There’s a lot written about building Personal Brands. A lot of the discussion about Personal Branding has to do with leveraging Social Channels in building huge networks of followers.

While it might be ego-gratifying to have a large and wide network and to be well known, I think a lot of the thinking around building your personal brand is misdirected.

In building our personal brands, we want to focus on building our reputations, perceptions, and visibility within our target customer and prospects, and influencers in that network. Social networks enable us to do this, if we do it smartly, on a global scale.

It’s important not to build a wide network and great visibility of our organization brands, particularly if we compete in global markets.

But what’s important in building your personal brand? It’s still the same, we want to build our reputations, perceptions, visibility within our target customers and prospects. From an individual contributor point of view, we have to think about this.

Who are our customers and prospects? For most of us, as individuals, our customers and prospects are not located around the world. They may be in a state, a city. My very first accounts were in 2 buildings in lower Manhattan. Your target customers and prospects may be a certain account or accounts in a certain industry. Your target customers and prospects may be certain personas in those customers, industries, or geographies.

Building our personal brands with our target customers and prospects is critical for our success. Building our personal brands outside this target set may be ego-gratifying, but isn’t very helpful (with some caveats, more later).

Ultimately, building our personal brands starts with hanging out where our customer hang out. It may be the local bar–in my early days, it was Harry’s at Hanover Square. Our customers are hanging out in different places now, increasingly in social channels. There are lots of places we can meet our customers and develop our personal brands.

Ultimately, however, our customers aren’t followers or “handles/id’s” on the social channels. They are people and human beings. As salespeople, we build our personal brand by creating value for them. That value may be helping them solve tough business problems. It may be keeping them informed about critical issues happening in their businesses and markets. It may be having a point of view that helps them learn and develop. It may be just being good listeners. It may be keeping our work and meeting our commitments. It may be by being helpful. The power of your brand is tied directly to the trust, these people have in you.

We build our personal brand by focusing on building value for our customers and prospects–not by extending our reach to people who may be “worlds away.” We use the vehicles/channels/tools that are most used by our customers and prospects–it may be visiting their offices, speaking on the phone, attending trade shows and events, a focused mailing list or newsletter.

Building our personal brands has little to do with broadcasting (which is the focus of so many channels), but is much more narrowcast, focused, and impactful.

Over time, as our roles change, our or our customers’ businesses change, we need to expand or shift the targets for building our personal brands. If we move to a new territory, if we move to a new company in a different territory, if we move to a new role within our companies. In any of these, our target customers and prospects change, so we have to evolve in who we are addressing in building our brands.

Our personal brand is not defined by the size, the likes, the followers, the reach. It is nice to have followers in Mumbai, but if your territory is investment bankers in lower Manhattan, you and they are best served by focusing your brand building there.