When you think of the word branding you typically think of companies, but in these heady days of social media almost all of us also has a personal brand. This digital footprint is our online identity, easily accessible by prospects and clients, bosses and colleagues. How we cultivate and develop this brand requires attention and care, but it’s an essential and important step in business marketing – companies are, after all, made up of people, and one of the most effective ways to humanise an organisation is to champion its star players.
Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos defines branding as “what people say about you when you are not in the room”, and this is an excellent way to think about it. Take a moment to consider how others think of you now – how would they describe you to a stranger? By competently managing your digital presence you can shape and guide your personal branding in the direction that you want and show people who you are, what you stand for and how you like to do business.
In this article I will look at how to best launch and promote your personal brand to the highest professional capacity online.
1. Who Are You?
This is the critical first step in personal branding: the creation of your personal brand vision. This will outline your mission statement, beliefs, ethics, objectives and goals, all from a business perspective. It’s good practice to actually write this personal brand vision in a document and refer to it frequently as it will help to clarify your purpose, and then initiate and guide your personal brand strategy going forward.
2. Define Your Target Audience
Good personal branding ultimately works the same way as the branding of any business and to successfully implement this strategy you will need to define your target audience. The best way to accomplish this is to determine your customer avatar – specifically, who is your ideal client? This needs to be as detailed as possible and it can be helpful to write down exactly who you are targeting, even going as far as naming the avatar! This will be tremendously valuable when managing your personal branding as having an individual in mind when creating content makes the process both easier and more effective.
3. Connect With A Mentor
The term “mentor” was first used in Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey. Odysseus asks his friend Mentor to watch over his son Telemachus while Odysseus is away at the Trojan War. Many years later Athena, the ancient goddess of wisdom and Odysseus’ protector, disguises herself as Mentor to bestow crucial advice and encouragement to Telemachus. Today, the word mentor is used to describe someone who shares wisdom and knowledge with someone who is less experienced, and if you’re just beginning your personal branding journey finding and working with a mentor is an important early step. Platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter have made it very easy to reach out and connect with potential mentors. You are looking for someone that will work with you (either in a paid or unpaid capacity) to share experiences and stories, keep you focused, offer perspectives and provide motivation. Your mentor should be a good listener and someone who is available to you when you need them.
4. Get All Of Your Ducks In A Row
Before you start to implement your personal branding online it is essential that you sit down and lay out your strategy. This will involve planning content as far in advance as possible (a minimum of one week, but ideally one month or more) and then creating and scheduling that content. Poor planning leads to poor results, and the internet is a veritable graveyard of abandoned social media profiles and blogs. Spending a weekend at the beginning of every month focusing on your content – which includes all writing, images, links to be shared, and so on – might seem like a lot of work, but it will help you relax in the weeks to come, confident in the knowledge that you won’t have to be continuously scrambling to update your digital presence.
5. Identify Which Digital Platforms Are Right For You
When launching any new venture online it’s very tempting to try to be everywhere. There’s a certain logic here – by embracing every possible digital platform you will by definition be “out there” to a huge degree – but it’s an exercise in futility. You will stretch yourself far too thinly, and the work involved in updating all of these channels will become a job in and of itself. It’s far better to start with just a few digital outposts and then implement additional platforms when you are more experienced and better able to manage the workload. Here are just some options that you should consider.
Blogging – Arguably the most effective way to launch a personal brand online is through the use of a blog. Blogs are a great way to show authority and expertise, and they also provide a brilliant source of content for your social media updates. Google loves blogs – they are a great SEO tool and, updated regularly, will drive a lot of relevant traffic and become an asset to your brand. Don’t forget about the value of writing blog content for other websites, too – these guest posts are a brilliant way to raise your profile!
Social Media – In just over a decade social media has revolutionised marketing and personal branding is no exception. The best social media sites for launching your personal brand are those that are the most open and reachable by other users, and you will want to build a strong presence on both Twitter and LinkedIn to maximise your digital footprint.
A Facebook Page (note: not Facebook personal profile) is also an excellent tool for promoting your personal brand. And promoting is absolutely the key word – to maximise your awareness, audience building and return on investment (which includes time!) it is imperative that you implement a paid cost per click (CPC) campaign behind your personal brand across all of your social media outposts. Use these channels to share wisdom, insights and industry news, liaising with other thought leaders and potential mentors. Ask questions, answer questions and build authority.
Podcasts – Podcasts are enjoying a huge up-wave in popularity and, like blogs, they are a fantastic tool for establishing expertise. Launching your own podcast is a big undertaking and requires a lot of research (and some financial investment), but guest appearances on existing podcasts are something that is absolutely within your remit. Identify the most relevant podcasts in your business and approach the hosts directly – you’ll be amazed how receptive they often are as many of them are crying out both for content and new voices. As with all of this plan and schedule as far ahead as possible, and be sure to share your podcast appearances on all of your social platforms.
A strong personal brand is built on a winning narrative, and if you think about professional people who have built a remarkable personal brand they excel at this. It’s all about sharing their story, and doing so consistently and usually around the same or similar themes. Digital marketing has given all of us the tools and resources to both implement and manage our personal brand online, and it’s an exercise that is worth undertaking well. After all, the conversation will be taking place with or without you – and you’ll have a lot more of an impact if you get involved!