In the late 1990s, legendary management consultant Tom Peters had a prescient idea. No longer would business be dominated by established mega-brands. The future would be dominated, trumpeted Peters, by The Brand Called You.

Almost 15 years later, Tom Peters’ call to action is more relevant than ever before. Social media tools coupled with wireless mobile technologies are revolutionizing our communications landscape. This revolution is changing how we market and advertise our businesses, as well as how we engage, support and retain our customers.

Business has always been about relationships and this is no less true today. What is changing profoundly, however, is how and where we conduct those relationships.

Whether working as individuals or as collections of individuals in small firms, practice professionals stand to gain (or lose) the most from the changes being wrought by social media. By practice professionals, I mean any business – advisors, planners, brokers, consultants, lawyers, accountants, etc. – built around the following basic foundations:

  • demonstration of subject-matter expertise;
  • strong reputation for trustworthiness and good work;
  • and a fertile social network.
  • It is precisely in these areas that social media tools shine.

    Am I advocating that all businesses should have a blog, a Twitter account and a Facebook page? No.

    What I am saying is that your business needs YOU to have a personal social media strategy. As practice professionals, you should be making YOURSELF the brand and using social media to articulate and embody your unique brand identity.

    If you’re scratching your head and wondering exactly what I mean, here are a few examples:

  • How should a high net-worth partner in a successful insurance firm be using social media? To connect with his peers, other successful business owners, about matters of common interest to them as business owners. The knowledge and trust gained from these types of peer relationships will naturally translate into business opportunities.
  • How should a financial advisor with a keen interest in fine food and wine or art collecting be using social media? To share her insights and experiences with other aficionados. Through this personalized sharing, the advisor can demonstrate an appreciation for quality, good taste, and the finer things in life – characteristics and translate into a positive brand identity that will attract (and retain) clients.
  • How should a practice professional who lives with or has overcome a hardship in life be using social media? To connect with others who share your experience. By genuinely reaching out to others, you demonstrate a caring and compassionate aspect of your personality that can enhance your brand identity. Plus, it just plain feels good to help people.
  • For a wide range of practice professionals and small business owners, a personal social media plan that is strategic and well-executed could be the most important marketing initiative your business undertakes in 2011.