It’s been a while since we last navigated the topic of Personal Branding here at SocialMouths but I guess that’s about to change. I get a lot of questions about best practices on different social platforms but today, I thought it would be cool to take a step back and review some of the basics of building a successful brand regardless of the platforms you use.
I guess the first question to arise when you’re thinking about whether or not you should put yourself out there as an individual instead of using your company logo as a shield is “do I need to become a personal brand?”
There is a lot to consider but I’ll give you what I think are the most important arguments
- Personal Branding sets you up as an expert in your niche. Whether or not you are, that’s a whole different animal…
- Personal Branding gives you a Competitive Edge. There is only one thing your competitor will never have, YOU
So let’s do this. Sit down, grab a cup of coffee and let’s review these ten key elements that personal brands are made of.
The first step on building your personal brand is your story. People want to know who you are and how you got to where you stand today. What makes you an expert in whatever niche or industry you belong to.
A great way to communicate who you are is by telling your story. How did you become the person you are today, how did you move from point A to point B. If you are a human being, most likely you had to struggle at some point in your path to success. You were probably the underdog one day. The fact is that people love a story with a great ending. Give it to them.
One of my favorite examples of successful story telling is Lewis Howes, he has been very open about how he got here from being a football player with a brilliant future to injuring himself and ending up living at his sister’s jobless for six months. The rest is history, the point here is that Lewis has turned his story into inspiration for a lot of people and that also has helped him turn his name into a very successful brand in a whole new arena.
This was one of the reasons I included Lewis in my post “7 Examples Of Kick-Ass Personal Branding” a few months ago.
A lot has been said about what some call “finding your voice” and people sometimes struggle on trying to find the best way to communicate to an audience. You should only worry about three things:
Communicate the same way you would talk to a friend face to face. Focus on translating your real life voice into content, no matter what format, it can be a blog post, a speaking engagement or a podcast. Trying to become someone else only makes you sound weird.
Use simple language.
Be clear about your messages. Specially if you’re writing for the web, get rid of the filler. People can sense when you’re just trying to sound smart. I recently read the book “Rework” from the guys over at 37Signals. I enjoyed the writing style so much I went through the whole thing in a couple of days. Every chapter is so juicy and straightforward you almost feel like they’re gonna run out of material.
Have a perspective.
You need to add value through communicating your own point of view, if you are just repeating what others have already said you are not delivering your two cents. People that communicate their own perspective to existing conversations are able to engage an audience, no matter how old the topic is or how much is has been discussed already.
No worries, I’m not suggesting you put your face on a can of soup. I’m talking about the design around your brand, how you communicate visually with your audience/community. I know what you’re thinking, “there are other things more important than design”. Well, let me tell you this, the internet of today is so competitive that you only get about a second to convince a person to stay a little longer, that first impression is key to make or break your brand. You need to find a way to stand out in your blog, Twitter profile or Facebook Page.
The packaging of yourself on different formats includes good design, good photography (a family photo with your dog doesn’t cut it, that’s just weaksauce), good copy on your key messages or well produced videos.
Also very important is brand consistency. Those branding elements from photography to typography to key messages and color scheme need to be present everywhere you go. People should recognize you no matter where they follow you.
People fall in love with human beings, not with robots, publications or PR agencies. Honesty is crucial for all kinds of brands but as you can imagine, this is even more important when we talk about a personal one. As you build up your brand, people also expects to know more about you.
Transparency goes hand on hand with privacy. Make a decision on how much to share online and also set up the necessary limitations on your social profiles.
There are two things I’ll point out regarding transparency:
- People don’t care about what comes out of your mouth, they care about who you truly are. They wanna see you walk the talk. Being a “poser” is easy, for a little while…
- Social media amplifies regardless of the message. Positive or negative. Be careful what you put out there
- When you make a mistake online, don’t hide, instead use the same platform to immediately apologize to your community
5. Online Platform
You need a stage You need a communication channel that allows you to engage with your audience. An online platform to be present, express your messages, promote your services but most importantly to establish a dialog with your community, prospects, colleagues, competitors or clients.
Don’t jump and say “I know! I’ll setup a Blog, a Facebook Page and a YouTube Channel…” First think about what you are going to deliver, in what shape or form and how you are going to reach your audience.
Then you can jump on the more technical stuff. See what platforms make sense for you and your target market and what type of media. Take it even deeper, if you planning on using video what kind of camera. If you are planning on blogging, decide if WordPress makes sense and even look at using a theme or designing something custom. You get the picture.
We have discussed this topic before, great content doesn’t promote on its own, the same goes for products, services and everything else. Imagine is you prepare yourself to be a great speaker, you also have an important message to communicate but you never make it on stage…
Many people are uncomfortable promoting themselves and that’s why I like to turn this around and put it this way: If you have created something remarkable, something that can help people change or improve their lives in any way, it is your responsibility to put it in front of those people.
Now, self marketing or self promotion as many call it, needs to be done correctly and in the right proportion. I will not recommend that you follow any rules or etiquette, screw that, follow your common sense. The “me, me, me” syndrome will make people turn their backs in no time. I can tell you that I personally have unfollow more than one individual on Twitter because of this and have actually stopped receiving calls from certain people.
7. Social Proof
Just to make it clear before I jump into this point, I won’t get into how big or small your audience or online community should be, that’s a whole different post. Social proof is done everyday in many different industries and types of media. You have seen book covers that read “Author of the Best-Seller Book…” or the movie trailers saying “Oscar winning actor…” or web services display their clients logos on the main page. All examples of social proof.
Online personal brands usually refer to the number of subscribers on their blogs or the size of their community in different social networks. Another good example is when they show the classic “As featured on…”
The truth is that social proof gives us a pretty good idea of the kind of expertise that person has, I mean, if s/he was on CNN or has 100k subscribers there must be a reason.
What can you say about yourself? have you worked with clients people can recognize? have you been featured on other blogs or publications?
A good way to start if you don’t have any of those is to use testimonials from past clients. The funny thing about testimonials is that nobody reads them but we all see they’re there and it makes us feel good.
Partnerships between two or more personal brands are essential, they not only give you credibility but also allow you to expose yourself on other people’s networks. Online partnerships are something usual these days, you can find them mostly in product collaborations such as online courses, ebooks and webinars. When you put a product out in collaboration with other influential individuals you duplicate your potential and increase your chances of success.
When looking into partnering up with somebody else, specially online, you should take some time to really know how much reach this person has, how influential or how big of a community s/he has. Ideally you will find somebody similar to you or bigger, if you partner up with a person with less presence online, you are only increasing the chances of the other individual.
We’ll get out of the online world to illustrate an example and let’s move to the entertainment industry:
Jay-Z = Superstar.
Beyonce = Superstar.
Jay-Z + Beyonce = Superstar Powerhouse.
Products are an amazing vehicle to build credibility, I’m not going to say it has the same impact as being a published author (I’m talking about the kind of book you buy at Barnes & Noble) but it does help a lot with how people see you. When I say the word “product” I’m mostly referring to digital ones such as ebooks, online courses, membership sites, etc.
But what if you’re not ready with a high quality product? Good question. Start creating, you might not get paid a lot of money at the moment or you might have to start with free products but the important thing is that you start getting your name on some covers and you are learning from the experience of putting these puppies out there.
I have to add something else here because I believe in getting inspired and inspiring people when you set expectations straight. The internet today is super competitive and if you are thinking of putting out a digital product, allow some time to observe your industry and the level of products being launched. You don’t want to commit “brand suicide” by not delivering accordingly.
Every idea that sees the light of day at some point will need the power of a community, the same happens with a personal brand.
I wanted to leave this point to the end because if you think about it, no matter how well designed your brand is, where you have been or how much you promote yourself, if there is no community your brand isn’t going anywhere. That simple.
The most important aspect of building a community is that it doesn’t happen overnight. You can create a design around your brand in one week, you can build a product or write an ebook in a couple of months and you can promote it on a daily basis but you can NOT build and grow a community overnight. Building a community happens as a result of all the previous points and much more.
Communities are built through true leadership, by communicating and educating, by answering questions and solving problems, by making others stand out and by changing and improving lives.
Service others on a daily basis and you will be on your way.
Thanks for reading, those are my 2,088 words on the 10 pillars of a successful personal brand. How about you? can you add something else to the list? I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments section.