personal branding will help your reputation precede you in positive ways.

The one question we’d like you to ponder over would be “As you plan your MBA journey, what would you like your personal brand to be known for?”

(This post is the first in a series where we explore personal branding and its relevance from the perspective of MBA aspirants and future business leaders).

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