April 18, 2019

Should I focus on developing an online following focused on myself, my company, or my product?

Chris Vasselli @cvasselli

I'm an indie dev with a single niche product (Japanese learning), and about 2k DAUs. I have a company I formed (mostly for liability purposes), but haven't really invested in developing a brand around it.

I'm interested in getting more into writing, probably mostly around app development and Japanese learning, but only have so much time to dedicate to growing a brand/following online. It seems like I have a few choices of where to publish my efforts:

  • My personal twitter, and a personal blog like chrisvasselli.com
  • A company twitter account, and (after getting my company website in shape), on a company blog
  • A twitter account for my product, and add a blog to the product website, which is now just a landing page.

Anyone have any insight?

  1. 13

    I would focus first on building your personal brand. The reason is that businesses come and go, ideas change, but you are you.

    If you have a following, it will be easier to launch more products in the future. Take someone like Marco Arment. He developed his personal brand, through writing, and podcasting. When he sold Instapaper and then made Overcast, it got an instant following Day 1.

    You can use your personal brand to build up your businesses. Tell your unique story, to as many people that will listen. When you’re about to pivot or start something new, they will follow.

    1. 2

      Hey Chris, that's an interesting reply. I thought that people are gonna answer "Focus on your customer first!" But you answered personal brand.

      I have one question. I am in my early 20s and I have little to no experience/any practical knowledge that I can offer to other people. What can I do right now to build my personal brand?

      1. 6

        Everyone always thinks they don't have enough experience to talk about the experience. The truth is we all are writing our own stories based on the biases in front of us.

        For example; I have been programming for almost 20 years. I started with Perl, C++, etc. I am biased against languages like JavaScript because I don't find them a "good" language. Am I right? Or is the person who got out of XYZ hacker school, and knows JavaScript up and down right? You can make an argument both ways.

        Just discuss your experience and write about what you know. Everything you know now is wrong, and/or will be proven wrong in the future. Deal with it and move on. My blog has been up for 10 years, and there is stuff on there I'd rather forget. Instead, I leave it there to remind myself every day that I know nothing, and that's ok.

        1. 2

          Everything you know now is wrong, and/or will be proven wrong in the future. Deal with it and move on.

          That's a really interesting perspective Chris, thank you.

    2. 2

      That makes a lot of sense -- thank you!

  2. 2

    It may sound selfish to say this but in the startups I worked at, when there are co-founders issues and someone has to go, usually the one who got to stay is the one who makes her/his face the brand of the company to the public.

    Even though the other founder may be much more well liked in the company or contributed way more behind the public eyes.

    That's another reason to consider building your personal brand more. Such that when someone think of your company, you are the first name that springs to mind and the loss of you would be very bad for the company's image

  3. 2

    Have a look at Neil Patel's post about this question: https://neilpatel.com/blog/build-personal-brand/

    1. 1

      Interesting read, thanks! If anything this actually reinforces my feeling that what @chrisblackwell said was right, that at least for me, a personal brand is probably the way to go.

      The drawbacks Neil Patel sees in having developed a personal brand rather than a corporate one seem to have manifested once he reached a much larger scale than I’m interested in. He even says that for a lifestyle business (which is what I’m interested in), a personal brand is probably a good idea.

      Some interesting points in there though for someone thinking about scaling out a larger business.

  4. 1

    I think it depends on if you have any direct "ideas" for your personal brand, is and if that's the case, it would make sense to work on this.

    For example, being branded as an expert in "something" that's unique and different from other people out there. However, if you're not sure what this could be, then it might make sense to put this temporarily on hold until you work out what that could be/look like.

    You could think of a personal brand, as in itself, a "marketing campaign."

    If you do go the personal brand route - both Facebook and LinkedIn will be quite useful for this. The trend over the last few years is to use storytelling on these platforms (some will also use this in conjunction with Quora as well) to build up one's personal brand.

    Storytelling usually follows a type of format:

    • Short snappy sentences that tell a story.
    • The sentences, follow like an "hourglass pattern," as in, the actual shape.
    • Have the goal to evoke some kind of genuine emotional response.

    The other thing you might want to consider is "the amount of time" that you will devote to this (eg. 30mins to 1 hour per day) — or if this is something that you might eventually outsource.

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