Often, we are so focused on developing our company’s brand that we forget that we, as employees and individuals, are branding assets as well. In today’s world, personal branding is not an optional activity, but rather an integral part of becoming a leader in your industry and an influencer in your network. It’s a journey; not an activity.
To quote Ted Rubin, the self-ascribed “CMO of Brand Innovators:”
“Today technology brings us closer together as people. However, as marketers we have to look at new technologies not as solutions but as tools for driving conversation. We need to be more focused on personal connection and on using technology to build and nurture relationships.
There are a lot of ideas out there about what personal branding really means. However, as long as improved relationships (which lead to trust, loyalty and advocacy) are your major goal…you’ll make the right decisions [to grow your personal brand]. That’s what I call a real Return on Relationship—and building strong relationships starts with your story.”
What Rubin’s saying is that building a personal brand requires both a dedication to using technology effectivitely and also a commitment to communicating in a way that reflects real—not virtual—human interaction. Today, personal branding is about demonstrating authenticity in social media, helpfulness in online content, and leadership in the companies or organizations you represent.
Why Spend the Time Building a Personal Brand?
The average professional probably thinks of personal branding as something authors and speakers do. But in today’s world, it’s a critical step to becoming an asset in reaching your goals. Let’s talk about the positive consequences of building your personal brand:
You’ll Generate Positive PR for Your Activities
When you are so passionate about your career that you are willing to build your personal brand to showcase that fire, the right people will notice. Your competitors, customers, and business media will see what’s going on and get interested.
You’ll Influence Purchase Decisions
My longtime mentor and New York Times Bestseller Al Lautenslager says it best: “My one take on [personal branding] is that social media activity allows for humanization of the brand. Remember people buy from people—not logs, icons, labels or such—from people. Humanizing social media information is important for prospective buyers. Let people know that you are just a real, regular person.”
When you build personal brand in addition to corporate brand, you’ll be able to create the trust and deference necessary to make more honest and authentic deal discussions. When you become a thought leader, you’re creating a situation in which your prospects are followers who respect and enjoy your advice. As they consider a purchase, your individualized expertise will be a huge selling point.
You’ll become an asset to your organization
Strong companies know that having recognized leaders as employees is crucial to long-term success. In a marketing or sales role, online network size is critical to the level of personal promotion or engagement an individual can have in reaching company goals. Part of building a personal brand is making yourself an asset to your company now and to other employers in your future.
What are the Critical First Steps to Personal Branding?
Now that you understand the value of building a personal social media brand, let’s get you on your way to creating your brand.
1. Define your online persona
A personal brand has to be based on areas of influence and subjects where you have expertise. When you build a personal brand, your first step should be to define who it is you want to be online and how you want others to perceive you. Consider your background and your experience level. Understand that your brand can change in time, but start by building an authentic persona for others to engage with and share ideas with which you self-identify.
2. Tailor your message
What is it that you will be posting content about? Generally, choose up to three main topics and two subtopics related to your field. For this part, be as specific as possible. There’s a reason why they say “Get rich in your niche!”
3. Get to know your audience
I know, it may sound a bit like we’re putting the cart before the horse. However, by bringing a few of your primary targets to life, you’ll find that it will be exponentially easier to create content that they value, determine where they spend time online, and ultimately, reach them (literally and figuratively)! For this part of the exercise, I recommend creating personas for 3-5 of your best targets (you can read more on this topic here). This step goes both ways: follow key influencers and thought leaders in your industry.
4. Determine which social media platforms that align with your goals
Create optimized profiles on the platforms where your audience spends the most time and serve as a natural fit for your message. Depending on your level of social media proficiency, start with three, tops. It’s extremely important that you’re able to remain consistent with your posting frequency and engagement.
5. Become a content creator—on a regular basis
This will be your holy grail that holds the key to your personal brand’s longevity and growth. If you don’t create content and promote it, you won’t give anything for people to latch onto and believe in. You need the space and media to explain yourself. That’s why so many authors and speakers have such great personal brands. They’ve created content that people enjoy, and they’ve learned to shift the focus to themselves and their ongoing ideas through social media.
Make Personal Brand a Priority
In a nutshell, personal branding is about building a unique reputation. To stand out, you need to show people why your core attributes are interesting and worth their attention. It’s not self-promotion or spam; and it’s definitely not boring. Authenticity is critical to becoming a leader. As with everything in life, actions speak louder than words, so becoming recognizable for the things you do should be among your top goals. Deciding that your personal brand is worth building is half the battle, so opt in, and get started; you’ll be glad you did.
Jamie Malone is a Weidert Group project manager.