These days, personal branding isn’t just for celebrities. It’s a way to stand out in a competitive market — to catch the eye of recruiters, customers or followers. The most recognizable brands come with a set of traits that most people can identify. Think Apple’s clean-line aesthetic and cutting-edge technology, or the nostalgia that comes with a can of Coca-Cola classic.
For individuals, a well-crafted online presence can drive a career forward — whether the goal is becoming the next big influencer or landing a better job. Personal branding is an ongoing process, but these three distinct steps must come together for success.
Step One: Developing the brand basics.
Building trust in your brand is a challenge every startup or solopreneur faces. Brand recognition breeds success and serves as a way to build confidence in a product or company. The personal brand is a reflection of the person behind it, so some aspects of humanity (hobbies, successes, a sense of humor) should come through.
Establish what the brand stands for by making a list of your values, passions and industry knowledge. Write a personal mission statement and focus in on one niche area.
Small businesses and burgeoning influencers can compete with larger names by defining a buyer persona. The purpose of the persona is to develop a composite that represents the brand’s ideal customer. There are many different approaches, but the goal is finding what motivates this audience and fine-tuning the messaging.
Once you’ve identified your niche market, values and goals as a brand, it’s time to invest in your visual assets.
• Get professional headshots taken and use them on your LinkedIn, website and other social channels.
• Work with a graphic designer to create a logo, an email signature and header and footers for your website. If you have the budget, it may be worthwhile to hire a web designer.
• Secure your domain name and select usernames for your preferred social channels.
• Create a style guide. Select colors, photos and imagery that match the brand.
Step Two: Build a following and grow your authority.
Where step one was about laying the groundwork for promoting a brand, step two is more labor intensive. Everything you do and say online should align with the values and knowledge you outlined in the above section.
First, you’ll need to identify your goals. If it’s generating more sales, content should lead users to a landing page optimized for lead capture. Or, boosting brand awareness means creating content designed for casual social media visitors, promoting posts on social media and connecting with the online community.
• Be useful
• Be easy to read
• Demonstrate expertise
• Have a clear goal
• Be audience-centric, not just what the brand wants to talk about
• Use relevant keywords.
As such, business owners and individuals must maintain a social media presence to capture a piece of this massive global audience. We use our Facebook group, Future of Real Estate, to grow our following, engage with our target market and address the needs of our consumer group. Over time, users sharing relevant content can expect to gain some traction as a thought leader.
Step Three: Find opportunities to promote your brand.
In this third stage, blogging and social media remain important. Over time, being consistent, reliable and a source of helpful information will increase your profile, but the following strategies bring more people to that base platform established in the second stage.
• Guest Posting: Guest posting works well, but only if you’re posting on reputable sites. Use tools like Alexa or Moz to determine whether a site can bring some credibility to the brand.
• Speaking Opportunities: Speaking is a great way for upcoming experts to connect with their audience and meet potential collaborators.
• Networking: The more people you meet, the better. Go to local events like happy hours and meetups and be open about what you do.
• Online Relationships Building: Join groups on Facebook and LinkedIn, connect with people on Reddit and answer questions on Quora.
Consider outsourcing the talent to build your brand.
A personal brand doesn’t have to be a solo endeavor. With all of the moving pieces involved with getting a personal brand up and running, it’s smart to work with professionals to achieve branding goals. Consider working with a marketing consultant or firm. Online marketing firms can help with paid advertising, Facebook marketing, Google AdWords and developing a keyword strategy.
As well, think about hiring a ghostwriter. This person or agency can work on a freelance basis, creating content as if they were the face of the brand. Seek out writers with a background in the same niche area. A good ghostwriter is a huge asset and can write web copy and social posts to build a library of content.
In the end, a personal brand takes time, effort and a commitment to consistency. While there’s no overnight recipe for building a brand from scratch, a consistent content strategy and a regular posting schedule make up the bulk of the strategy. Networking and guest posting build on that, bringing new visitors to your platform.
Finally, those working in areas where a personal brand is the main driver of business may want to invest in professional services — enlist a writer, branding expert or SEO guru for better results.