Last night I asked myself what would happen if blogs and social-media sites were no longer allowed to have advertising on them. What would be the revenue model for them? How would they generate income?
I fell back to the position that these sites were not originally created to be driven by advertising, but to develop "personal brands", a topic that has been discussed by Chris Brogan [here and here] and others.
Then I realized something else: The idea of a personal brand, and the concepts of community and conversation, are mutually exclusive.
How can a brand interact with a community? How can a brand participate in a conversation?
People do these things. And while brands are important to people when thinking about companies, when dealing with with people, there is a far more important factor that gives a person's opinion weight in a conversation: Reputation.
In a conversation and in a community, how you are perceived, regarded, and trusted is critical to allowing what you say to matter. If you have no reputation, your opinion may be politely listened to, and promptly ignored.
It comes to this: Branding and Brands, be they corporate or personal, are closed-source. By their nature a brand is something that is directed and defined by the brand-ee, not the community.
Reputation is the opposite of that. Reputation is what a brand gets from the community, from the conversation had outside the branded entity.
What does this mean?
Branding is closed-source. Reputation is open-source.