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Can Brands Be Social? Shel Israel says “No.”

Wiley author Shel Israel has started an interesting conversation with Jeremiah Owyang about wither or not “brands” can be social.  Jeremiah asked if brands should build their own networks, or use existing social nets.  Shel says brands can not be social, only people can.  I’m not so sure I completely agree - yet.

As I have written before, I keep 2 Twitter identities, one of which is one of our brands, Wrox.  The identities are distinctly different, but both “me” - @chriswebb is Chris Webb, editor who talks about publishing, social applications and their occasional intersection.  @wrox is still Chris Webb, editor, but the conversation focuses on programming, web development, .NET and other topics of interest to Wrox readers.

Why keep them separate?  Well, followers of @wrox may not care at all about what @chriswebb has to say about social media and publishing in general, while @chriswebb followers probably are not interested in the latest ASP.NET MVC release.  It is not obvious to @wrox followers that it is Chris Webb behind the username (although I don’t really hide that fact,) and I don’t think they care.  To them it’s just Wrox - a source of programming books and online content.

I touched on this subject briefly via Twitter earlier today, and got an intersting comment from a follower of both @wrox and @chriswebb:

@wrox is fundamentally different than, say, @mcdonalds or @tylenol
@wrox has the ability to gather a community (in this case developers) into one, big conversation. it’s a great experiment.

But back to Shel’s point - is Wrox being social or is it all just Chris Webb?  Is part of what defines the Wrox brand already social?  What do you think?

  • Terry Heath

    This is an interesting question. I have a new blog and it's on my own name domain, but I've struggled if it should have its own identity or if it's just an extension of me. With its own identity it can focus on a niche, while if it's part of me . . . people are more complicated. If it's under my own name, I can't fit myself into a niche. But it occurred to me this morning in the shower, perhaps I'm a niche myself.

    So what I've done is settled in under my own name and given myself a nickname that sort of ties parts of me together. I'm still working on it, and maybe later it will split in two directions. For now, it's easier to manage if I'm just one entity.

    The idea of personal branding is very interesting.

  • Ah, Steven - always to the point. :)

    I'll continue to think about this.

  • vaspers


  • boB Rudis

    To answer the question "is Wrox being social or is it all just Chris Webb?" you ened to ask a different question: "If Chris were to 'go away', would anyone else at Wrox be able to effectively assume the mantle of @wrox". In other words, it's important that more than just one person 'get it' within the organization and understand the (potentially complex and never overtly stated) rules of the medium.

    I realize that during the exploratory phase it may just be one person persisting with the idea until is osmoses and becomes part of the culture. However, it is possible for companies to get it as wrong in the Twitterverse as they do in the blogosphere (REF:

    [I can't believe I used "twitterverse" and "blogosphere" in the same sentence before 0830 PST...need more caffeine]

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