Most companies today have a presence online and have teams of people working on their brand image; they have unique personalities, they interact with their audience as actual humans, most of them stand together with the public for social causes. It is a breath of fresh air after an era of companies trying to push their brands, products, and services down our throats with their bland ads and neutral standpoints. But have you noticed a common theme among the most popular brands?
We have a face to associate them with. Fenty beauty has its founder, Rihanna, Facebook has Mark Zuckerberg, Tesla has Elon Musk, while Indra Nooyi is associated with PepsiCo.
This is not because they are the founders of the brand or hold a high position; it is because these people have a personal brand, other than the one given to them by being associated to the brand.
What is Personal Brand?
Your personal brand is a representation of you on an individual level, outside of the company where you’re employed. Creating a personal brand online involves defining a voice and personality, then creating a logo, a bio, and deciding on the topics you want to be known for.
In order to make a lasting personal brand, you need to avoid ending up with a boring, robotic account. Also, try to match your online persona as closely you can to your own persona; a mismatch between the two can cause people to mistrust and discredit you in the long run. So if you want to make a strong online presence, instead of faking it, try to improve yourself in real life so your digital life will naturally reflect that.
Why is Personal Branding Important?
A study by Weber Shandwick found that 44% of a company’s market value is attributed to its CEO’s reputation. Besides that, another study showed that brand messages shared by employees on social media get 561% more reach and 8 times more engagement than when it’s shared by the brand. These stats prove that personal branding is needed, not only from the c-level executives but from all the employees working for the company.
The truth is, you already have a personal brand, regardless of whether you’re actively working on it or not. It is based on the aggregated data of your purchasing habits, browsing history, and all social media posts. Every comment you make, each post you publish or share online, every time you take part in an online debate in the comments section of a post, you are contributing to your online personal brand.
So isn’t it better for you, as a professional, to control how people perceive you online? Besides, taking control of how you present yourself on the internet is the best way to control what people see when they search you up on Google Search.
Steps to Create and Sustain a Personal Brand
1. Set Goals
Before anything else, you need to know what your end goal is so you can plan and strategize to achieve the goal. An easy way to figure out your goal is to answer the question “what do you want to be known for/as?” Do you want to be a tough leader? An author? A professional DIYer, maybe?
Once you find out what you want to be online, you can look at people that are already successful in that field. Observe how they post, what language they use, how they present themselves, and what people like about them.
Then research the kind of people that are in the community around them and in the field in general. Learn about them; what kind of content the react to in what way, how they interact among themselves, what kind of posts they share. This will help you find out what your target audience is.
You can also get help from the people around you with this; ask your family, friends, and colleagues to describe you in a few words. Then compile all the answers and pick out the common things from them. This will help you get a step closer to figuring out your goals. You shouldn’t be discouraged if you find out that what you currently are is far off from what you want to be known for. Growth is important in every aspect of life and this growth may just be what helps you connect with your audience and what they find relatable in you.
2. Conduct an Audit
Once you set your goals, you need to see where you are in regards to reaching that goal. For that, you’ll have to do something most of us have done at least once in their lives: Google yourself!
It may sound silly, but a quick Google search about yourself will easily show you how you are perceived by people who look you up, or if you even come up in searches when your name is typed in.
Remember to clear your cache before the search or use a private window for it in order to make sure you’re seeing exactly what a person searching you for the first time sees. Take a note of the other people who pop up in the search, see what they’re known for, and if they’re from the same field (or have the same target audience) you’re aiming for. Also, don’t stop at your name; combine it with keywords from your goals, search the keywords on their own, use Google Trends to see which of the keywords rank better.
For a social media audit (which should be treated as a brand’s social media audit), you should look for 4 things: Profile Consistency to make sure the profile photo, cover photo, bio, and website links match all through the various platforms; Overall Look, namely, the colors, fonts, and style of the social media pages are similar; Website, to make sure that all your Social Media profiles are linked to your website (and to each other), either through an about.me page or somewhere on your website; and Social Media Handles, if possible, make sure that all your social media handles are the same and if your name is common or taken, find a username that aligns with your personal brand goal.
At the end of the audit, you will have a list of pain points, using which you can devise a plan.
3. Establish a Strategy
Once you know what your goals are and where you stand right now, you can start establishing a strategy.
First, search terms related to your goals, as you did in the audit. If your name doesn’t come up in the search or isn’t as high as you’d like, make it a habit to create and regularly publish valuable posts (can be blogs, article, or even social media posts) relevant to your goal.
A big mistake made by people new to personal branding is overdoing self-promotion. But, just like you don’t want to be constantly bombarded with brand ads, people don’t want to hear you talk about yourself all the time.
Instead of constant self-promotion, take out some time to mind articles relevant to your goal and engage with the community that’s already established around your desired field (unless your desired field is a completely new concept, in which case you can build the community from the ones that closely relate to your new field). Also, make an effort to share articles and opinions on topics related to your goals.
The idea behind it is that the more you talk about the topic, the more people will know you for it.
4. Analyze Your Strategy
So, it’s been a few months and you check your analytics to see that you aren’t getting the amount of engagement you anticipated. Well, it’s time to analyze your strategy (honestly, you should keep a check on it from time to time even if things are working out perfectly). Start by gathering data from your social media analytics tool like Google analytics (some of the individual social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter also have their own section of analytics).
Analyze the data and figure out where you’re falling short. Maybe you’ve been focusing too much on posting and ignoring engaging. Or perhaps the kind of content you’re posting is not resonating with your audience. Once you know where you’re going wrong, you can adjust your plan accordingly.
Another reason why your strategy may not be working could be because you’re not keeping a consistent voice. If you resonated with people on one account, they will look through your other platforms. But if they find inconsistency in your voice on different platforms, chances are that they’ll unfollow you on the original one as well. Similarly, if your online personality changes drastically or fluctuates inconsistently over a short period of time, it can put people off of you altogether.
The perfect plan is not going to come to you in one go, so don’t let the low numbers put you off. Talk to your audience to find out what they like and incorporate it into your plans, get inspired, and experiment as much as you can.
5. Become an Influencer
Now, this step is mostly optional but for some, it comes with the goal or is a by-product of how your strategy plays out. If you’ve been talking or posting about a topic for a long time, chances are people already think of you as an influencer.
If you’re actively looking to become an influencer, find out how you rank among the influencers in your field using tools like Buzzsumo. Also, take advantage of the ‘groups’ feature in both, Facebook and LinkedIn, and join a good amount of them (good amount = just enough that you won’t feel swamped and will be able to remain equally active in all of them).
Brands usually look to collaborating with influencers to reach out to audiences that they don’t usually or would not have found otherwise. To make it easier for brands to reach out to you, both in their research and when they actually want to contact you, have information on your website about working with companies along with your contact info that includes, but is not limited to, your name (if your personal brand is not your name), your phone number, address, e-mail, and location.
Personal branding can be hard
Like, really, really hard. But, if you keep putting in efforts in the right direction, if you know what to do, if you keep getting inspired, you can build a brand so good for yourself that you won’t have to rely on your company, or post, or resume to be successful.
The trick is to keep researching, learning new things, not only about your field, but also about the world in general, and staying curious. Also, remember these 3 “don’ts”: don’t be afraid to fail, don’t hesitate to ask for help, and don’t try to hide your real personality.
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