If you’ve ever attended a conference or networking event, you’ve probably been advised to work on your personal brand.
But what exactly is a personal brand? And why does it need to be managed so carefully?
Let’s start with a definition: your personal brand is the image you present to the world about your personality, career and expertise. And just like any brand — from Nike to Uber — it needs constant upkeep.
The power of brandHave you ever caught a glimpse of a logo and had an immediate gut reaction? Maybe you noticed someone carrying a designer briefcase or driving a luxury car. Without thinking about it, you formed an opinion of that person based on the brand they associated themselves with.
This is the exact response you should illicit with your personal brand. When a potential client or associate sees your name online, reads one of your tweets or sees your name pop up on their phone, they should glean an immediate sense of who you are and what you represent.
There are many avenues for cultivating your personal brand — social media, speaking events, blogging, and one-on-one networking. The key is to make sure the image you present across all of these channels is consistent.
And in today’s fast-paced world, this image needs to be managed constantly. Here are some strategies for building and maintaining a compelling personal brand.
1. Do an audit of your public presence.
Before you start to make tweaks, take stock of your current image. Start by viewing your social media profiles in public and private mode. What do those closest to you see? What does the general public see? Both matter. You never know where your next lead or business opportunity will find you.
Gone are the days when you can use Facebook purely for personal use. Every action you take online is a reflection of your personal brand, make sure all of your social media profiles present the side you want the public to see.
Next, do some in-person investigation. Ask several people you know what their impression of your personal brand is. Consider speaking with a close friend, a colleague, a former client and an acquaintance. Explain that you want their honest feedback — if they have something negative to say, you want to hear it, even if it makes you uncomfortable.
2. Learn marketing basics.
There’s a reason people pay thousands to have branding and digital marketing agencies curate their personal and business brands—marketing is a complex industry and the tools and trends are constantly evolving.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t take things into your own hands, at least when it comes to the marketing basics. Luckily, there are a plethora of marketing tools and resources available to help you brush up your skills.
Sites like Digital Marketer, Hubspot, Neil Patel, Hootsuite, and Moz dish out tons of useful content ranging from beginner guides to expert level marketing strategies. Simply by subscribing to some of these outlets you can learn the fundamentals of marketing including: email marketing, content marketing, paid search, social media and how all of these pieces fit together.
3. Set goals.
Once you’ve taken stock of your existing personal brand presence and brushed up on the basics of marketing, it’s time to set goals and establish a plan for achieving them. Here are some examples of areas you might want to improve on:
- Number of social media followers
- Social engagement (how often are followers liking, retweeting, replying to your posts)
- Email list size
- Blog subscribership
By increasing each of these numbers, you can ensure you are reaching and influencing more people with your personal brand. Once you’ve set your goals, determine what activities you will need to work on to achieve them. This could be:
- Posting to social media 3-6 times per day
- Engaging with influencers on social media
- Speaking at events and collecting attendee contact info
- Adding a pop-up to your blog to collect email addresses more effectively
Be sure to establish your baseline so you can monitor the results of your activities to determine which are most effective in meeting your goals.
4. Get out there
No amount of posting to social media can replace face-to-face interaction or the power of presenting to an audience. The second you get on stage at a speaking event or panel presentation, you assume an heir of authority on the topic to which you are speaking.
Chances are, there are dozens of organizations in your area looking for knowledgeable speakers to add value to their audiences. Start by evaluating your areas of expertise. What topics might you be able to teach others about? Consider perusing Quora for topics in your industry that people have questions about. From there, you’ll want to start pitching event organizers on your offerings.
Alternatively, you can organize your own panel, simply by gathering a group of experts to speak on a certain topic and finding a moderator.
Regardless of your approach, you will want to be sure to collect the email addresses of people who see you speak. After demonstrating your expertise, you will already have a foot in the door and an excellent entry point for follow-up.
5. Continue to learn.
Your personal brand is useless without the knowledge and expertise to back it up. That’s why continued personal growth and development are both essential. Your number of followers is often confused for true influence. But smart people can tell the difference between baseless hype and true skill. Behind your personal brand, you need to offer continuous, real value to your followers and contacts.
To ensure this, stay up to date on industry news by monitoring all of the relevant media outlets, attend conferences and meet with influencers. You should be adding to your skill set every week. After all, you may draw people in with your witty tweets or relevant shares, but to keep an audience engaged, you need bring real expertise to the table.