What are brands?
Brands are perceptions. When people choose a brand over another, their choice is not random, but has developed over time. People choose brands because they have established perceptions and expectations of the benefits they will get from using that product or service. Just like product and services, we have personal brands.
You may not be aware of this, but you are building your brand every day. Your brand is how you present yourself to the world. Your personal brand is what people say and think about you, what you do at work, what people expect of you and your work, and the promises you keep. Your social media presence is also part of your brand. So, since you already have a brand, take ownership of it. Shape it, nourish it, and use it for your own benefit. Here are some steps on how you can take ownership of your personal brand:
Set personal branding goals
Determine the need
Think about your target audience and how you want to be perceived. Think about your area of expertise and how you can contribute to the needs of your target audience.
- Who is your target audience? This could be your colleagues, other associations, other experts, or your family and your friends.
- What does your target audience need? Think about who would be interested in you and in what you have to offer. Think about your value and how you can contribute to their goals.
- How will you reach your target audience? Daily interactions are not the only thing that you can use to develop your personal brand. Your social media interactions and the content on your personal website, as well as the websites that portray content about you, can also influence what others think of you.
Research influencers in the space where you want to be an influencer. Think about what you think about that person, but don’t stop there. Think about what other people say and may think about that person. Look at how that person presents his or herself to the world via his or her social media accounts, websites, and others.
But don’t compare yourself to that person or try to imitate exactly what he or she might be doing. Everyone is different. Think about what your core values are, what people compliment you for, and what your strengths and weaknesses are. Think about three words that people use to describe you. Then, ask your coworkers and friends to use three words to honestly describe you. Do not be discouraged if you don’t get the feedback you want. Unexpected feedback is an opportunity for you to improve upon the strengths and weaknesses you didn’t know you have.
Audit your brand
Once you have looked at other personal brands, think about how you want to be seen. Think about those three words people use to describe you. Conduct a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis of your personal brand. Perhaps you are an amazing writer, which would be one of your strengths. Maybe you need to improve your marketing skills, so that could be one of your weaknesses. Look at your opportunities. Perhaps you have an opportunity to grow wherever you work, but competition might be a threat. All of us are unique, but that doesn’t mean all of us are memorable. We all have a unique value. Think about what yours is and how it influences your audience. Determine what makes you unique and memorable.
Search online. Google your own name in incognito and see what comes up. Are your social media accounts coming up? And if so, are your social media accounts reflecting the personal brand that you want to present? Would a stranger be able to recognize you on all your social media accounts? Step out of your own shoes to see yourself like a stranger would.
Establish your brand
Here is where all your personal branding research comes into play. Use your social media platforms to build your brand:
Consider LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other social media
Determine what social media you want to use and remember to keep a constant brand appearance with the same profile and cover picture, as well as description, URL and social media handles. Follow influencers, connect with like-minded professionals, join groups and engage. You can also write your own content, or re-post someone else’s content – but remember to attribute.
If you are using LinkedIn, include relevant positions, updated work descriptions and relevant details that showcase your successes. If you already have a personal account on Facebook that you use only with friends and family, consider creating a new account for branding purposes. If you want to use Twitter, know that the platform only allows for 280 characters per tweet and features a heavy use of hashtags. Stay active before, during and after big events by posting content using the suggested event hashtag. You may also want to use media posting tools such as Hootsuite to streamline the posting process across platforms.
Create a consistent profile
Use the same cover and profile picture on all your social media accounts. Your profile picture should be a clean, up-to-date professional picture. Use a non-distracting background to make your audience focus on you rather than your surroundings. For your cover picture, have something that says something about your brand. Be careful with copyright infringement. To be safe, try to use a picture that you took. For your personal brand accounts, seriously consider refraining from using your family on your cover or profile picture. Think about what colors you think represent your brand. If you are using more than one social media platform for your personal branding purposes, consider using the same username and URL profile extension on all platforms.
Check your privacy settings
All social media platforms allow you to control your privacy settings in one way or another. Look at the privacy settings for your accounts and adjust your settings accordingly. If you have a social media account you only want to use with friends and family, make sure you set your privacy settings so that only friends and family can add you and engage with you. Avoid religious or racial comments, and never post something that could tarnish your reputation.
Maintain your brand
Now that your accounts are ready, it is important to keep your brand consistent. Maintain your brand by adding value every time you add a new post on social media. Be human and add content that you are passionate about. Look at what influencers are talking about, and then engage. Add your current contacts, join groups, and contribute with your knowledge. Be consistent with the topics you post about and the types of conversations you start. Create and repost content that others wrote. Don’t be afraid to share your own achievements with your network but be mindful about posting content too often. Focus on sharing three to four posts per week.
Maintaining your brand is an ongoing process, but do not be daunted by it. Every step you take towards taking control of your brand will get you closer to your goal of being seen as an influencer and expert in your trade, differentiate you from the competition, and help you advance in your career.