The idea of personal branding is relatively new but it has quickly become an important thing to differentiate yourself and stay relevant in a fast-changing world.
The concept emerged in Wired article in 1997 called The Brand Called You by author Tom Peters who argued that the Internet provided the ideal new platform for building our reputations and defining ourselves:
“As of this moment, you’re going to think of yourself differently . . . You don’t ‘belong to’ any company for life, and your chief affiliation isn’t to any particular ‘function.’ You’re not defined by your job title and you’re not confined by your job description. Starting today, you are a brand.”
With the signalling power of University degrees and resumes in decline, your online reputation matters more than ever. When someone is looking to hire and work with you, they are going to Google you.
The Internet is now more important your resume and if nothing interesting comes up when someone Googles your name then you have a problem. Particularly, if you’re a job seeker looking for work or you are freelance looking for clients in a highly competitive industry.
Your Personal Brand Is The New Resume:
In the last few years, the importance of personal branding has grown astronomically as social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube have given all of us easy access to share our stories and document our experiences.
For sharing your knowledge and expertise, there is also simple-to-use blogging tools such as WordPress and Medium, which have enabled anyone to easily express themselves online.
Today’s innovative, high-paying companies want to hire people who are excellent communicators, proven high performers and early adopters of new ideas and technologies.
When you express what makes you unique online by creating your own website and demonstrating your expertise through video storytelling, social media and a digital portfolio other people can verify that you practice what you preach.
Whether you’re an entrepreneur, job seeker or freelancer; building your online reputation and personal brand is important for a successful career today.
Why You Need A Personal Brand
A strong personal brand is a mix of reputation, trust, attention, and execution. – Chris Brogan
It is estimated 80% of jobs are found in the informal job market, which means through networking and personal connections.
The old shotgun approach of creating the perfectly formatted resume and sending it out to every job posting rarely generates meaningful results anymore.
To land an excellent creative job today, one that is fun and interesting and offer growth opportunities, you’re going to have to differentiate yourself from all the people with only those formulaic cover letters and boring resumes to offer.
Your individual personal brand is created by the personal values that you believe in and how you build your professional reputation through contributions to your communities, online and offline.
Here’s a quick guide to some different options for establishing your online reputation and building your personal network.
How To Identify Your Personal Brand
Creating a personal brand starts with some research into your talents and interests, and how you make a unique contribution to the world.
1. What are you passionate about?
Make a list of all the things you’re passionate about and the skills you have related to these passions and then study and work hard to grow your expertise.
Ask yourself what you really like learning about and sharing with others. Then you can research and explore it enough to offer a unique or unconventional angle on it.
2. What purpose drives you?
You can pinpoint your purpose by aligning your passion and skills with a need you can satisfy or a problem you can solve in the world.
Your purpose should be underlined by a deeper moral conviction that motivates you. This enables you to tell a compelling story of why you do what you do, which will inspire people to follow you.
3. How are you different?
Having a personal brand is about differentiating yourself by expressing your own unique creativity and personal style.
We all have natural talents and gifts. The key is to find ways to meaningfully develop your talents and combine them with our livelihood.
4. What’s your core message?
Create a brief mission statement that identifies the problem you solve with your skills and expertise Take some time to study other people with similar messages online and try to find your own unique view on your area of expertise.
This isn’t a process you just do in one day. Plant the seed and start crystallizing your message. It will help to “learn by doing” by developing your own personal website.
Developing Your Own Personal Brand On The Web:
If you want kickstart your career or grow your own online business then you will need a versatile and powerful self-hosted website and a digital portfolio.
The best platform to do this quickly and without any advanced technical skills is the WordPress content management system (CMS). It is by far the most popular content management system.
Here’s how to get started with your own WordPress website:
1. Register your own domain and your own custom email address.
Getting your own .com and starting a website is a lot easier than you think. You can get your own domain name in 10 minutes at GoDaddy (it costs around $10-12 to register one).
Once you’ve registered your own domain name, what I recommend doing next is setting up your own email account at your domain. This is a something that 98% of people don’t do but it’s an easy thing to do that gives you a much more professional email identity.
You can set up your own branded email identity without any technical know how-to using Google’s G Suite (14-day free trial then $5/month) and you will also get access to Google’s Docs, Sheets and other valuable business tools that allow you to manage all your documents and collaborate from any device.
I also recommend creating a professional email signature that includes your photo, a website link and social media profiles. I use a template provided by Wisestamp or you can create your own signature.
2. Create a WordPress website using a professionally designed theme.
If you want to look professional and also have the flexibility to create an online business at some point, I strongly recommend downloading a copy of WordPress.
If you’re not technical and you don’t want to dive into uploading through an FTP client like Filezilla and creating a MySQL database, then get your own WordPress website set up for you and hosted using Bluehost WordPress Hosting (affiliate link) in 20 minutes.
Once you have WordPress installed on the web server, you will need a professional-looking theme.
You can get a free theme through WordPress Free Themes Directory but if you want to develop a more distinctive brand then I’d recommend using the drag-and-drop Divi Builder.
3. Sign up for Google Analytics.
To see how people discover your website, share your content and interact on your website, Google Analytics is an incredible free web analytics service. I
recommend familiarizing yourself with its interface because you can do just about anything necessary to improve a website by understanding the data that Google Analytics measures.
You can add the Google Analytics tracking code to your new WordPress website quickly using a free plugin like Google Analyticator.
After signing up for Google Analytics, you should also create a Google Webmaster Account, which gives you more search and website optimization data that you can use to improve your ranking on Google and get more traffic from search.
4. Start blogging or creating video content.
When it comes to successful blogging, consistency is important but quality is much more important than quantity. If writing regularly isn’t your thing, you can also build your blog audience with engaging visual photography and video storytelling.
The important thing when you are blogging is to speak directly to reader, break up the content into headings and sections so it is easily scannable and always ask yourself how you are going to be provide exceptional value to your audience before writing each post.
5. Use a lead magnet on your website to grow your email list.
The reality is when people discover you on Google or click through from a social network they aren’t going to join your email list or buy unless you can give them an irresistible offer.
Digital marketing studies show that it can take up to 10 brand interactions where a visitor sees your content on social media, visits your website and reads your emails before they will feel comfortable doing business or buying from you.
What this means is you need a lead magnet to start building that relationship with your audience through an email list and by actively inviting them to follow your latest updates on your blog and social media profiles.
A lead magnet is generally a short ebook, cheat sheet, resource guide or video series that helps your audience solve a problem or learn something valuable.
You can offer it in exchange for their email address and then you have the permission to email them, which you can do using a email autoresponder that allows you to automate the process.
I recommend using ActiveCampaign (affiliate link) to learn the ropes of creating lead magnets and developing email automation sequences.
Building Your Personal Brand Using Social Media:
Using popular social media platforms you can share your blog posts, tell your stories and share the best content that you’re reading each day.
If you’re not already using these social media platforms, I would recommend trying them all out and sticking with only the social media network that you are able to actively update.
1. Take photos and share them daily on Instagram.
The most actively engaged social network today is Instagram. It’s the easiest place to share your personal stories through spontaneous images that tell a story of who you are, what you are passionate about and how you spend your time.
The key to using Instagram effectively is actively following people and brands that interest you and making the effort to regularly comment to get their attention and build a mutually beneficial relationship.
Here’s how to use Instagram to build your personal brand:
1. Get creative with visual storytelling using popular visual design apps to create a distinctive look for your images.
2. Use relevant hashtags to have your content discovered by the right people who will be interested enough in your content to follow you.
3. Occasionally promote your lead magnet to get your audience to come to your website and join your email list.
2. Optimize your LinkedIn Profile for search and discovery.
Recent studies have shown that 70% of businesses recruit on LinkedIn. To be recruited for your skills or to build relationships with influential people in your industry you need to make sure your Profile is fully completed, which requires a few hours of your time.
Once your profile is 100% complete, targeted job opportunities will appear on the sidebar of your Profile Page that are matched to your skills and experience, and you can apply for them directly through LinkedIn.
Here’s how to use LinkedIn to build your personal brand:
1. Add teachers, work colleagues and people you have worked with to become personal connections.
2. Get at least 5 good references from clients you have helped or management you have directly reported to.
3. Thoroughly complete your profile and optimize it for discovery on LinkedIn’s search engine using keywords related to your skills and industry.
3. Create a Facebook Page for your digital brand.
I’m assuming you already have a Facebook account. You will probably want to separate your personal account from your website-related content feed so I recommend making a custom Facebook Page.
You can set one up in 10 minutes and then invite all your friends and colleagues that you think will be interested.
A Facebook Page is really important if you want to build a digital brand and sell your own products or services because Facebook gives you inexpensive advertising options to closely target the right audiences.
Here’s how to use a Facebook Page to build your personal brand:
1. Choose a topic or area of expertise that is intimately connect to your side hustle and the value you can offer to others with your skills and expertise.
2. Regularly share your own content from your blog and from other websites that inspire you. Occasionally offer your lead magnet for your audience to learn more and boost that post to expand its reach.
3. Facebook is a visual platform so you will need to share compelling images and videos. Right now, the content that gets the most post reach is video, particularly Facebook Live videos.
4. Share your videos on YouTube.
If you’d rather create fun video blogs than write content, YouTube offer an amazing platform where you can build your audience.
If you’re willing to learn the ins-and-outs of creating a professional looking video using your iPhone, Android or a DSLR then I’d highly recommend starting a YouTube channel (need some help getting started? Download my video storytelling toolkit).
Here’s how to build your personal brand using video on YouTube:
1. Learn how to make quality videos with good audio, lighting and camera angles.
2. Actively follow other video bloggers on Snapchat and YouTube and interact with them.
3. Record screencasts, informational videos and behind-the-scenes videos to show off your talent and expertise.
5. Interact with social media influencers on Twitter.
If you want to get someone’s attention on social media, Twitter is the best places to do it.
While Twitter isn’t what it used to be, it’s still the easiest place to open a dialogue with best-selling authors, business experts and other influential people – often with a single tweet.
It’s also a great content discovery tool where you can start or join conversations around topics and articles that resonate with you.
Here’s how to use Twitter to build your personal brand:
1. Create segmented Twitter lists of interesting people you want to follow.
2. Regularly retweet these people and let them know that you enjoy their content.
3. When they respond to you, start a conversation about the topics they regularly share.
6. See How You Appear Online with Google’s Dashboard.
I recommend you explore how you appear online with their “Me On The Web” service, which is accessible from your Google Dashboard.
Google also provides amazing market research tools like Google Keyword Search, Google Trends and Insights For Search, which can help you identify the right keywords to optimize your website and social media profiles with.
7. Use a Social Media Dashboard such as Content Studio.
I recommend using a social media toolkit such as Content Studio to simplify the process of updating Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and your other social media networks.
It is an excellent social media dashboard that makes it easy to update your social media profiles and track your results from your smartphone, tablet or laptop.
8. Organize your social profiles with About.Me.
I recommend using using About.me to aggregate all your social media profiles in a single place.
They make it easy to provide a quick bio, an interesting photograph for the background and they each support 20-30 different social media platforms.
9. Actively participate in online conversations with Google Alerts.
The key to finding your community online is to participate in online forums, social communities and groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.
To find interesting online conversations around the topics that interest you, use Google Alerts and Twitter Search to search for related keywords to these topics.
I would also recommend using a RSS reader service that allows you to subscribe to get your favorite website’s latest updates like Feedly or Flipboard.
Whenever you find an interesting article, comment on it and you’ll be surprised at the connections you can start making with people online.
There you go! A guide to build your online reputation and creating a distinctive personal brand.