What is Your Personal Brand?
Life is really just a series of sales. From landing a promotion at work to convincing your Wife to go see the new action film in theaters, we’re always trying to convince other people that we’re capable, smart or any other number of factors. Personal branding is just an extension of this basic concept – it’s how we market our skills to others. Defining and building your personal brand is more than just gaining a couple thousand Twitter followers. It’s about your reputation online and positioning yourself as an expert. If you’re not fully sold, here are a few reasons you can’t get far without a great personal brand:
- If you don’t brand yourself, someone else will. Defining, creating and establishing a personal brand is the best way to control how you’re perceived by colleagues and peers both on and offline.
- Your personal brand is transferable. Consider it the social media equivalent of a college degree. No matter where your career goes, you’ll never have to start from scratch building Twitter followers or Google results.
- A serious personal brand comes with a toolkit, which may include a presence on Twitter, Facebook and a personal blog. Whether you’re trying to grow your small business or secure the attention of journalists, you’re going to be noticed and taken more seriously if you have an abundance of consistent messages throughout the web.
1. Pick Something You’re Passionate About
One of the savviest personal branders we know is Gary Vaynerchuk, who’s rocketship to social media and marketing fame was fueled by some serious knowledge about wine. To refine his palate, Gary spent years reading up on the topic and even tasted wood, obscure fruits, grass dirt and rocks in order to best describe his products to viewers of Wine Library TV. While most of us can only dream of the nearly 1 million Twitter followers Gary Vee has earned through building his brand, the point is clear: pick something you’re passionate about and commit to learning it inside and out. Producing engaging content and developing thought leadership is going to be a lot easier if you really enjoy the journey.
2. Know Your Audience
Personal brands don’t have to be all business, all the time. That being said, you should make sure your messages resonate with your audience. Martha Stewart is among the best examples of personal brands that have grown into an empire. Can you imagine if she started Tweeting pictures of herself digging into a TV dinner? It just wouldn’t go over well or fit with her image.
Your personal brand doesn’t need to be completely static, but an essential first step for anyone is taking the time to define values and sticking to them. Pop Singer Taylor Swift is rumored to frequently turn down opportunities to act in movies if the scripts don’t fit with her personal values. In the case of Martha, her clearly-defined values include elegance and living well. Feel free to use your Twitter for sharing messages that aren’t directly related to your brand, but make sure they aren’t in stark contrast with your values.
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3. Think Career, Not Job
Job-Hopping used to be thought of as a black mark on your resume. In today’s world, it’s becoming the norm. The average millennial between the ages of 25 and 34 has worked at their current gig for less than 3 years. In a world where the lines between business and personal are increasingly blurred, particularly for social media and inbound marketing experts, it’s essential to develop a personal brand that remains even if leave your current position.
One of the best known millennial experts at personal branding is Julia Allison. It’s difficult to describe her career trajectory- she’s worked as a dating columnist for several major publications including Elle magazine and most recently starred on air in Bravo TV’s reality show Miss Advised. Her brand just so happens to be lifestyle, dating misadventures and career exploration, and it really works for her: she’s become a sought-after expert on using social media for personal branding.
4. Keep At It
Maintaining your personal brand and developing a reputation as an expert in your chosen area, whether it’s wine or social media networking, means you need to keep current. Read news and blogs constantly, educate yourself, network and experiment. The best personal brands are almost always early adopters of trends.
The unprecedented success of marketing guru Seth Godin’s recent kickstarter campaign is an exceptional example of early adoption. Kickstarter, a crowdsourcing platform for cash, has a current record of around 1,800 successfully-funded projects and 4,000 failed funding attempts. Godin excelled, meeting his goal in just 3 hours, because he did something that few have done before: offering really awesome rewards (in his case, advance digital copies of his book) to even tiny donations. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel, but great personal branders make a point of understanding trends and leveraging new platforms for success.
How Have You Defined and Built Your Personal or Small Business Brand?