We all know that building a recognizable brand is a major part of success in pretty much any field of business. But have you ever thought about your own personal brand? Does your name mean anything in the industry you’re working in?
Even if you’ve never considered how you’re represented online, your personal brand is already there, at least to some extent. The key here is to start managing that brand so people would see exactly what you’d like them to see.
Developing your personal brand might take quite a while, so it might be tempting to simply do nothing and expect that things will work out on their own. However, building your own brand can be beneficial to you and your career in a number of ways, so it’s certainly worth it to invest some time and ensure you’re presented in the best light.
To begin with, the personal branding process will provide you with better understanding of your skills, capabilities, and goals. It works in a similar way as building a brand for a product: you’ll need to differentiate yourself from the crowd and clarify the area where you can provide the most value.
In addition to that, building a successful personal brand will broaden your career perspectives. Whether you’re looking to be employed by a top company or wish to start (or market) your own business, presenting yourself as a leader in your niche will usually facilitate the process.
As you develop your brand, it will provide you with long-term benefits, including useful connections, business opportunities, and recognition in your industry.
So if you’ve decided to start building your own brand, here are ten steps which should help you along the way:
- Change your mindset
First and foremost, you’ll need to start thinking of yourself as a brand, so you’ll need to do a thorough analysis of yourself and clarify your areas of expertise. Here are a few examples of the questions you should ask yourself before taking any action:
- What do you want people to associate with your name?
- Do you want to be perceived as an expert?
- What’s your story – is it unique in any way?
- What would your co-workers or partners say is your most valuable skill?
An analysis of your strengths is a good place to start. Your job title doesn’t necessarily define your niche, so you should try to understand your core strength which sets you apart from the crowd of similar-level professionals.
When you’re building your brand, you should also consider the long-term consequences of the choices you make. You might be extremely good at a certain area, but if you don’t think you’ll be able to do it for years to come and stay happy and eager to improve, it might be better to consider another niche instead.
- Audit your online presence
Once you’ve established what you want your personal brand to be, you’ll need to see what information about you is already there on the web.
How? Simply do a Google search for your name and see what comes up. If you have a fairly common name, consider using your middle name or initial to differentiate yourself from other people – this can also be useful when you’re setting up your website or social media profiles.
After checking through any public information which is already there, delete anything you find on your social media profiles which you wouldn’t show to your grandma or your boss – chances are you’ve already done that if you’ve ever applied for any serious job.
You should Google your name on a regular basis to notice any changes and take care of any negative issues in a timely manner. Setting up Google Alerts to notify you every time anything happens is an even better idea.
What you share on any social network contributes towards your personal brand, but some information out there might not be controlled by you, so you should try taking the matter into your own hands and…
- Secure a personal website
Having a personal website for yourself is one of the best ways to rank for your name on Google and other search engines. It can be very simple and consist of two or three pages – you don’t really need to create and maintain a Wiki on your area of expertise to achieve a top ranking.
Depending on the goals you’re trying to achieve, your website can include:
- Your resume.
- Links to your profiles on social media.
- A brief bio.
- Any work you’ve done that would showcase your skills (portfolio).
- A blog (if you’re planning to write articles).
You can always expand the website if you think of something else, but these sections should be more than enough in the beginning. So how do you set up a personal website?
To begin with, you’ll need to get a domain name. You can use your own name (FirstnameLastname.com) or a username you use on social media. Don’t make it too complicated – just like any other brand, your personal one should be easy to distinguish and remember.
You can secure your name at almost any online domain registrar – here are a few options:
Once that’s done you’ll need to move on to building the actual website. There are loads of options if you know your way around web design, but if you’re just starting out, you should consider using any of these platforms:
Can’t find one which would suit your needs? Check this list on Mashable for more alternatives.
- Provide value by publishing content
One of the best ways to provide value to your audience is publishing high quality content. Whether you blog on a regular basis or help people out through social networks, working on it can in result in you becoming an authority in your field.
Curating content from other websites can be an excellent choice (especially on Twitter or Facebook), but if you’re looking to truly set your personal brand apart from the other ones, you’ll have to come up with something unique on your own.
Your blog is not the only medium to publish your content, although it’s an obvious choice. Some social networks, such as LinkedIn or Quora, can serve you even better as they provide you with a way to reach broader audiences – if your content is good enough, it will certainly find its reader.
- Set up a strong LinkedIn profile
Building a great profile on the largest professional social network is often overlooked, but it’s among the best places to showcase your personal brand.
Whether it’s a potential future colleague searching for you on the web, a potential client looking at your past work before a meeting, or a recruiter deciding on whether they should reach out to you, you can make a good first impression with a solid profile.
[Checklist / Infographic / Slideshare]
- Be active on social media
LinkedIn isn’t the only place you should try to build your presence in. Some networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, are obvious options here, although the first one is probably better-suited for personal stuff.
Another ones, such as the above-mentioned Quora or Pinterest, can provide you with more ways of reaching your desired audiences if you’re planning to present yourself as an authority figure in the long-term.
Even if you’re not planning to use some of the most popular networks (you can’t really be successful on all of them at once), it’s still a good idea to set up a simple profile there as a placeholder – keeping your username secure can never hurt you in the long run.
- Capitalize on your existing connections
Your personal brand will always be strengthened or weakened by the connections to other brands out there, so you should try to find and leverage other strong personal brands in your field of business to elevate yourself above the crowd.
You should start with scanning your colleagues, partners, people from other companies, or alumni of your school and college to see which connections could be useful to you (or them) in the future.
Guest posting in their blogs or sharing their content can be a good place to start before asking them for contributions to your own brand (such as introducing you to their audiences or writing a killer testimonial on your LinkedIn profile).
- Deliver what you promise
Your brand promises something pretty much every day at every touch point with every person you serve. If you deliver on your promises, you will create a positive story people will tell about you – your brand. So if you’re looking to present yourself as a go-to professional in your field, make sure to keep your commitments such as:
- Follow through with all agreed appointments.
- Never be late.
- Answer and follow up on all emails.
- Get back to people with any information you’ve promised.
- Keep to your blog schedule.
- Stay loyal to your clients.
- Become an authority figure
It might take a lot of time and loads of published content and social media conversations, but becoming an authority figure in your niche is certainly possible as long as you’re constantly working to expand your horizons and improve your existing knowledge.
You’ll know you’ve done a good job when people you’ve never met come to you asking for advice. Answering their questions (either publicly or in private) will help you to maintain and improve on what you’ve worked for all this time – a successful personal brand.
- Network all the time
Finally, you should never forget to broaden your network at each step of your brand building process. In addition to reaching out to people you already know, you should try to connect yourself with the existing leaders in your industry.
It doesn’t have to be limited to online activities as well – a productive connection can even result in an attractive business proposal or job offer.
So how do you get into the inner circle of the people you aspire to? Here are a few tips:
- Comment on their writing and provide some good insights whenever possible.
- Retweet and share their social media posts – champion their work and promote them.
- Ask to provide you with a guest blog post or offer to do one for them.
Overall, building a successful personal brand will require plenty of time and effort. However, an authoritative online presence is becoming an untold requirement for loads of higher-level jobs and fruitful business partnerships.
So if a successful career is something you’re after, you should consider putting much more work into your online presence as early as possible. Hopefully, the above tips will help you to get right on track.