People are complicated things. Any spouse or parent knows that no matter how much time you spend with someone else, every so often you’ll still be surprised by something they do or think. Brands, on the other hand, are like avatars. They represent core ideas, and serve as an emotional tool to help those you interact with form loyalties quickly. As a professional, you know that the ability to quickly gain others’ trust is key in moving up the proverbial ladder quickly. Creating a great personal brand is, therefore, the key to faster promotions and greater opportunities.
Your personal brand is the image, voice, expertise and principles that you project publicly. It’s built through consistency across all of the materials that others are likely to find after initially becoming interested in you: your social media profiles, articles that you’re quoted in and the photos that are published of you. It’s your social identity, and it’s more important than ever.
Building an amazing personal brand takes a significant amount of work and attention to detail, but will serve as a lifelong tool that supports your continued success. Luckily, there are hundreds of tools and services available to help – so you only need to spend as much time as you want to spend each week.
Here’s how to build a personal brand without using up all of your free time:
STEP 1: WHO DO YOU WANT TO BE?
You know who you are as a person, in this moment. Now think about who you want to be.
Your personal brand is the projection of an idealized version of yourself. To start, consider what you want to be known for – what are you an expert in? It’s best to choose a subset of your field that you’re particularly interested in, especially if you’re a young professional. You can always expand your topics later on.
Once you’ve picked what you’d like to be seen as an expert in, attach that to the best qualities of your professional personality. Keep in mind that, while the personality traits you decide on should all be positive, don’t make them ingenuine. You’re putting your best self forward – but it should still be you.
STEP 2: GET YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA FIRE LIT
Your social media profiles are probably going to be the first search results for your name for a long time, if not indefinitely. It’s important that they project a consistent personal brand – just as it’s important that a company brand’s identity stays consistent across platforms.
At this point you may be worried that you’re going to have to spend hours a day on social media finding relevant articles and content. You certainly can do that, if you feel so compelled, but there are tools that can minimize your social media workload to almost nothing.
If you’re feeling like doing a partial DIY job of it, look into automation apps like HootSuite and Buffer – you’ll still need to use each one every few days to schedule your messages, but you’ll be able to schedule posts in advance. This means you can schedule several days of activity all at once, instead of having to remember to post throughout each day.
However, if you’re serious about your social media branding, are very busy all day, are uncomfortable using social media, or all of the above, consider using a service that posts on all of your social media accounts for you. The investment will pay for itself by speeding up the rate at which you’re promoted, as having a following will increase your value to both the company that you’re currently working for, and any other brands in the industry.
STEP 3: PERSONAL BRANDING IS ABOUT GREAT CONTENT
Your social media profiles play a huge role in defining your personal brand, but in order to really prove your expertise, start putting out great content. If you love writing, that means putting up a blog every week on a topic that fascinated you in your industry. If you’re comfortable in front of a camera or mic, start hosting a show or podcast where you discuss news of the week, or concepts you think are interesting.
The point of content marketing is to prove that you’re a trusted source that others can come back to again and again to learn more. As your following grows, explore guest blogging opportunities, and reach out to reporters who cover the topic you talk about.
A piece of advice I’ve always found useful: if what you’re writing or talking about bores you, switch to a different topic. The point of this content generation is not to simply fill a void, so make sure to stay on topics that excite you!
STEP 4: MAKE CONNECTIONS!
While getting your name out online is critical to a great personal brand, making connections and building your personal network is the real payoff of all your hard work.
Make sure to interact with other people on your social media profiles. You can do this by seeking out others in your industry – especially influencers – and commenting on their posts or asking questions directly. By proactively seeking them out and forming relationships, you’ll soon find that you’re acquainted with many of the most accomplished and respected people in your industry. If you invest in producing quality content, sooner or later one of them will start asking you for your opinion or thoughts on a problem; once that happens, you’re one of them.
Forming a great personal brand is, at its core, about showing the world who you are and what you have to offer. Professionals used to do this in person at parties and invite-only industry events – and to a certain extent still do – but social media now allows us to reach more people. Never forget, however, that at the end of the day, it’s about providing value to your audience so that they keep coming back for more.