Google "personal branding" and Dan Schawbel's blog is the first hit; the Fast Company story by Tom Peters that's widely credited with coining the term comes up second. Such is the digital footprint of Schawbel, who has been called the personal branding guru of his generation. The guy has 82,391 Twitter followers (and counting), the maximum number of friends that Facebook allows (5,000), a published personal branding tome called Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success (Kaplan, 2009), a well-read blog called (you guessed it) the Personal Branding Blog, and a magazine called (wait for it) Personal Branding magazine.

The mission of Schawbel's business, Millennial Branding, is two-fold: He teaches members of his own generation why a personal brand is important and then shows them how to create one using social media; and he works on corporate branding strategies for companies including Time Warner and Citigroup. You might call him a one-man personal branding empire. But that was not always so.

Peters wrote the "The Brand Called You" for Fast Company in August 1997, when Schawbel was just 13 years old. But the article and its message had legs and, ten years later when Schawbel read it for the first time, he recalls that "my entire world changed." Schawbel, who says he was once "introverted and shy," was a geeky high school kid who liked building websites and fiddling with Photoshop. He claims that he was so socially awkward that it took him eight months, fifteen meetings, and two rejections to finally get a job at EMC's product marketing department when he graduated from Bentley College in 2006.

Inspired by Peters, he started his blog and his magazine while working at EMC. He wrote about Donald Trump and Guy Kawasaki in a savvy way, garnering enough traffic that Google asked him to speak at the company. That's when his managers at EMC found out about Schwabel's side projects. "They had no idea what I had been doing outside of work," says Schawbel. EMC saw value and created a new position for Schawbel; he became the company's first social media specialist.

Two years later, he "was getting so many inquiries for speaking and consulting, that I felt confident enough and could project enough revenue to go out on my own." He left the company in January to start Millennial Branding and hasn't looked back. Of course, EMC was not about to let Schawbel go: Happily, they signed on as one of his firm's first clients.