The Ultimate Personal Brand Builder? Your Very Own App

Want to take your personal brand to the next level? There's an app for that—you just have to build it.

While reading Ryan Holiday's Fast Company story about books being the ultimate new business card, as a published author, I couldn't agree more. However, as Holiday points out, today's authors are in the "idea-making business, not the book business." In other words, writing your own book is just one checkmark on a long list of things to do to build your personal brand.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, if you're a writer), self-publishing tools are making it easier than ever for anyone to become an author, which is not to say that publishing a book isn't impressive, it's just isn't as impressive as it used to be, say, 10 or 20 years ago. So, what's the solution? What is the ultimate new, new business card?

An app, of course.

Don Tapscott, author of 14 books including, most recently Macrowikinomics, recently announced he is publishing his first iPad application—New Solutions for a Connected Planet.

"I haven't given up on books completely and am also pursuing the e-book model," Tapscott said when I emailed him about his latest venture. "However, it's clear that people, especially young people, are consuming content in profoundly new ways. An app provides me with a platform not just to present audio and video but to create a social experience for people interested in my work."

Tapscott's app (which will be available in October) will include his views on how the Internet and new media can help us reinvent our institutions for a new age, a common theme in all of his work. "It's a great platform to evolve my thinking on these issues and also to engage people in building communities for achieving change," says Tapscott. What's appealing about an app is the opportunity to put your personal brand front and center on your audiences' mobile devices. Sure, an e-book might be able to accomplish some of the same goals, but launching your own app is that much more exclusive, propelling you into a world of hundreds or thousands of well-known professionals with their own digital downloads versus hundreds of thousands well-known authors with their own books.

Many technological trends often tip into the mainstream world when celebrities start using them (think Twitter and Ashton Kutcher—the actor joined the service early in 2009). As the host of a television show about mobile innovation, I've interviewed well-known personalities, including American Idol's Adam Lambert, UFC's Georges St. Pierre, and TV's Suzanne Somers about apps they've built or endorsed to grow their personal brands. The latest celebrity to join the app-developer ranks is funnyman Ricky Gervais, announcing last week that he's the creative director behind Just Sayin', an app that makes it easy to share voice updates on social media sites.

While services such as Joe Mobi make it a cinch to turn your (WordPress) blog into a native iPhone, Android, or BlackBerry application, it costs a lot more time and money to develop an app that stands out in what is a crowded marketplace. While the words on the pages of an e-book might be enough for a reader, an app user expects much more in terms of an interactive experience (thanks, Angry Birds!). Another benefit of creating your own app is the potential to make money if you do things right. After all, app revenue is on the up and up and the numbers are staggering—Apple's App Store is expected to make $4.9 billion this year, an increase from $2.9 billion in 2011. Not sure the traditional publishing industry is feeling the same kind of financial love.

So, is the ultimate new business card a book or an app? Well, it's both, but the latter could be the golden ticket in your personal brand-building strategy in 2012 and beyond.

Have you seen any personal apps that you wish you'd done? Tell us about them in the comments.

[Image: Flickr user @superamit]

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  • Chris Handy

    This can be a great thing to apply to the small business. Many small retail shops ands other service related businesses can derive great value from having an app. Think about how this might be useful for the Insurance agent. One-click calling, photo uploads. The possibilities are limitless.

  • Allison Watkins

    We need more customizable apps in the market. Apps where people can go in and make it how they want it. I love the board game apps. Brilliant idea.

  • Jonathan Jesse

    You started out with the right idea; that it's a good idea to build a good app, then you got lost by suggesting (for some reason) that apps are the new business card. They're not.

    It is a lost opportunity to highlight the importance of a good app.

  • Amber Mac

    Thanks folks.  While creating an app isn't for everyone, I have to say that I would be game to download apps from some of my fave authors and speakers - just to stay in up-to-date on what they're doing/saying.  Guess I should start with building my own!  

  • Guesterguest

    "Oh just download my app" - No, never gunna happen. I already have enough "apps" clogging up my phone, the last thing I need is your name beside my "Angry Birds" icon.

    This is poor advice.

  • gbacoder

    There are people that hate using facebook and twitter. But this does not mean it is poor advise to use them to market. As it works very well for many. If you were the only person in the world it would be poor advise. But you are not! A lot would depend on the cost of the app vs. how many fans/interested people would become more engaged. Apps are doing well in all areas. So people clearly like using them, are not yet fed up, and clearly not just for games. So it is still a great opportunity. Books work very well. And you must invest A LOT of time in a book. The cost of an app will be much less, with potentially big rewards. You don't know until you try... So yes, poor advise if you were the only person in the world, but otherwise good advise generally in my opinion.

  • Steve Price

    Self-publishing is to writers what Adobe is to designers - there is no real risk. The talent is in the person, not the software. The same as chef's releasing recipes in books; they are not concerned that I'll buy the book, open a place near them and put them out of business because their individual talent and skill cannot easily be replicated. 
    As for Justsayin, it is falling over itself with bugs and spam attacks so Mr Gervais (who I am a big fan of) should make sure his developers are fixing that otherwise it will fall flat on its arse. 

  • gbacoder

    awesome stuff. in time everyone will know this, but while only a few with enough intuition do, those brave enough to get out there and do it, will really stand out and also...get first mover advantages.. thanks Amber and thanks Fastco. Fastco is becoming my fav. site. Very nice articles recently guys!