Personal branding has become a topic of focus in digital marketing in recent years. It’s valuable whether you are a one-person show under a brand name, a business professional on your way up the ladder, or the owner of a large company. Growing your personal brand is important for the simple reason of trust: Audiences tend to trust people more than corporations.
As Jayson Demers notes in an Inc.com article, “Audiences are used to seeing advertising everywhere, and tend to believe corporations and organizations take actions and speak with only sales in mind. Personal branding allows you to establish a reputation and an identity while still maintaining a personal level of trust and interaction, usually through social media.”
Whether you use your personal brand to consult, freelance, or drive more traffic and trust to your company, it’s vitally important to establish one to stay competitive.
So what is a personal brand? It’s not just a carefully crafted digital representation of yourself. It’s also how you carry yourself in business, in the office, and in your personal life. All aspects of ‘you’ go into creating a personal brand that connects with your target audience. And online, you have a lot of control over what others see.
The process of building a personal brand in the digital age is often bolstered through social selling — developing relationships and using those relationships to leverage sales, often in a passive way. With today’s social networks, it’s easier than ever to incorporate social selling into your lead generation processes.
Why Build a Personal Brand?
The process of building a personal brand can be a truly eye-opening experience. For many, it will be the first time they attempt to see themselves in the way that others see them. Building a personal brand allows you to stand out from the crowd, gain insight into your weaknesses, and add a personal touch to your brand’s marketing efforts.
The why behind building a personal brand is often misunderstood. It is one-part reputation management and one-part self-promotion. It’s asking yourself: When people hear your name, what associations do you hope they have? For many, this is some combination of their expertise, among other positive thoughts.
Once you define how you wish your brand to be perceived, you can start to be much more strategic about your personal brand. This doesn’t mean you can’t be human. On the contrary, as Michael Simmons writes, authenticity is key in the digital age. A strong personal brand can yield tremendous ROI whether you are working with an organization or leading one.
Put a Look and Feel to Your Brand
When customers or clients work with your company, who are they working with? Would it be immediately apparent as they begin researching your company? Customers like to know that they are working with a real team that cares about their success. It’s hard to get that feeling from a faceless brand. Personal branding facilitates connections with new prospects.
There are some basic steps that anyone can take to begin to establish themselves as the face of their personal brand, both online and in person. A few simple steps that you could begin implementing today include:
· Launching your personal website. A personal website acts as a central hub for all things associated with your personal brand. An attractive website speaks to your professionalism and willingness to invest in your brand.
· Social Media Participation. Social media counts for a lot. Whether most realize it or not, your social media following and activity on popular platforms plays a huge role in the way that you are perceived. Those with followings that back up their claimed industry noteworthiness will earn trust more easily than those that do not have much of a presence on popular platforms.
· Include your photo in your email signature. Most email correspondence is done in the blind. Meaning, you often don’t know who you are communicating on the other side of that email chain. Who are they? What do they look like? What do they do? Answer these subconscious questions with the inclusion of a basic email signature that includes a photo, description, and link to your personal website.
· The tone of voice and way of speaking. People will judge you by the way that you present yourself, and the way that you speak plays a huge role in this perception. You want to speak in a way that radiates “energetic, intelligent, and professional.” Establishing a professional tone while remaining personable and able to connect with your peers can play a key role in your ability to establish a personal brand.
· Dress in line with how you want to be perceived. The term “dress for success” is a cliché, but it is one that holds weight. The way that you dress plays a large role in how you are perceived by those around you. Dress smartly without over-dressing. Aim to be one of the sharpest dressers at your level in your organization.
Define objectives and expertise
To begin building your personal brand, you have to know what you are building toward. What do you want people to think and feel when they come across your name, social media pages, or website?
By defining your objectives and expertise, you begin to shape how you are perceived. Those objectives and specialties should be driven home in your marketing efforts whenever possible.
What do you want to be known for? Are you an entrepreneur? Are you a financial expert? Determine what skills make you unique in your industry.
These are the hallmarks of an influencer, which are essentially those that reach the heights of personal branding within their industry. An influencer is recognized for their expertise and has a following large enough to draw attention to the causes that they deem important within their industry. Often, influencers have a large social media following.
Channels for building a personal brand digitally
The web is a big place, with an unending number of ways that a potential client could come across your personal brand. Certain channels are more important to focus on initially; however, building your personal brand across multiple channels gives you complete control. It allows you to quickly ramp up your efforts as the results start to show.
Some channels that should be included in your digital personal branding efforts include:
● LinkedIn: LinkedIn is the de facto professional social network and the first place that many will look to learn about your professional history. For most personal branding campaigns, LinkedIn should be the first channel of focus. Building a LinkedIn profile that drives home your objectives, expertise, and personality can go a long way toward setting the stage for future interactions.
● Blogging: There is no better way to build your brand than to blog about your professional life and industry. Relaying your expertise demonstrates your skills and puts you in a position of authority. Anyone that is serious about building their personal brand should blog.
● Video Publishing: There is no better way to establish a personal connection with your audience than by speaking directly to them. Publishing videos are as close to face-to-face as you can get online. It creates a more personal connection with your brand.
● Press Outreach: Being mentioned in recognizable media outlets is the gold standard for proof of your personal brand. Securing interviews and quotes in publications that can be referred to on other channels is a great way to develop trust.
● Social Media: If you aren’t already active on social media, it’s not too late. Social media is the most efficient way to connect with interested parties and develop connections digitally.
Effective personal brand examples
Here are two examples of excellent personal branding to inspire you with your efforts.
Despite founding several multi-million dollar companies, Neil Patel is most known for his personal brand as a digital marketing consultant. He continually publishes high-value content for his audience on his website, maintains a presence on several large publications, and positions himself as one of the foremost experts on digital marketing. His carefully crafted personal brand has allowed his other business ventures to find early and ongoing success.
Website: Neil Patel | Twitter: @neilpatel | LinkedIn: Neil Patel’s LinkedIn
An author, speaker, and business advisor, Darren Hardy has truly ramped his personal branding up to the highest level. His website provides a detailed look at his personal life, professional experience, and expertise. It gives the appearance of authority on multiple subjects and highlights the biggest successes of his career. Hardy is widely considered a leader in entrepreneurship and a branding expert.
Website: Darren Hardy | Twitter: @darrenhardy | LinkedIn: Darren Hardy’s LinkedIn
Social selling isn’t just a buzzword — it’s become a crucial way for successful sales professionals to communicate with their prospects. Social selling is about leveraging your social network to find the right prospects, build trusted relationships, and ultimately, achieve your sales goals. In this workshop, you will understand the major pillars of social selling, dig into how to elevate your personal brand and step-by-step methods for how to strategically leverage LinkedIn and other social networks to achieve success.
A personal brand doesn’t just represent your current career or venture; it follows you for life. Building a personal brand allows you to take control of the way that you are seen by prospects, customers, and co-workers. Creating a consistent public image allows you to take control of your narrative, further your career on your terms, and drive new customers to all future business ventures.
Want to Learn More?
Click here to watch Elevate Your Personal Brand & Learn How to Become a Social Selling Power House with LinkedIn, a workshop held at Digital Crossroads, a two-day event sponsored by the Louisville Digital Association. Presenters included: Jason Falls, the Founder of the Conversation Research Institute; Heather Dopson, Godaddy’s Community Builder & Influencer; and Nicole Hudson, President of Inbound Lead Solutions.
Nicole Hudson is an engaging thought leader in marketing strategy development, branding, demand generation, content marketing, SEO, social media, storytelling, social selling, marketing technology and lead generation. Her firm, Inbound Lead Solutions, focuses on sales, communications and marketing alignment with B2B companies, franchising, professional services, keynote speakers, authors, and consultants. Hudson’s marketing strategies have been recognized by Franchise Media Group in two consecutive years with Star Awards for social media lead generation, and by a Dbusiness Magazine award in 2016 for Marketing Consulting. Her work has been featured in multiple LinkedIn case studies on SEO, content marketing and lead generation. She published a book collaboration with Bulldog Reporter (Infocom), The Advanced LinkedIn PR Handbook. Hudson has developed social media strategies for three national television appearances: Be the Boss, Shark Tank and Undercover Boss. Nicole is a member of the International Franchise Association, Detroit Women in Digital, and AMA Detroit. She is a board advisor for Mother Honestly, a collective of women CEOs, executives, investors and career professionals; and a board member and marketing chair for Community Home Supports, a Detroit non-profit. Hudson is a recurring columnist in Career Mastered Magazine and a regular keynote speaker, content contributor, and trainer on sales, marketing, and communication topics.