In our current era of social media mayhem, it’s inevitable that nearly everyone has a form of personal brand, whether you meant to create one or not. In short, building a personal brand is essentially doing PR for yourself and marketing yourself as a brand. Why on earth would you want do to this?
Why build a personal brand?
There are many reasons why people work hard on building and refining their personal brand. If you do it right, a personal brand can help you establish authority, build a network and generate leads for your business. With these marketing weapons in your arsenal, you can elevate your career and increase exposure for any personal projects you are working on. It has never been easier to reach, connect and engage with people. Building a personal brand is essentially about sharing who you are and what you stand for with your target audience.
Your personal brand should ideally incorporate all of your endeavours. For example, about a year ago I kept my ‘work life’ and my ‘blog life’ very separate. Until I had an interesting conversation with some people at a networking event (which was ironically about personal branding), where they questioned why I would do that. I said it was because I felt my blog wasn’t professional enough and didn’t reflect my ‘serious marketing person’ side because my blog was more laid-back and conversational. Their very valid point was that it just shows a different side to me – a different string to my bow.
From then on I decided to merge the two and present myself as both an SEO specialist and lifestyle blogger who natters on about food and travel in my spare time. Sure, I keep my Instagram exclusively for blogging and my LinkedIn almost exclusively for work. But my Twitter is a combination of the two. When I talk to people I present both endeavours. When I write I always try to inject my personality whether I’m writing for my personal blog or an industry publication.
So, enough about me. How exactly do you go about building and growing a personal brand?
1. Blog / personal website
Building a personal brand is going to be difficult unless you have a platform from which to market yourself. It’s not the be all and end all but if you’re serious about creating a stellar personal brand then you need a website or blog. Think of it as a digital representation of yourself, but one that is carefully curated and the best possible representation of your skills, knowledge and expertise. Don’t forget personality too – it’s not a popularity contest but you can’t underestimate the power of likability.
It doesn’t have to be an all-singing, all-dancing website with every bell and whistle possible. Of course it helps if it looks good so the best approach is to keep it simple, clean and sharp. After all it’s the content that matters most here.
2. Guest blogging
If you hate writing then you’re not going to like this one. But in order to market yourself and build authority, you should aim to write some stellar articles and get them published far and wide. Guest blogging can make a fantastic addition to any marketing strategy, whether you are a business or a person.
The holy grail of guest blogging is the likes of Huffington Post and Forbes. But it’s better to start off small. Once you start writing for more and more publications, you’ll build up authority as an expert in your industry. Personally, I write regularly for Search Engine Watch and I’ve also written for Website Magazine and Social Media Today.
I’m also going to start guest blogging more on a personal level outside of work, to build the ‘lifestyle blogger’ part of my personal brand. I’d be lying if I said that guest blogging wasn’t time consuming. Unfortunately it’s extremely time consuming – researching titles and topics, identifying potential targets, writing fantastic articles and trying to get them published. But if you can pull it off then it’s so worth it. A heads up though that you’re probably going to get a lot of ‘nos’ before you get a ‘yes’. Persistence is key! And if your articles don’t get published elsewhere, just push them out on your own blog.
LinkedIn is the perfect social platform for building and leveraging your personal brand. It’s where people go to find and engage with other professionals, therefore it’s vital to have a presence here. The first step is to ensure that your LinkedIn profile is up to scratch and optimised for search. That’s a whole other article but, just like magic, I’ve already written a post about that!
Make sure you are sharing any articles you’ve written, any collaborations you’ve worked on and join in discussions which are relevant to you and your industry. For me, I choose not to share my lifestyle blog articles on LinkedIn, instead keeping it strictly work related. That’s just what works for me but I still include a section about my blog on my LinkedIn profile, so people can learn more about it if they wish.
4. Facebook advertising
If you are really looking to up the ante on your personal brand promotion then Facebook advertising is a fantastic way to reach a hyper targeted audience. Yes, this does cost money, so it won’t be for everyone. Unfortunately Facebook advertising has become increasingly expensive over the last year but, despite this, it is still one of the most cost effective marketing avenues out there. If you’re at a pivotal point in your career and especially if you’re freelance, it can really pay dividends.
The key with Facebook advertising is to be super targeted in your approach. This will help get the lowest possible cost per click, meaning efficient spending of your budget. Leverage the available audience interests and behaviours to reach people who could be beneficial to your network or business.
If you’ve got a successful blog or website then it’s worth creating a regular newsletter to keep your readers updated. The frequency will depend on how much content you produce. Enough to gently remind people that you’re still here but not too much that people get irritated with you.
The primary objective of a regular newsletter should be to offer readers something genuinely valuable. They need to be getting something from the newsletter, otherwise they have absolutely no reason to subscribe or stay subscribed. In short, it shouldn’t be all ‘me me me’.
6. Twitter chats
In a similar way to LinkedIn, Twitter is a great place for engaging with discussions and offering up your expertise. Follow anyone relevant to your industry and be ready to hop onto a conversation. One way of finding these types of discussions is via Twitter chats. These are essentially organised discussions at the same time each week, so you know exactly when to tune in.
Which chats you engage with will depend on your particular industry but here’s a pretty comprehensive list of Twitter chats for you to browse. Just remember to be friendly, interesting and a good listener.
7. Social media presence
As an extension of the social media platforms mentioned already, it’s essential to build up a strong social media presence. People need to relate to you personally in order to invest in you, whether that’s through reading your blog, collaboration, or becoming a customer / client.
Audit your existing presence on social media to ensure there’s nothing that could depict you in a bad light. Pictures showing you have a good time are fine – but having a drunken wee in the middle of the street? Not so much. You get the idea.
8. Speak at conferences
This one may seem a little daunting but if you really want to make a mark in your industry then you should consider speaking at conferences and networking events. It’s a fantastic way of getting your face seen and recognised. Public speaking scares the sh*t out of the majority of people but you’re never going to get good at it without practising.
Make sure you’ll be talking about a subject that you feel comfortable discussing at length. You’ll probably receive some curveball questions from smart-ass members of the audience so try not to be sidelined by these. And try to enjoy it!
It’s not always about looks, but a professionally designed personal brand sure does help. There’s no need to invest a fortune in a fancy pants website and logo. But it is important that they reflect a level of professionalism, so ensure your website is clean and crisp.
If design isn’t your strong point then enlist the help of a friend for some constructive criticism. The chances are that you’ll know at least a few people who have a knack for design and aesthetics so ask their thoughts.
Same goes for business cards. Combine a tacky look with a floppy piece of card and it screams amateur. Business cards are not that expensive in the grander scheme of things, so it’s worth paying a little bit more for a high quality set of cards.
You don’t have to go solo all the time. One of the best ways of building a strong network is to form partnerships with people. Collaborate with other industry professionals and brands in whatever way you see fit. Perhaps run an interview series on your blog, or figure out how you can work with someone in a mutually beneficial way.
There are plenty of options for collaborations. Working with others increases your exposure, opening you up to new audiences. And that can only be a good thing.
Building a personal brand is actually pretty fun (most of the time) and can have so many benefits for your career, whichever industry you are in. Want to learn more about promoting yourself or your blog? Check out my posts on marketing your blog or quick tips on how to increase website traffic.